Do you recall the first time you were stung by a wasp? I do. As a young boy I was climbing a fence gate. Unknown to me a wasp nest was on the other side of the gate. I was stung three times on my shoulder and back. I remember being astonished and proud I endured the attack and survived.
Recently, I have received an unusual number of questions involving employees stung by an insect while at work. We live in a great state full of a vast array of creatures, most of which seem to bite or sting. Some can result in significant injuries. However, an insect stinging an employee at work does not automatically result in a compensable injury.
In many of these cases, the employee does not see or is unable to identify the insect. In Appeals Panel Decision No. 021666, the Appeals Panel explained an employee does not need to identify the particular creature that stung employee. However, the employee’s ability to recall an insect sting may impact his credibility as a historian. In many cases, while an insect sting is suspected, there is no evidence of the sting or where and when it may have occurred. Further, even if the sting occurs at work, the work must place the employee at a risk of harm for the sting.
In Standard Fire Insurance Company v. Cuellar, 468 S.W.2d 880 (Tex. Civ. App.-San Antonio 1971, writ ref’d n.r.e.), the court explained that an insect sting alone is insufficient to show the employee was injured while engaged in or about the furtherance of his employer’s business, without a showing that the employee’s injury was of such kind and character as had to do with and originated in the employer’s work, trade, business or profession. The employment must place the employee at a risk or hazard for the insect sting. Similarly, in Texas Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fund v. Simon, 980 S.W.2d 730 (Tex. Civ. App.—San Antonio 1998, no writ), the court held an employee must show the conditions and obligations in which employment placed the employee in harm’s way. Accordingly, the employment must put the employee at risk of harm for the insect sting. However, even if employment placed the employee at risk of harm for the sting, the sting must have been a producing cause of the alleged injury.
In Transcontinental Ins. Co. v. Crump, 330 S.W.3d 211 (Tex. 2010), the Supreme Court held “producing cause in workers’ compensation cases is defined as a substantial factor in bringing about an injury or death, and without which the injury or death would not have occurred.” In cases where causation is beyond common knowledge, causation must be established through expert medical evidence to a reasonable medical probability. In Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission Appeal No. 941464, the Appeals Panel found an employee was required to prove through medical evidence of a reasonable medical probability that the employee’s spider bite was a producing cause of the infection. Thus, to be compensable, the employee must have suffered an insect sting, the employment must have placed the employee in harm’s way for the sting, and the insect sting must be the producing cause of the alleged injury.
As creepy as they are, insects are everywhere. For the most part, people and insects get along fine. However, there are times, even in the workplace, where a showdown between the two occurs. Remember, in order for an insect sting to be compensable, the employee must have actually suffered the sting, the employment must have placed the employee in harm’s way for the sting, and the sting must be the producing cause of the alleged injury.