Every year approximately 1 million people suffer issues with workplace safety. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overexertion tops the list, followed by slip and falls, injuries from equipment, violence, animal injuries, and transportation incidents. When employers compromise workplace safety, workers suffer from sprains and strains, pain, cuts, contusions, and fractures as well as a variety of other conditions that often render them unable to work.
If you’ve been injured on the job, you may file a claim for workers’ compensation. Keep reading to find out how workers’ compensation works in California and what you should do if you have been injured.
Employer’s Obligations to Workplace Safety
In this article:
- Workplace Safety Requirements
- Workers’ Compensation Benefits
- Making a Workers’ Comp Claim
- When to Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
- What You May Encounter During Your Suit
Workplace Safety Requirements
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide their workers with a reasonably safe working environment. Employers must keep the workplace safe from recognized hazards and comply with a number of federal and state safety regulations. They must label potential hazards, display OSHA posters listing employee’s rights, and keep records when injuries happen.
Additionally, if an employee speaks up about health and safety violations, the employer cannot retaliate, known as the whistleblower rule. If you have been bullied, threatened, or punished for reporting unsafe conditions, your rights have been compromised, and you should contact an attorney immediately.
Most importantly, employers must also carry workers’ compensation insurance. In California, the workers’ compensation scheme is no-fault insurance. That means you don’t have to prove that your employer was at fault to get a settlement. You simply have to establish that the injury happened at work. Then, you receive workers’ compensation benefits. In exchange, however, you can’t sue your employer. An exception to this rule includes assault from your employer which caused your injury.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
When people suffer work-related injuries in California, they can file a claim for the following benefits:
- Medical Treatment Costs — This includes repayment for all medical bills incurred due to workplace injuries as well as physical therapy, medication, medical devices (crutches, syringes, gauzes, walkers, etc), and any other medical costs related to your injury.
- Mileage — As of 2018, you can claim 54.5 cents per mile for driving to medical appointments, as indexed with the IRS mileage rate.
- Temporary Disability Payments — If you have to miss work, you can receive temporary disability payments for up to 104 weeks within a five-year period. However, if you contracted HIV, pulmonary fibrosis, chronic lung disease, or hepatitis B or C or if you suffered an amputation, a severe burn, or an eye injury, you can receive up to 240 weeks of temporary disability payments. The payments consist of about two-thirds of your average weekly payments. As of 2018, the minimum temporary disability payment is $182.89 and the maximum rate is $1215.27.
- Permanent Disability Payments — If you can no longer work due to your injury, you can receive permanent disability payments for between four weeks to 14 years. The payment varies based on your income, age, occupation, and the extent of the injury.
- Life Pension Payments — These payments are for workers whose work-related injuries render them 70 to 99% permanently disabled. If you qualify, you receive a small weekly payment on top of your other disability payments. You receive this amount for the rest of your life.
- Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits — If you can’t return to your employer even in an alternative role, you can qualify for retraining. At the time of writing, retraining consists of a $6,000 voucher to cover tuition, fees, and books.
- Death Benefits — When someone dies due to a work-related injury, their spouse or dependents receive death benefits to cover medical bills and burial expenses.
Workers’ compensation payments are not taxed. That means you don’t have to pay any income tax on the amounts you receive.
Making a Workers’ Comp Claim
When you suffer an injury at work, you should report it to your employer as soon as possible. In fact, you should report all injuries to your employer, even if they are small. This helps to establish a record of your injuries and their connection to workplace safety health. These records can be especially helpful if you need to make a claim for injuries related to chronic pain, strains, or issues such as carpal tunnel where the symptoms tend to develop over time.
Additionally, if you wait too long, the statute of limitations may expire, and you may lose your chance to make a claim. After you report the injury, your employer should provide you with all the paperwork you need to submit your workers’ compensation claim. Then, you need to see a doctor. In some cases, you may need to see a doctor recommended by your employer, but often, you can choose your own doctor. Be sure to keep all your records. That helps to ensure that you don’t miss any details when you’re making your claim.
When to Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Some workers’ compensation claims are straightforward. In particular, if you got a small injury and you don’t miss a lot of work, your claim should be easy to process. But in many cases, you may want to contact an attorney to help you with your claim. If any of the following statements apply to your situation, consider contacting an attorney:
- Your employer threatens to fire you or retaliate in other ways if you make a claim. This is illegal. Your boss cannot punish you for making a workers’ compensation claim.
- Your employer failed to file workers’ compensation paperwork.
- You want help appealing your denied claim.
- Your employer claims that your injuries are not related to work. For instance, your attorney argues that a pre-existing condition aggravated your injuries.
- You get offered a settlement, but it doesn’t cover all your expenses.
- You can’t return to work due to your injuries.
- Your injuries make you eligible for Social Security disability payments, and you’re worried that your workers’ compensation settlement may lower your Social Security payments.
- A third party caused the injuries. In this situation, you may be able to bring a civil suit against the other party.
What You May Encounter During Your Suit
There can be a lot of gray areas when it comes to workers’ compensation claims. The workers’ compensation board may overlook some of your expenses when calculating the settlement. They may also argue that your injury wasn’t related to work. A quality workers’ compensation attorney can help you to get the compensation you deserve.
If you have suffered an injury at work, you are not alone. Every year about one in every 100 workers gets injured on the job. Your employer has an obligation to protect your health and safety, and they also have an obligation to help you claim workers’ compensation after an injury.
Our team can help you submit or appeal a workers’ compensation claim, and if relevant, we can help you decide if you need to bring a personal injury suit forward. For a free, case evaluation, contact us today. We can help you get the justice you deserve after a workplace injury.
Do you have questions regarding a workers safety issue? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you have been injured in an accident, please call me for free and friendly advice at 916-921-6400 or 800-404-5400.