When you’re injured on the job and cannot continue to work, it is essential that you receive the compensation that you need to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, and general living expenses. The good news is that workers’ compensation insurance exists for these very instances, and employers in California are required to have it.
However, navigating workers’ comp laws can seem like an overwhelming task because employers and their insurance companies often don’t make it easy for injured employees to pursue benefits. The workers’ compensation attorneys at Shegerian & Associates assist our clients in pursuing the workers’ compensation disability benefits that they are rightfully owed.
California Disability Benefits in Workers’ Comp Claims
An injury at work entitles an employee to file a workers’ compensation claim. Due to California’s no-fault statute in workers’ compensation cases, an employee does not have to prove fault in order to collect benefits. The only thing that must be proven is that the employee’s injury was caused while they were working. Consult with a workmans compensation attorney to know more about workers’ comp claims.
According to California Labor Code 3208, there are generally two types of injuries that make employees eligible for workers’ comp benefits:
- Specific injuries are the result of one incident that requires medical attention and missed work, such as a slip and fall or lifting-related back injury.
- Cumulative trauma is the result of repetitive mental or physical injuries over a period of time that leads to a need for medical attention and missed work, such as carpal tunnel due to typing.
The employee’s injury may lead to disabilities that are temporary or permanent. The type of benefits that an employee receives will depend on whether their injury is classified as temporary or permanent, as well as whether they have a total disability or a partial disability.
Temporary Total Disability (TTD) refers to when an employee is completely unable to return to work, even with modifications of work duties. Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) refers to when an employee is able to perform some of their work functions, or do so at reduced hours or capacity.
Temporary disability rates are typically two-thirds the employee’s average weekly wages at the time that the injury occurred. The employee will receive benefits until their physician determines that he or she has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Benefits are limited to 104 weeks over a five-year period from the date of the injury.
If the employee’s physician determines that the injury has plateaued and will not get any better despite medical treatment, then the employee may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. Permanent disability benefits are categorized as either partial or full and help cover the loss of future earning capacity caused by the permanent injury.
Permanent disability is rated on a scale of 0-100%, and this impairment rating is one of the main factors in the amount of benefits received and how long they last. A rating of 100% indicates a permanent total disability and means that an individual can receive weekly benefits for the rest of their life.
A rating of anything under 100% indicates a partial permanent disability and means that an individual can receive weekly benefits for a set period of time. Additionally, if a person receives a rating of 70-99%, they will receive a life pension after their disability benefits end due to their higher level of impairment and disability.
Protections for Injured Workers Against Employer Retaliation
It’s a sad reality that some workers who are injured on the job do not file workers’ compensation claims because they are scared of termination or other forms of retaliation at work. It is important for all workers in California to understand that Labor Code 132a prohibits employers in the state to retaliate against workers for filing or planning to file workers’ comp claims.
Retaliation often leads to termination but can also include an employer taking the following actions:
- Reducing an employee’s hours
- Reducing an employee’s pay
- Giving an employee a less desirable shift or work duty
- Reporting the employee for immigration violations
- Denial of benefits
- Scheduling an employee when it is known that they cannot work at that time
If the employer does illegally retaliate against the employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim, the employee can also file a claim for additional compensation against the employer, including compensation for lost wages, back pay, attorney fees, and possible reinstatement. An employer who violates this labor code may also be criminally prosecuted. You may consult with a workers compensation attorney to help you get started with filing a claim.
Disability discrimination laws also offer protections for workers who have been disabled due to work injuries. For instance, if an injured employee can do his or her job with accommodations, the employer cannot fire the employee, even if the employer thinks the employee faces a greater risk of injury on the job due to the disability. If termination illegally occurs in such a situation, the employee can also file a claim for discrimination.
You must be an employee. Your employer must carry workers’ comp insurance. You must have a work-related injury or illness. You must meet your state’s deadlines for reporting the injury and filing a workers’ comp claim.
Pursuing Damages in a Workers’ Compensation Case
Damages recoverable under workers’ comp laws are set by a predetermined formula and include compensation for lost wages and lost earning capacity. In contrast, damages under disability discrimination can include all, part, and future loss of wages, benefits, emotional distress, attorney fees, and even punitive damages.
Additionally, California Labor Code 4650 requires insurance companies to pay 10% more in temporary or permanent disability benefits to an injured worker if payments are late. California law requires that payments must begin within 14 days of the employer’s knowledge of the injury, and all subsequent payments must be made every 2 weeks or be subject to the 10% penalty.
Taking the proper steps after a work injury can help strengthen your claim and ensure that your attorney is able to pursue maximum damages and/or benefits on your behalf. It is recommended that injured workers:
- Report the injury to their employer immediately.
- Fill out a workplace injury report.
- Seek medical attention.
- File a claim.
- Contact a workers’ compensation attorney.
Never assume that just because you don’t feel seriously injured that you shouldn’t make a report and seek medical attention after a workplace accident. Oftentimes, symptoms of serious injuries may be delayed, and failing to seek medical attention in a timely manner could jeopardize your rights to benefits.
Protecting the Rights of Workers Everywhere
When you’re injured at work, the last thing you should have to worry about is an exhausting battle with your employer or their insurance company. At Shegerian & Associates, our seasoned workers’ comp lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights of workers everywhere. We will work tirelessly on your behalf to get you the benefits you deserve while you focus on recovering.