Understand your rights when you are injured at work
Certain industries depend on the physical abilities of strong, fit and healthy individuals to help build their businesses. Some of the activities a person performs in their line of work pose a risk for certain industries, and then there is the risk for freak accidents. If you have been injured at work, it is important to get in touch with an Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney who can help you protect your rights.
People say that "accidents happen". Whether you were in the wrong place at the wrong time or whether bad luck caused your injury, or whether another person's actions or inactions caused an action and the resulting injury, you may be entitled to compensation. Likewise, you may have rights if you were dismissed because of the injury. An Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney may be able to help you obtain fair compensation for your injuries and loss of income due to:
- workplace injuries
- worker death claims
- construction accidents
- vehicle accidents at work
- toxic exposure
- back injuries
- brain injuries
- catastrophic injuries
- paraplegic cases
- burns and electrocution
- stress-related injuries
- machine malfunctions
- firefighter injuries
- police officer injuries
- and more.
Workers Compensation in California
California is a no-fault workers compensation insurance state. That means that benefits are awarded regardless of fault. Cases tend involve extensive paperwork, which makes it complicated, and as such, claims are often denied when they are incomplete or filed incorrectly. Working with an experienced specialist Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney will ensure that your claim is filed promptly and accurately to enhance the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Workers compensation covers:
- Injuries that occur at work or off-site during working hours or at work-sponsored activities, or by the company's facilities.
- Injuries that result from physical or mental strain caused by work-related stress or increased work duties, including disabling conditions caused by the constant demands of the job or by the constant harassment of a supervisor.
- Diseases that were contracted due to exposure to toxins during normal working conditions, such as lung cancer.
- Pre Existing conditions that are aggravated or accelerated in the workplace, such as back problems that only cause pain later.
The courts do tend to limit compensation or reduce amounts payable when the injured individual was partly responsible for the injury by running personal errands outside of the employer's premises during working hours, inflicts the injury on him or herself, or if the injury was sustained while the person was intoxicated.
Purpose of Workers Compensation Law
California's workers compensation laws were designed to provide injured employees with fixed monetary awards and a safety net for those who are injured at work, but wish not to litigate claims against employers. At the same time, the laws provides a certain level of protection to employers, as it limits the amount recoverable and it prohibits individuals from filing suits against their co-workers.
Workers typically can't sue employers for workplace injuries, however, there are certain exceptions, including intentional physical harms and emotional distress, which may include:
- Assault, which includes threats or actual battery.
- Battery, when a person or object hits you.
- Defamation, when slander or libel causes you harm.
- Conversion, when someone claims your property as their own.
- Trespass, when someone accesses your property or uses it without your permission.
- Fraud, when lies causes an injury.
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress, when terrible conduct causes you to be emotionally traumatized.
- False imprisonment, when you are confined against your will and without legal authority to do so.
If someone other than you or your employer caused you to suffer an injury in the workplace, you can file a suit against them. An example would be an injury caused by defective equipment, in which case you may file a suit against its manufacturer. In some cases, a portion of the damages will be payable to your employer, or the their workers compensation insurance company in repayment of compensation benefits, or they may become third parties to the lawsuit.
Workers Compensation: The Claims Process
An injury in the workplace has the potential to turn your life around. It may render you unable to participate in activities you used to do in the workplace and at home. When you are no longer able to fulfill the work set out in your employment agreement, your job may be in the balance. Although the injury is bound to take up all your thoughts and time in the first few days following the accident, it is important to protect your legal rights from the outset.
Workers compensation is an area within the personal injury sector, where you may claim compensation from your company for injuries that occurred during the execution of your duties, either on the premises of your workplace, or on that of a client, or while traveling to or from work. In the vast majority of cases, workers compensation cases are settled out of court.
The first thing you should do after your injury, is to notify your employer, using the prescribed reporting structure. Ideally, your report should be in writing and you should keep a copy of both your report and your employer's response for your personal records.
Companies are required to carry workers' compensation insurance and provide you with a claim form as soon as you file your report. It is important to understand that workers' compensation claims are similar to insurance claims. It is a request for benefits rather than a lawsuit against your employer in order to 'get even' with them. Be sure to complete the form immediately and as completely as possible. Your employer is not obliged to compensate you until the form is received. Once again, it is important to keep a copy of the form for your own records.
The employer must notify their workers compensation insurance company immediately, and obtain medical assistance right away. They may ask you not to file an official injury report, and promise to take care of you. Often, companies will put an individual on light duty, just to terminate their employment in a few weeks or months.
Of course, no amount of money can undo an injury or restore a permanent disability, but workers compensation can provide the means to pay for your medical costs and loss of earnings in order to prevent financial distress to the physical and emotional trauma you have experienced. While compensation usually takes the form of money - known as damages - a judge may also order certain actions, such as compelling your employer to provide you with suitable alternatives that match your new normal.
Workers compensation claims are typically pursued through administrative processes rather than through the California court system. You only become eligible to appeal your award when you have exhausted the administrative process completely, and once all parties have completed all the steps required to settle the claim. A nominated court or special workers compensation board will hear your appeal. Once you have satisfied all the statutory processes, you may seek redress in civil court.
Taking the right steps as soon as possible can help you save time in the even that you decide to claim compensation. Here are the steps to follow as soon as possible after your injury:
- Collect Information
When you decide to file a legal claim after an accident that caused a personal injury, the court will consider exactly what happened to give rise to the claim, and the harm resulting from the injury. Since a workers compensation claim can drag on for years, it is important to take clear and concise notes from the outset in order to have a record to which you can refer later on.
If your injuries render you incapable of doing so yourself, it might be an idea to ask a friend or loved one to do it for you. Important information to note, would include:
- Events leading up to, during and immediately after the incident, including: the time and place, individuals who were present, discussions, the actual incident, your emotions and experiences, weather conditions, and any other recollections - even if you don't think it is important.
- The extent of your injuries (physical and mental)
- Treatment received already and the treatment you will be needing in future.
- The effects of the injury on your work, personal and social life, including doctor's visits, physical therapy, absence from work, postponed or cancelled plans, and the effects of the injury on your close family and relationships.
Sometimes, a slip and fall accident or similar incident may seem insignificant, but injuries can manifest later. Some aspects of a workplace may worsen pre-existing medical conditions. Even if it seems unimportant, it is important to follow your instincts and report it right away. If you can take photographic or video evidence of the place where the accident occurred, from different angles and preferably at the same time of the day with the same lighting and weather conditions.
During the claim process, take notes of any new developments and conversations with witnesses, medical care providers, and insurance companies. Note the location and date of the conversations, as well as important information mentioned, along with the person's name and contact details.
Keeping a daily record of your injuries and your medical recovery progress can help your case. Be sure to mention all your notes and evidence to your attorney, as it will assist the law firm's efforts in securing a fair and adequate settlement for your compensation claim.
- Meet an Attorney
When you first meet with an attorney after the accident, you will have to relay information about the incident. The consultation may difficult, as you will have to relive a traumatic event, but it is important to be clear and honest and answer all questions to the best of your ability and in as much detail as possible. Some of the things the Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney asks may include:
- signing a document to authorize health care providers to release your medical records to your lawyer.
- questions about your insurance coverage.
- details about any discussions you've had with your employer or insurance adjusters regarding the incident or injury.
- the status of your injuries and your prognosis.
If you have lingering medical issues, the lawyer may advise you to see a doctor. This is an important step in the case, as medical records are pivotal evidence of an injury.
A lawyer may want to consider your case for a short while before contacting you again to discuss your legal options. If a lawyer declines your case, it could be for a variety of reasons, including the economic situation, specialties or capabilities, current caseload and even personal reasons. The lawyer may refer you to another attorney if he or she feels the other person is better equipped to handle your case. A lawyer could also decline your case if he or she feels that it is not worthwhile to pursue compensation. If that happens, it is a good idea to get a second opinion as soon as possible.
Once you have found a lawyer who is willing and able to represent you, you may be asked to sign an agreement for representation or a retainer contract. Take the document home with you and study it carefully before you sign anything. The lawyer will also inform you about the next steps, which may include a factual investigation, and warn you not to speak to anyone about the case.
- Pretrial Motions
Your lawyer may file a motion for the court to rule on your case. A dispositive motion could end the dispute before it goes to trial, effectively terminating the litigation. A non dispositive motion rules on an incidental question arising from litigation.
The California workers compensation claims system is complex and involves many steps. It is a good idea to work with an experienced Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney who can guide you through the process and provide the best possible advice as you navigate the system. Call 949-423-3212 today to book an initial consultation with our expert specialist Orange County Workers Compensation Attorney today.