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Workers’ compensation is a right for almost all employees. According to California State Law, employers are legally bound to provide a safe place to work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes minimum standards for workplace environments across all industries. While some workplaces are naturally more hazardous than others, anyone can sustain an injury on the job.
Depending on where you work, you may be facing work hazards like dangerous chemicals and heavy machinery that present a risk of bodily harm. Even office workers can face a lengthy recovery from chronic conditions like carpal tunnel or muscle strains. If you work in a high-pressure environment, you may be more susceptible to stress and psychological trauma.
If you’ve sustained an injury at work in Orange County, via negligence behavior or from poor ergonomics, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance purchased by employers for the coverage of employees in the event of an accident, injury, or illness. Every state has its own version of worker’s compensation laws to protect workers, but in the state of California, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance and benefits include:
Warehouse and Industrial Work – People who work in warehouse and freight/transportation industries are often exposed to detrimental respiratory conditions like asbestos or dank working environments. However, the most common warehouse injury results from using the forklift improperly, or if the forklift is not maintained correctly. According to OSHA, there are roughly 34,900 serious forklift injuries every year, 84 of which are fatal. Most forklift injuries occur during loading and unloading, and around 42% of forklift injuries are a result of the forklift tipping over.
Construction Workers – Another common job for injuries is in the construction industry. There are roughly 6.5 million construction workers in the United States, and fatality rates for this industry are higher than the national average of any other industry. Though less serious injuries occur quite frequently, like sprains, breaks, and repetitive motion injuries, the occurrence of fatal injuries in the construction industry is high because there are more ways to be seriously injured. The most common serious or fatal injuries are usually due to falls from heights, scaffolding collapses, and electric shocks.
Industries That Work With Chemicals – Employees in certain industries can expose themselves to hundreds of chemicals on any given day and if absorbed through the skin, they can cause significant illnesses and even death. Though it is hard to measure the exact amount of incidents per year, OSHA estimates that nearly 860,000 illnesses from occupational chemical exposure happen annually. While there are many occupations in which employees expose themselves to chemicals regularly, some of the biggest industries for injuries are nurses and hospital workers, manufacturing plants, mining, cleaning industries, and even office workers. The most common chemical injuries are rashes/burns, respiratory injuries, and brain injuries from inhalation.
Get Appropriate Care – If you are seriously injured, your first goal should always be to seek medical assistance. If the injury developed slowly over time, seek medical care as soon as you notice the injury. Ignoring symptoms may make your situation worse, leading to more missed work. The workers’ compensation program is designed to retroactively pay your medical expenses, so don’t worry about how you’re going to pay for them. Focus on finding the help you need.
Report the Incident – Workers’ compensation claims are split into two general categories: indemnity and medical-only. An indemnity claim occurs when an employee is injured at work and cannot return until he or she heals. A medical only claim means that the injury is less serious and an employee can receive medical treatment and return immediately there after. As soon as you suspect an injury at work, promptly report it to your employer and determine which type of injury it is. The state of California gives you 30 days to report the incident for maximum benefits. A delay in reporting can lead to a delay in benefits, even an outright denial. Sometimes symptoms of an injury can take days to manifest, so report your situation as soon as possible.
File a Claim Report – While most basic steps are the same from company to company, it is important to understand your company’s policies so you can prepare for the unexpected. Your employee should provide you with a claim form and ask you to fill out the “employee” section. Be as thorough as possible. Once the employer submits the claim to the program, you should have an answer within 14 business days. Even as a part-time or temporary employee, you’re usually still entitled to file a claim. Also make sure to keep track of ALL related information. Make copies of incident reports, medical reports, and communication between you and your employer, as well as you and any other 3rd party. By everything, we mean keep the gas receipts associated with your travel to and from treatment centers. You may be able to recoup many of the expenses associated with your injury.
Workers’ compensation claims may be denied for different reasons. Here are a few of the most commonly cited reasons:
In the state of California, you must file an “Application for Adjudication of Claim” to have your situation heard by a judge for further evaluation. If you believe your claim was wrongfully denied, filing this form creates a case with the local Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. You must file the application in your resident county or in the county where you suffered the injury.
After the application has been filed and presented to the appropriate parties, you or your attorney will need to make sure you receive a notice of filing. Keep the assigned case number on hand, as you will need it for any further documentation regarding the case.
The next step to take after receiving notice is to file a “Declaration of Readiness to Proceed.” This declaration is a request for a hearing in front of a judge. You, your attorney (optional, but recommended), and your insurance administrator will sit down with a judge during this hearing and try to reach a settlement. If no agreeable settlement can be met, the judge will schedule a time for trial with another judge.
According to California Labor Code Section 132a, it is illegal for your employer to punish or fire you for having a job related injury or filing a compensation claim. It is also illegal for your employer to fire or punish a coworker who is a witness or testifies in your case. Furthermore, if you work for a company with 50 or more employees, the FMLA states that you may take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks, without losing your job, if you need to recover from a serious medical condition.
Employers don’t always follow the letter of the law when it comes to workers’ compensation. They may try to dissuade you from filing a claim, even though it’s illegal for them to do so. Even worse, they may try to replace you while you’re on medical leave.
Avoid workers’ compensation difficulties by hiring a law firm with over three decades of experience in practicing worker’s compensation law. We’ll make sure your employers comply with regulations and make your claims process as smooth as possible. We can even help you pursue a third party personal injury claim to account for your pain and suffering. Whether you are in Orange County, Riverside, or San Bernardino, to get started with a free initial consultation, contact us today.