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How Does My Workers’ Compensation Settlement Affect My Tax Return?

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  1. How Does My Workers’ Compensation Settlement Affect My Tax Return?

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    Workers’ compensation benefits exist to provide relief to workers who suffer injuries in the workplace. Workers’ compensation can potentially help pay for immediate medical expenses and offset the economic impact of missing wages, but workers’ compensation may not fully cover the cost of a workplace injury. Some injured workers may wonder whether workers’ compensation benefits will affect their tax returns, and it is vital to understand how government benefits at the state and federal levels work to determine your tax obligations.

    Taxability of Workers’ Compensation Benefits

    Workers’ compensation benefits do not qualify as taxable income at the state or federal level. Lump sum settlements from workers’ compensation cases do not count as taxable income either. Usually, workers’ compensation benefits will not affect your tax return. If you are currently on workers’ compensation benefits and do not see a W-2 for the tax year while you were on benefits, do not panic. You will not receive any tax documents about your workers’ compensation benefits and it is not necessary to include your workers’ compensation as income when you file your taxes.

    Despite the fact that workers’ compensation benefits do not typically count as taxable income, you could still encounter some tax issues in other ways depending on the types of other benefits you receive. For example, if you received workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time, you may receive a tax notification on the income received through Social Security Disability.

    Social Security and Workers’ Compensation

    It is possible to receive both Social Security Disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits simultaneously with one important caution; the Social Security Administration will likely reduce your disability benefits to prevent you from earning more than 80% of your previous wages in benefits through a process called offsetting. The Social Security Administration calculates an acceptable offset based on your average current earnings.

    Unlike workers’ compensation benefits, Social Security Disability benefits do qualify as taxable income. You should expect to pay taxes on all Social Security Disability income received. A certified tax professional can help you answer specific questions about your tax obligations following a workers’ compensation settlement.

    Tax Obligations

    If you received workers’ compensation benefits for an entire tax year, you will not need to pay taxes on those benefits. However, if you returned to work for any amount of time, even on light duty, you must pay taxes accordingly. Additionally, if you subsidized your income during your benefits period by taking money from a 401k or retirement plan, you will likely face a tax obligation for that income.

    Your workers’ compensation benefits may not count as taxable income, but these benefits may still influence your tax return in other ways. For example, if you are married and your spouse continues working while you receive benefits for an entire tax year and you do not subsidize your income with any taxable income, you effectively earned no taxable income for that tax year.

    If you and your spouse file your tax return jointly this could effectively place you in a lower tax bracket and lower your overall tax obligation. Since you pay no taxes on your workers’ compensation benefits your overall taxable income will be lower, and therefore your tax return may be less than it was when both you and your spouse worked for the entire tax year.

    A workers’ compensation attorney can be a fantastic resource for anyone with questions about workers’ compensation benefits and how they affect tax returns. You may also want to make an appointment with a certified tax professional to ensure you meet your tax obligation for any time you did not work and received workers’ compensation benefits.

  2. What is a Personal Injury Demand Letter & What Needs to Be in It?

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    If you suffered serious personal injuries because of someone else’s negligence, you have the power to file a civil claim against the party or parties that caused your damages in California. One of the first steps toward obtaining a settlement is submitting your personal injury demand letter. A personal injury lawyer in Orange County can help you create a demand letter that includes all pertinent information, and submit it to the correct place at the correct time on your behalf.

    Breaking Down the Demand Letter

    A demand letter is a document you will send to the other side in your personal injury case, or the defendant. The defendant is the individual or party you believe is most responsible for causing your accident and injuries. The demand letter lists the recovery you seek from the defendant. It will include a dollar amount you will accept to resolve your claim, based on your damages. The defendant will have a set amount of time to review your demand letter and issue a response.

    If the defendant accepts the claim, you and the defendant (or your attorneys) will enter into settlement negotiations. The goal of these negotiations is to come to a satisfactory agreement between you and the defendant on what it will take to resolve the claim. Your case may end here if the defendant offers a satisfactory amount. If the defendant denies your demand letter or settlement negotiations do not work, your case may go to trial for resolution.

    What Does the Demand Letter Include?

    The demand letter is arguably the most important part of the negotiation process. In it, you will give the defendant (or his or her insurance company) your strongest arguments for why the defendant is legally responsible for your damages, what injuries you suffered, and how much your case is worth. The centerpiece of your demand letter is the lump sum it would take to settle your claim. The letter will include other information as well.

    • A description of your accident
    • The date, location, and time of the incident
    • Why the defendant is legally responsible
    • What injuries you suffered
    • A list of medical treatments and their costs
    • The amount of income you lost because of your injuries
    • A list of any other damages you suffered

    The conclusion of your demand letter will be the actual demand – the amount of money you desire from the defendant’s insurance company. Coming up with a dollar amount may take help from an attorney. You will need to review all past and foreseeable future expenses relating to your accident and personal injuries. Then, you will need documentation or evidence to support the amount you arrive at.

    Calculating Your Monetary Demand

    California uses a damage formula to come up with the financial award a personal injury victim should receive for his or her damages. This formula can yield an accurate number with which to start your settlement negotiations. It may or may not be what you actually receive for your claim. You will need to add up the costs of your lost wages, past and future medical care, permanent disabilities, emotional damages, and physical pain and suffering.

    A lawyer will typically start by adding up your special damages, or those with specific dollar amounts. Then, the lawyer will multiply the number of special damages by a number from one to five depending on the severity of your injuries and the impact they had on your life. Most claims multiply special damages by a number between one-and-a-half to three. The lawyer will then add this amount to the number of special damages for the full demand.

    Your lawyer will typically start the negotiation process with a higher figure than you would actually be okay with accepting. This gives room for you and the other party to go back and forth with negotiations until you can both agree on an acceptable amount. Using a lawyer for negotiations can improve your odds of securing maximum compensation for your damages.

  3. Will a Workers’ Compensation Settlement Pay Me for My Pain & Suffering?

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    The California workers’ compensation system gives injured employees a way to obtain financial benefits to cover their medical bills and lost wages without needing to go to trial or prove anyone else’s fault. Workers’ comp provides coverage for employment-related injuries and illnesses, no matter who was at fault for the incident.

    Workers’ compensation may be the easiest route to take if you have an on-the-job injury, but is it what is best for your financial future?

    To discuss your specific case, speak to an Orange County workers compensation lawyer.

    Benefits Available Through Workers’ Compensation

    All employers in California must carry workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance protects both employees and employers. It provides injured employees with financial relief when they suffer job-related injuries, while it protects employers from liability for injury accidents. A successful workers’ comp claim will provide a certain set of benefits to you as an injured employee, regardless of fault.

    • Past and future medical expenses. You will receive full payment for all your medical bills relating to your injury or illness. This can include doctor’s appointments, mileage, scans and tests, prescriptions, medical devices, surgeries, and more.
    • Disability costs. If the workplace accident gave you a temporary or permanent injury, workers’ comp can give you compensation for your future costs relating to the disability, including replacement income and costs for retraining according to your new limitations.
    • Two-thirds lost wages. Workers’ compensation can reimburse injured workers in California for two-thirds of their average weekly gross wages, up to a maximum. These benefits are not subject to taxation.
    • Wrongful death damages. If you lost a loved one in a work-related injury, you may receive death benefits from the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. This can include lost wages, lost inheritance, and reasonable funeral and burial expenses.

    A workers’ compensation settlement in California will not pay you for your pain and suffering, mental anguish, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological trauma, or loss of consortium damages. You cannot recover for any noneconomic damages with a workers’ compensation claim. If you wish to pursue an award for noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering, you will need to file a personal injury lawsuit instead of settling for workers’ compensation.

    What You Could Receive With a Personal Injury Claim

    Accepting a workers’ compensation settlement automatically bars you from filing a lawsuit against your employer. You must be absolutely certain this is the route you want to take before saying yes to a settlement agreement. Working with a lawyer can help you explore all your options, and take the one that will result in the greatest compensation for you and your family. If you accept a settlement, you forfeit the right to file a lawsuit against your employer for negligence. You do not, however, lose the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party.

    If someone other than your employer caused your injuries, such as a coworker, property owner, or product manufacturer, you will retain the right to file a personal injury claim even after accepting workers’ compensation. A personal injury lawsuit against a negligent party could result in payment for your medical bills, disability costs, 100% lost wages, and noneconomic damages – including pain and suffering. You could pursue both types of compensation simultaneously with help from a lawyer.

    If you believe your employer is at fault for your injuries, do not accept a workers’ comp settlement until you have spoken to an attorney. A lawsuit against your employer may yield better financial benefits than a workers’ compensation claim could. If you have severe, life-changing injuries that will cause permanent disabilities, a personal injury lawsuit will typically yield higher compensation for your damages. A lawyer can evaluate both options and let you know which he or she thinks is in your best interests.

  4. What to Do After a Truck Accident in Orange County

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    A trucking accident may have left you with serious or debilitating personal injuries. In Orange County, you have the right to review your legal options with an attorney, often free of charge during an initial consultation. During this meeting, your Orange County personal injury lawyer will explain the next steps to take. You and your lawyer will need to determine the most appropriate course of action to obtain fair compensation for your damages if a negligent party caused your wreck.

    Taking the right steps after your crash can strengthen your case.

    Call 911 and Report the Crash

    California law requires those involved in an auto accident to call 911 and report the accident if it caused personal injuries (even minor ones), death, or property damage exceeding $1,000. Most trucking accidents meet this threshold, as the size and weight of a commercial truck striking a passenger vehicle can obliterate the latter. Most vehicles sustain much more than $1,000 in damages, on top of its passengers suffering major injuries.

    Calling 911 creates an official record that the crash happened, and sends police officers to the scene to investigate and gather evidence. Give police officers your side of the story when they arrive. Do not admit fault or appear apologetic about the accident. Be honest with the police officers, but stick to the facts. Do not speculate about who or what caused the crash unless you know for sure.

    Gather Information While at the Scene

    If you are able, start building your case from the scene of the accident. You or a trusted friend or family member should get the name of the truck driver and trucking company, the trucker’s insurance company, the license plate number, and the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. Photos and videos of the scene, property damage, and personal injuries are also helpful to build your case. Get your police report number as well.

    Seek Medical Care for Your Injuries

    Request an ambulance during your initial 911 call if you or someone else at the scene has any personal injuries. If you do not believe you need an ambulance, at least visit a doctor or emergency room soon after your trucking accident. Prompt medical care can find and treat any injuries you may not know you have, such as internal organ damage or a brain injury. It can also show an insurance company that you took care of your injuries right away.

    Contact Insurance Companies

    California is a fault-based insurance state. You will call the at-fault party’s insurance company to file your claim. You should also call your own insurance company, as it will want to know about any accidents involving your vehicle. When speaking to the other side’s insurance company, state the facts but do not admit fault. Only answer the questions asked – do not go into more detail than necessary. Keep the conversation to a minimum. The claims adjuster will be looking for ways to minimize your payout.

    Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer

    Trucking companies have substantial resources to fight accident claims. Their insurance companies and legal teams will do everything they can to avoid liability and escape paying you for your damages. Hiring a lawyer of your own to represent you in the aftermath of a truck accident can level the playing field, and prevent others from taking advantage of you during the claims process.

    Contact an Orange County truck accident lawyer as soon as you can after a truck accident in Orange County. Your lawyer can preserve important evidence, such as the truck’s black box, and begin planning your case against the correct defendant. Your lawyer can also take over insurance company conversations and settlement negotiations, fighting for a higher amount than you likely could receive alone. Hiring an attorney to handle your truck accident claim can allow you time to focus on healing.

  5. Does Having a Pre-Existing Condition Affect My Workers’ Compensation Claim?

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    If you suffer an injury or illness due to your job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. These benefits provide funding for medical expenses and lost income while you recover from your condition. However, you must satisfy a series of eligibility requirements to qualify for workers’ compensation. If you have a pre-existing illness or condition, receiving these benefits can become complicated.

    Unrelated Pre-Existing Conditions

    If your pre-existing condition is not related to the claim you are filing, you likely will not face any issues. Your pre-existing heart disease, for example, will not affect a claim for a knee injury. You may need to see multiple providers for the pre-existing condition and the workplace injury. While complicated, multiple insurance pathways will keep your out-of-pocket costs low.

    However, if your job function aggravates your unrelated pre-existing condition, you could seek additional compensation. For example, if you suffered a back injury during an unrelated car accident, you could aggravate the condition by performing heavy lifting functions at work.

    You will have to meet additional eligibility requirements depending on your state. In some areas, you can only receive workers’ compensation benefits related to the aggravation, not the pre-existing condition itself. You will need to visit a doctor to evaluate your injury and determine if your job caused aggravation, if the condition is worsening, and what treatment you will need to seek.

    Workplace-Caused Pre-Existing Conditions

    If a workplace accident caused a similar injury previously and you claimed workers’ compensation for that incident as well, you may see reduced benefits. Your employer will still pay your medical expenses for the new injury, but you may see a reduction in your permanent disability benefits. However, your employer will still pay temporary disability benefits if you cannot work.

    You can only receive compensation for an increase in disability at the end of your claim. For example, if your doctor examines your injury and states that you could receive $15,000 in permanent disability benefits and you received a $7,000 permanent disability award in the past, you will only receive $8,000. If your doctor does not notice an increase in disability, you will not receive any award.

    California-Specific Rules for Pre-Existing Conditions

    According to the California requirements for workers’ compensation benefits, the state considers aggravated pre-existing conditions as separate injuries. As a result, California will not limit your potential benefits to the specific instance of aggravation.

    Under California law, an aggravated pre-existing condition must satisfy one of the following factors.

    • The aggravated injury must cause a temporary or permanent disability increase.
    • The aggravated injury must create a need for additional medical treatment or a new treatment plan altogether.
    • The aggravated injury must change the existing course of treatment.

    With a new workers’ compensation claim, you can seek funding for medical expenses related to your aggravated injury, as well as temporary and permanent disability benefits. You will need to visit a physician and receive a medical report to prove these claims.

    However, flare-ups or recurrences for pre-existing conditions are not a new injury under California law. These are known as exacerbations. If your current employer did not cause the injury originally, you cannot seek benefits for a pre-existing condition exacerbation.

    Discuss Your Workers’ Compensation Claim With a Lawyer

    If you are unsure if your aggravated pre-existing condition qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits or if the condition will affect your claim, contact a workers’ compensation attorney in Orange County. These cases can be quite complex, and you want to ensure your employer honors your rights as an employee. Hiring an attorney early on will help facilitate your claim process.

  6. What Mental Health Issues Fall Under Workers’ Compensation?

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    You may suffer injuries at work due to faulty equipment, a slip and fall, or another physical act. When this happens, workers’ compensation covers expenses for your treatment and allows you time to recover. States cover different injuries and illnesses based on their unique compensation systems.

    A physical injury does not always cause our ailments, however. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can severely impact our productivity and ability to work. Even if the illness is work-related, many states have limited regulations about the use of workers’ compensation for mental health issues.

    If you believe that you are suffering from stress and anxiety as a result of your job, speak to an Orange County workers compensation lawyer to find out how we can help.

    An Overview of Workers’ Compensation

    To qualify for workers’ compensation, your injury must be work-related. Your injury must also be severe enough to affect your job performance. Usually, this type of injury requires medical attention beyond a single visit.

    • Injuries that happen while engaging in work-related events and activities
    • Illnesses developed due to long-term exposure to toxic substances, such as cleaning chemicals or asbestos
    • Injuries developed due to extreme physical stress during work
    • Injuries due to repetitive motions performed during work, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Pre-existing conditions that working aggravates

    Common types of workers’ compensation injuries include fractures and broken bones, concussions, severe lacerations, and strained muscles, especially in the back. Usually, the employer will require you to visit a doctor to confirm the injury and assess its severity. Injuries can happen due to accidents, negligence, toxin exposure, repetition, and multiple other causes.

    Mental Health Claims Under Workers’ Compensation

    How do mental health issues fit into the workers’ compensation system? Work-related activities can give rise to conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and extreme stress. If a work-related activity or incident caused or aggravated the condition, you could file a workers’ compensation claim.

    Depending on the state, your workers’ compensation could cover mental health issues that arise due to both ongoing conditions and singular events. However, proving that you suffer from these illnesses is more complex than physical injuries. In particular, gathering evidence that your job caused your mental health issues can be quite difficult.

    A link must be established between your illness and your job function based on the evidence requirements by your state. Courts will require an explanation as to how the illness is work-related and detail the work conditions that could have objectively led to the illness.

    California Workers’ Compensation for Mental Health

    Under California labor law, employees can receive workers’ compensation for diagnosed mental illnesses that require treatment or led to disability. To establish the validity of your claim, you will need to establish the following facts.

    • You have a mental illness diagnosed by a medical professional.
    • Your mental illness is severe enough to require treatment or leave you disabled.
    • The primary causes of your illness are work-related conditions or events.

    To qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in the state of California, you must have worked for the employer for at least six months. To prove your claim, you will need to have the following pieces of evidence.

    • Testimony from the treating physician to verify the illness
    • Medical records
    • Performance reviews
    • A physician’s report containing information about your background, development history, and personal issues
    • Any documentation to support your physician’s diagnosis and your claim

    Since mental illnesses are not as objective as physical injuries, proving the link between your work and your condition is complex and difficult. Some people may cast doubt upon your illness and question the validity of your claim.

    If you intend to pursue a workers’ compensation claim, discuss your case with an attorney. A workers’ compensation attorney can guide you through the process, help you gather evidence and testimony related to your claim, and provide advice on proving your condition.

  7. New California DMV Laws for 2019

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    The beginning of 2019 signals major changes for California. Effective on January 1st, the state ushered in a series of new laws that govern everything from gun control to plastic straws in restaurants. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will enact a series of new laws and changes that will affect California vehicles, licenses, and drivers.

    To learn more about these laws, contact our Orange County personal injury lawyers for more information.

    New Regulations for Passing Sanitation Trucks

    Under Assembly Bill 2115, the state will apply new traffic laws for passing waste service vehicles. If a driver approaches a sanitation truck with its amber lights flashing, the driver will need to move into another lane and pass the truck at a distance. If a lane change is not possible, the driver will have to slow down. This law is to prevent sanitation workers from collisions with oncoming traffic.

    Greater Gender Identity Options

    According to Senate Bill 179, people who apply for a California driver’s license or identification card can select their own gender. Applicants can choose between male, female, or non-binary for their gender options. On licenses and ID cards, the state will mark non-binary as an “X” in the gender category.

    Low Emissions Vehicle Sticker Program

    Under Assembly Bill 544, California will circulate new decals for low emission vehicles to travel in carpool lanes, also known as High Occupancy Vehicle lanes (HOV). Low emissions vehicles have used green and white decals for HOV travel since 2017. Drivers will have to upgrade to a red decal, which increases their HOV eligibility until 2022. Drivers can also opt for a light violet decal with HOV access until 2023.

    DMV Written Exam Updates

    The DMV will have to update 20% of their written exams to include at least one question about California’s unsecured load code, according to Assembly Bill 1925. The purpose of this update is to verify that new drivers understand that dumping or abandoning an animal is a crime.

    Paper Plates at Dealerships

    Under Assembly Bill 516, authorized car dealerships will have to provide temporary paper license plates to each vehicle they sell. This rule applies to both new and used vehicles. The paper plate must include a number and an expiration date. Hopefully, this will reduce the number of crimes committed by vehicles without a license plate, such as passing through toll booths without paying.

    Restored License Privileges for Minors

    According to Assembly Bill 2685, more minors will receive timely driver’s licenses. Prior to this law, California courts could delay, restrict, or suspend the issue of a minor’s license for up to one year due to truancy or being a guardian of the state. Courts will no longer have this power. However, license delays and suspensions prior to the start of 2019 will remain valid.

    Motorized Scooter Helmets

    Under Assembly Bill 2989, the state will no longer require adults over the age of 18 to use a bicycle helmet when operating a motorized scooter. The law will also allow people to operate motorized scooters on highways with speed capabilities up to 35 miles per hour.

    Breathalyzer Requirements for DUI Offenders

    According to Senate Bill 1046, repeat DUI offenders will need to install a breathalyzer on their engine ignition for at least 12 to 48 months. First-time DUI offenders who caused injuries will be subject to this requirement as well. The law is effective between January 1st, 2019 to January 1st, 2026.

    Smog Check Exemptions

    Assembly Bill 1274 will extend exemptions for smog verifications on new vehicles. Exemption timeframes will increase from six years to eight years. During the first six years of exemption, new vehicle owners will not have to receive a smog check, but they will need to pay a fee of $20. During the last two years of exemption, the fee will increase to $25.

  8. How Do I Know If I Have A Personal Injury Case in Orange County?

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    If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries and/or economic losses from a specific event, you may wonder whether you have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit to recover your damages. You should take several steps to determine whether you can file a personal injury claim.

    Determining the Scope of Your Damages

    Personal injury lawsuits exist to make victims “whole” again after suffering injuries and other damages due to the negligence of another party. If no damage occurs, no grounds for a claim exist. Additionally, if the damages you sustained were minimal, it may not be worth the expense to pursue a lawsuit for a minimal payout. To determine if you are eligible to file a personal injury claim, gather all documentation that proves the extent of your losses.

    Contacting an Orange County personal injury attorney and scheduling a consultation can help you better understand the scope of your damages. For example, if you suffered an injury that required hospitalization, you may know that you can claim your hospital bills, but an attorney can uncover additional avenues of compensation such as your long-term medical complications resulting from negligence, pain and suffering, and time you missed from work recovering from your injury.

    Discovering the Party Responsible for Your Damages

    Once you have confirmed that you have indeed suffered measurable losses, you must determine who is responsible for those damages. This is easier in some cases than in others. For example, if you suffered injuries in a car accident with a drunk driver, then the drunk driver is obviously responsible for your damages. However, if you developed a disability due to toxic exposure, it can take time to determine the root cause of the exposure and the party responsible.

    Understanding Negligence in Personal Injury Law

    “Negligence” is the legal term for one party’s failure to meet an acceptable standard of care in a given situation. For example, all drivers have a duty of care to others on the road to operate their vehicles responsibly and obey the traffic laws. A plaintiff must prove four elements of negligence to succeed with a personal injury lawsuit.

    • The defendant in the claim owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
    • The plaintiff must show how the defendant failed to meet his or her duty of care. For example, a driver who runs a red light breaches his or her duty of care to follow the rules of the road.
    • The plaintiff can only sue if he or she incurred a measurable loss or suffered an injury.
    • Finally, the plaintiff must prove that his or her claimed damages only happened due to the defendant’s negligence, or would not have happened but for the defendant’s negligence.

    Remember: a plaintiff must not only prove that he or she suffered damages, but also provide evidence of the extent of those damages. This is partly why it is so important to hire a personal injury attorney to handle a personal injury claim. A good attorney can help a client maximize his or her recovery after a personal injury and find additional avenues of compensation the plaintiff may have missed on his or her own.

    Take Advantage of Free Consultations

    Many personal injury attorneys offer free consultations to potential clients. This is a mutually beneficial arrangement as it helps the attorney attract new clients while offering prospective clients the opportunity to better understand their legal rights and options. If a personal injury attorney offers free consultations, compile a list of questions to ask the attorney so you can gauge his or her overall experience level and familiarity with the area of law that pertains to your case.

    If you suffered a personal injury of some kind and the injury resulted from the negligence of another party, you likely have the right to file a personal injury claim and recover your damages. If you are unsure about your right to file a lawsuit, reach out to a personal injury attorney and schedule a consultation.

  9. Bike Rules and Laws for Orange County

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    Orange County residents should know the bicycling laws and regulations in the county to prevent injuries and limit the chance of liability for an accident. That is why the Orange County personal injury lawyers at the DAM firm put this blog together.

    The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that each year, about 100 bicyclists die in road accidents and more than 10,000 suffer injuries from bicycle accidents. Don’t let that be you or one of your loved ones.

    California Laws for Bicyclists

    California prohibits riding bicycles under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and violations of this law may lead to heavy fines. It is also illegal for anyone between the ages of 13 and 21 to operate a bicycle under the influence, and doing so could lead to a delay of one year before the individual may exercise his or her driving privilege.

    All bicyclists under the age of 18 must wear helmets at all times while riding bikes in Orange County. While no law requires helmets for riders over 18, wearing them dramatically reduces the chances of a fatal head injury in an accident. Bicyclists should purchase appropriately sized helmets with a functional strap that goes under the chin to protect the most vulnerable parts of the head. It is also advisable to wear eye protection while riding that protects against dust, debris, and harsh UV sunlight.

    California also has specific laws for riding at night. Bicyclists should refrain from wearing dark clothing while riding at night and they must have a front lamp attached to the helmet or bicycle with a visible range of at least 300 feet.

    All bicycles must have rear red reflectors visible from a minimum of 500 feet. Pedals must have a white or yellow reflector viewable from at least 200 feet. Tires must have a reflective coating, or each wheel must have a white or red reflector to increase visibility.

    Bicyclists also have the right to “take the lane” as long as they move with the flow of traffic and signal appropriately. Bicyclists can use turning lanes the same as other vehicles as long as they yield to oncoming traffic and obey traffic signals just like any other driver.

    Cyclists must also ride with the flow of traffic, meaning staying to the right at all times except on one-way streets with left-side oriented bike lanes. Riding against the flow of traffic may appear to make the bicyclist more visible to oncoming traffic, but this creates a serious risk, especially when it comes to drivers turning right into the path of the cyclist.

    Best Practices for Cyclists

    All California bicyclists should remember that they have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. This means cyclists should stay as far to the right as possible and use designated bicycle lanes wherever available. Bicyclists must also obey all traffic signals and signs just like all other drivers.

    Bicyclists should use hand signals to indicate when they intend to turn. This helps other drivers anticipate cyclists’ actions and avoid accidents. An extended left arm indicates a left-hand turn while a raised left arm bent at the elbow indicates a right-hand turn. A cyclist can also extend his or her right arm to indicate a right-hand turn. Dropping one hand to the side of the bicycle with the palm facing behind the bicyclist indicates slowing or stopping.

    What to Do After a Bicycle Accident

    Bicycle accidents involving cars and bicyclists almost always cause more damage to the cyclist, and anyone involved with such an accident should report it to the police immediately. Handle immediate medical concerns first, and then consider your legal options. If a driver caused an accident with your bicycle and injured you, he or she is liable for the resulting damages. Contact a reliable bicycle accident attorney in your area as soon as possible to start building a case.

  10. Can Employers Visit You at Home If You Call in Sick?

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    Many American employees use sick days when they aren’t actually sick, but to what lengths can an employer go to verify that an employee who called in sick is actually sick that day?

    Ultimately, an employer should take an employee’s statement that he or she is sick at face value; it probably is not worth the time or energy to confirm that every sick day request is for a legitimate medical issue. However, employers may want to track employees who call out on a regular basis, and it is important to know what protections employers can put into place to prevent abusing sick days.

    To learn more about your rights as an employee, speak to an Orange County workers compensation lawyer attorney.

    How Employers Verify Sick Days

    The most common method employers use to verify employee sick day use is requiring doctor’s notes. About 70% of employers require employees to present a doctor’s note upon returning to work after calling out sick. Other employers reported calling employees at home to verify they are actually sick, and a small minority of employers reported actually physically driving to employee’s houses to perform firsthand checks.

    An employer visiting an employee at his or her home is not breaking any laws as long as the employer respects the employee’s personal space and privacy. For example, an employer could knock on the door and ask to speak with the employee, but the employer cannot force his or her way into the home to demand to see the employee.

    Best Practices for Employers

    Usually, an employer should not worry too much about an employee calling out sick unless the employee seems to have developed a habit of using sick days. Employers can try a few methods to cut down on the number of sick day abuses without damaging employee morale or encouraging discrimination claims. Keep a few best practices in mind to prevent sick day abuse without sowing division in your workforce.

    • Welfare checks. If an employee calls out sick the night before a shift or early in the morning before a shift, the employer may want to call the employee later in the day simply to check up on him or her. If the employee does not answer, it would be reasonable for the employer to visit the sick employee’s home to perform a welfare check, just in case.
    • Require check-ins. If an employee develops a serious illness or needs to miss several days of work, it is perfectly reasonable to request check-in phone calls with a supervisor for each day of absence.
    • Refrain from using other employees to check on sick employees. This will ultimately create division in the workforce and may lead to serious tensions between employees. If checking on an employee is necessary, the employer should handle it personally.

    It is also important for all employers to remember that several federal regulations protect the privacy of employees and their medical records. An employer cannot demand to review an employee’s medical records simply to check if the employee lied about taking a sick day. This is completely unreasonable and ultimately destructive for the entire workforce.

    What to Do If an Employer Violates Your Rights

    If you called out sick with a legitimate medical issue and faced harassment or adverse treatment, as a result, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against your supervisor, manager, or employer for creating a hostile work environment. The same applies to an employer who harangues an employee for calling out sick.

    Anyone who has experienced this type of situation with an employer should contact an attorney as soon as possible. A good lawyer can help an employee determine if an employer’s behavior was acceptable and in line with all applicable employment laws.