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How Does Workers’ Comp Pay for Lost Wages in California?

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The workers’ compensation system is an important tool workers in California can use to obtain the money they need without having to prove someone else’s fault. Unlike the civil justice system, which requires evidence of fault, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. Even a successful workers’ comp claim, however, will not result in 100% of your lost wages reimbursed. The system in California generally only reimburses an employee up to two-thirds of his or her average weekly wages.

How to File for Lost Wage Reimbursement

Lost wage reimbursement could be a right you have as an injured worker in California. All employers in the state must carry workers’ compensation insurance. If you get injured on the job, whether someone else caused the accident or not, you could receive lost wage reimbursement by filing a workers’ comp claim. An insurance company may reimburse you for lost income in a few different ways.

  • Temporary disability payments: An injury or illness that temporarily takes you out of work could make you eligible for a check for the time you have to take off, for a maximum of two years.
  • Permanent disability payments: A permanent, lifelong disability from your job could lead to lost wage benefits checks for a few weeks up to 14 years. Severely disabled workers could receive additional life pension payments for life.
  • Supplemental job displacement benefit voucher: A permanent disability from a work injury, without other work offered by your employer, qualifies you for a voucher that can pay for education, job training, or skill enhancement.
  • Return-to-work supplement: Those who receive job displacement vouchers may also qualify for a one-time payment of $5,000 through the return-to-work supplement program.

Apply for these benefits by notifying your employer of your accident and injury within at least 30 days. This is a critical deadline. If missed, the insurer may have grounds to deny your claim. Your employer should then submit the Initial Report of Injury Form within five days. You should hear back from the insurance company as to whether or not it accepts your claim over the next two weeks.

Limits of Workers’ Compensation

Lost wage benefits through the California workers’ comp system do not reimburse an injured worker for all income lost. Instead, it will only amount to about two-thirds of the employee’s average gross wages. If you make an average of $2,000 per week, for example, your workers’ compensation lost wage check might equal around $1,333. Your benefits are also subject to the statewide weekly maximum, however. This changes year by year. In 2020, the maximum is $1,299.43 per week. In the example above, you would receive $1,299.43 in lost wage reimbursement instead of $1,333 per week due to the state’s maximum limit.

Options for Additional Wage Restitution

Although it can be easier to settle for workers’ compensation, this might not be the best way to maximize your financial recovery after a serious workplace injury. Limitations on lost wage reimbursements could make it difficult to maintain your previous standard of living. You could qualify for greater compensation, such as 100% of your lost wages, through a personal injury claim instead.

Full wage recovery might be possible by bringing a negligence-based work injury case against your employer or another party, such as a product manufacturer. If your employer caused your injury, do not accept a workers’ compensation settlement before consulting an attorney. Accepting a settlement check bars you from filing a suit against your employer. If a third party is to blame, however, you could be eligible for both workers’ comp lost wage reimbursement and additional compensation through the civil justice system.

If you have a temporary or permanent disability, you could also qualify for checks through Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income. This could supplement the benefits you obtain from a workers’ compensation claim to reimburse you for 100% of your lost wages. Contact an Orange County workers’ comp lawyer after a workplace accident in California about your recovery options.

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