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In California, all employers with one or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance. The state’s workers’ compensation system enables all injured or ill employees to obtain financial benefits without the burden of proof. An employee can receive compensation for medical bills and some lost wages with almost no questions asked.
Thousands of residents in California work as telecommuters, or work-from-home employees. As remote work options increase in popularity, more workers are asking: “What happens if I suffer an injury while working from home?” You do not have to be in a commercial building to maintain your rights to workers’ compensation.
In general, you can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer an injury or illness while working from home as long as you are an official employee of a company and not an independent contractor. As an employee, the state’s workers’ comp laws extend to you even if you are the only employee at the company. If you are an independent contractor or self-employed, however, you will not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
An injury at home, such as a trip-and-fall accident that results in a sprained wrist, could qualify you for workers’ compensation if you were performing a job-related task at the time of the accident. You must prove that you were working for your employer when the injury or illness occurred. If you were off the clock when the accident at your home occurred, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company will deny your claim.
To qualify for workers’ compensation in any location, you must have been performing activities related to your job. You must also not be guilty of gross negligence; such as working under the influence of alcohol or breaking one of your employer’s safety rules. Workers’ compensation will cover most injuries and illnesses, as long as you can prove they occurred during the course of your employment.
The claims filing process for you will look similar to the process for other employees in California. First, report your injury to your employer. You must report your injury within 30 days of the accident or the date you discovered the injury or illness. Seek medical care immediately. In an emergency, you can go anywhere for treatment. Otherwise, you must go to a medical provider in your employer’s network.
Then, fill out and file the Initial Report of Injury (Form DWC-1). Either give the finished form to your employer or file it yourself with the Department of Workers’ Compensation. The insurance company will review your claim and may ask for more details, evidence or documentation. Then, if your claim succeeds, you could receive financial compensation for your injury-related medical bills. You could also receive two-thirds of any lost wages.
Workers’ compensation does cover remote workers in the state of California. If you suffer an injury or come down with a serious illness (e.g. mesothelioma from breathing in asbestos in your home) while performing your job from home, you could qualify for benefits. Unfortunately, your case may be more difficult to prove than a typical workers’ compensation claim. You may have the added responsibility to show that you were working at the time of the incident.
It is critical to document your accident and injuries in as much detail as possible if you wish to file a workers’ compensation claim. Your employer and its insurance company will likely ask for some type of proof that you were working from home, such as records of work-related emails or calls you sent before the accident happened. Evidence such as an eyewitness, work-related communications or a clock-in system could help you prove your case. Hiring a workers’ compensation attorney could help you with your burden of proof.