If you were injured on the job, you may be entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits, which typically cover medical expenses and a portion of lost income. Under California's labor laws, you are entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault for the injury. In exchange for this type of protection, workers lose their right to file a lawsuit, in most cases against their employers, for damages.
When Can You File for Workers' Comp?
In order to receive workers' compensation benefits, the following conditions must be satisfied:
You must be an employee of the company. When it comes to eligibility for workers' compensation, not all workers come under the label of "employee." In today's "gig economy," it is important to remember that contract workers, freelancers or consultants typically are not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Sometimes, employers misclassify their employees as "contract workers" particularly to avoid paying them workers' compensation benefits.
Even if you signed a 1099 tax form as an independent contractor, you may still qualify as an employee when it comes to workers' comp benefits. In such cases, courts will generally look at how much control you had over your work, schedule and other issues. Volunteers typically are not entitled to workers' comp benefits, but some states including California require some volunteers such as volunteer firefighters to be covered under workers' comp.
The employer must carry workers' comp insurance. Under California law, all employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance, even if they have only one employee. Most employers buy workers' comp insurance even if they are not legally mandated to do so. Typically, employers buy workers' comp insurance on the private market or from a state fund.
California law requires a business owner to carry workers' comp insurance for employees who regularly work in California, even if the business is headquartered in another state. Also, California law presumes anyone who works for an employer to be an employee. If a work injury claim is filed, the burden is on the employer to prove that someone is an independent contractor and not an employee.
The injury must be work-related. If you were injured during the course of your employment, then it is considered to be work-related. For example, if you became injured in a car accident while running an errand for your employer or while getting to a work-related meeting or appointment, these are considered work-related injuries. In some cases where your employer disputes that the injury is work-related, you may need the help of an experienced work injury lawyer to preserve your legal rights and secure the compensation you rightfully deserve.
You must meet reporting and filing deadlines. Even if you meet all the other criteria, you could potentially lose your right to receive workers' compensation benefits if you fail to meet the deadline for reporting the injury to your employer and filing a workers' compensation claim.
Generally, you should give your employer written notice of the injury within 30 days after the incident. You also need to file an official workers' comp claim by filling out the employee's portion of the claim form, which you can get from your employer. You should then return that to the employer. A worker also has up to five years from the date of injury to file a claim if the original injury caused additional or further injury.
There are times when workers suffer horrendous injuries on the job, which may leave them permanently injured, disabled and unable to work. Even if their injuries are not catastrophic, a number of workers find themselves unable to work for an extended period of time because their injuries take time to heal. In such cases, often, workers' comp benefits simply will not be enough to cover all of your losses.
In these types of situations, our experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyers can look into how you can seek and secure additional compensation by filing a third-party claim. This is typically a personal injury lawsuit that is filed against a third party (an individual or entity other than the employer) who caused your injury. This may include a number of parties including but not limited to general contractors, sub-contractors, building or property owners, property managers, manufacturers of defective products, etc. For example, if you have been injured by a negligent motorist while on the job, you can file a third-party lawsuit against that driver in addition to filing a workers' comp claim.
So, what does a third-party claim do for you that a workers' comp claim cannot? Third-party claims can compensate workers for damages not typically covered under workers' comp such as lost future income, loss of earning capacity, loss of life's enjoyment, loss of consortium, pain and suffering and emotional distress. You may also be able to claim other expenses such as cost of future treatment and care. A third-party claim is worth much more than workers' comp benefits. Also, you can file a third-party claim in addition to filing for and receiving workers' comp benefits.
It is important to remember that a third-party lawsuit, like other personal injury lawsuits, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. In other words, the injured worker must prove that the third-party's negligence or wrongdoing caused their injury.
How Greenberg and Ruby Can Help You
If you have suffered an injury on the job, our attorneys will help you explore all avenues of compensation, particularly through third-party claims. California workers' comp benefits may be a lifesaver for many, but for many others they are woefully inadequate when it comes to providing fair and full compensation for all the losses they have suffered.
Our work injury lawyers will help you file all paperwork properly and on time, compile the necessary evidence to prove your case, and provide you with a clear idea of what your case is worth. Our lawyers also work on a contingency fee basis. This means you don't pay any fees or costs until we win compensation for you. Call us at (323) 782-0535 for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.