If you have suffered a work-related injury, your employer may be responsible for helping pay your lost wages, medical treatment and other accommodations as you recover from your injuries. Almost all employers are required under California state law to carry workers' compensation insurance, which compensates workers who are injured on the job for medical expenses and at least a portion of their lost wages.
There are, however, some exceptions with regard to who is covered under workers' compensation laws. Independent contractors, for example, are typically not covered by workers' comp insurance. Also, there are a few situations in which employees may sue employers in court for injuries, especially when the workplace accident occurs as a result of a willful or blatant violation of safety regulations.
First Things First: Did You Suffer a Work-Related Injury?
One of the important criteria for filing a workers' compensation claim is that your injury is work-related, which means that it should have occurred when you were engaged in doing your job or another activity on behalf of you employer. Such activities may also include events such as parties or social events where you are representing your employer, but do not actually happen in your workplace.
Also, your employer's workers' compensation policy may state that it will not include injuries that occur when employees are not adhering to workplace safety rules such as "horseplay" on the job. Courts as well as states are divided on how such situations should be treated.
Here are a few points to ponder when determining whether or not your injury is work-related:
- An injury that occurred during a lunch break is typically not considered job-related unless it occurs on company property or involves the employer in some way.
- If an accident or injury is caused by alcohol, it could be considered work-related if it occurred during an event sponsored by the employer such as a picnic or party.
- When a preexisting condition is worsened on the job, such an injury will also be considered work-related
- Mental conditions are also treated in the same vein as physical injuries if they are sustained on the job or in the course of performing your job.
Work Injuries and Employer Responsibilities
Unsafe work environments should never be tolerated. All employers have a duty and obligation to provide their employees with a safe working environment under federal and state occupational safety and health laws. At the federal level, these laws are enforced by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and in California, they are enforced by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). Employers have a responsibility to provide workers with job and safety training in a language they can understand. Employers must also provide personal safety equipment to their employees and training with regard to how to use them.
If you are injured on the job, your employer must call 911 and take the steps necessary to provide you with fist aid. If you don't need to go to the emergency room, your employer also has the responsibility to help you receive some type of medical attention or treatment as soon as possible after your injury. When workers suffer serious or catastrophic injuries in industrial accidents, employers are required to report them to OSHA. When an injury results in hospitalization or a fatality, employers must notify OSHA about the incident within eight hours.
Following a work injury, employers typically gather information about incidents and the facts of the case. They may take photos, videos or talk with co-workers who may have witnessed the accident. In California, employees are covered under workers' compensation insurance. California also requires undocumented workers to be included in workers' comp coverage. So, even if you are an undocumented worker in California, your employer is required to make sure you have the resources to receive medical treatment for your on-the-job injury and that a portion of you lost wages are covered under workers' compensation.
If you are eligible for workers' compensation, you may file a claim for benefits, but you may not sue your employer for the same injuries in court. However, if your employer does not provide state-mandated workers' compensation benefits, they may be subject to fines, lawsuits or even criminal charges.
Workers' Compensation Is Not The Only Option
If you are an independent contractor who is not eligible for workers' comp benefits, it does not mean that your employer has no responsibilities for your work injuries. You may have a contract that requires the use of arbitration in the event of an on-the-job injury. In some rare cases, such as injuries that are intentionally inflicted on employees in the workplace, employees may be able to sue their employer.
Providing Reasonable Accommodations
Employers also have a responsibility to provide injured workers with reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they return to work on a restricted basis. A reasonable accommodation is a change or modification to a job or work environment so the disabled worker can perform his or her job duties. ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities.
Need Help? Contact an Experienced Work Injury Lawyer
If you have suffered an injury that is work-related, be sure to get immediate medical attention and contact an experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer for a review of your claim. In addition to workers' compensation, injured workers may also be able to file a third-party claim against a party other than the employer whose negligence may have caused their injuries. The knowledgeable work injury lawyers at Greenberg & Ruby Injury Attorneys, APC can help you with medical expenses and other resources as you go through this challenging time. Call us to schedule your free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.