If you have been injured on the job in California, it is important to remember that you have legal rights. California has what is known as a no-fault workers' compensation system – one that aims to benefit both employees and employers. Under this system, workers cannot sue their employers in court. At the same time, employees don't have to show any evidence that their employer was at fault for the injury. They will be eligible to receive compensation even if the work-related injury was technically their fault.
Workers who have been injured on the job would be well advised to contact an experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer who will help them understand all of their legal rights and options. There is more than one way to secure compensation for your losses. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to guide you through this process and help you recover maximum compensation for your losses.
Rights Under California Workers' Compensation Laws
It is important to remember that all payments and benefits received as part of workers' comp are considered non-taxable income in California. This is because workers' compensation is a public, federally funded benefit that is designed to help employees face expenses and bills as they recover from a work-related injury.
Here are some of the benefit entitlements of injured workers in California:
Medical expenses: Workers' compensation benefits in California cover all treatment costs and expenses related to medical treatment. This includes doctor's office visits, medical evaluations, treatments, surgery and hospitalization. In addition, prescription drugs, medical devices and transportation costs to get to medical appointments are also covered. California workers are reimbursed for traveling to medical appointments at the IRS mileage rate, which is 56 cents in 2021.
Temporary disability payments: Injured workers receive these payments for time off work stemming form an injury. Payments are based on two-thirds of the average weekly wage of the worker with state-mandated weekly maximums depending on the worker's date of injury. Workers can receive these payments for up to two years after the date of injury unless they suffer from one of the following conditions: HIV, hepatitis, amputation, severe burn injuries, certain eye injuries and chronic lung disease.
Permanent disability payments: These are payments made to injured workers who are so seriously hurt that they are unable to return to their former job or even make a livelihood. The amount paid is dependent on a permanent disability rating, which varies based on the injury that is sustained, the worker's age, the worker's occupation and restrictions imposed by medical professionals. Workers may receive permanent disability payments anywhere from four weeks to 14 years, depending on their disability rating.
Pension payments for life: These payments are reserved for workers who are severely disabled typically with a disability rating between 70% and 99%. This is a smaller weekly payment in addition to the weekly permanent disability payments, which workers may receive for the rest of their lives.
Vocational retraining: This is available to workers who can no longer return to the job they held prior to the accident and whose employers are unable to offer them modified or alternative employment. This benefit comes in the form of a non-transferable voucher that can be used to pay for education-related retraining or skill enhancement or both at state-approved or state-accredited schools. The voucher covers school tuition, fees, books and expenses required by the school for training. The amount of the voucher varies from $4,000 to $10,000 depending on the level of permanent disability.
Death benefits: Workers' comp death benefits are payments made to a spouse, children or other dependents if an employee dies from a work-related injury. These benefits include reasonable funeral and burial expenses not exceeding $5,000 for injuries before Jan. 1, 2013 and $10,000 for injuries on or after Jan. 1, 2013. The amount of death benefits depends on the number of total and/or partial dependents.
In the case of one or more totally dependent minors, after payment of amounts specified below, death benefits will continue until youngest minor's 18th birthday (disabled minors receive benefits for life). Death benefits are paid at the total temporary disability rate, but not less than $224 per week.
Other Avenues for Compensation
In cases where workers have suffered major or catastrophic injuries, workers' comp benefits are often extremely inadequate. This is particularly true if a family's breadwinner has lost his or her livelihood, or if the family has lost a primary wage earner. In many cases, in addition to receiving workers' compensation benefits, workers and families of deceased workers who died on the job may be able to file a third-party claim (personal injury lawsuit) against an entity or individual other than the employer.
Examples of third parties include general contractors, sub-contractors, property owners, defective product manufacturers, etc. For example, if you were injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver while you were on the job, you may be able to file a third-party lawsuit against the negligent driver in addition to getting workers' compensation benefits.
A third-party claim is worth much more than a workers' compensation claim because it allows injured workers to seek compensation for damages such as lost future income, loss of earning capacity, cost of future treatment and therapy, pain and suffering and emotional distress.
However, in a third-party lawsuit, the burden of proof, as with all personal injury cases, is on the plaintiff. So, plaintiffs must be able to show evidence that the third party was negligent in causing their injuries. This is why it is important to retain the services of an experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer who has a track record of successfully handling third-party claims and work injury cases.
Contacting an Experienced Work Injury Lawyer
If you have been injured in a workplace accident, Greenberg and Ruby Injury Attorneys will work diligently to help you explore all avenues of compensation and maximize the financial recovery in your case. We understand the emotional and financial burdens workers and families face in such situations. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you won't pay any fees unless we recover compensation for you. Call us at (323) 782-0535 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.