If you have been injured on the job, you may have a number of questions about how to pay your medical bills or deal with loss of wages. Dealing with a work injury can be traumatic not just physically, but also emotionally. In addition, you are likely dealing with unexpected expenses and are unable to work while you recover from your injuries. The big question facing workers in such situations is: Do I get paid or compensated after a work-related injury? In this article, we will answer some of the questions you may have regarding compensation after a work-related injury in California.
Workers' Compensation System
In California, workplace injuries are typically covered by the state's workers' compensation system. Employers are required under the law to pay into this system, which essentially works like an insurance program. If an employee is injured on the job, workers' compensation may provide benefits such as payments for medical treatment and a portion of lost wages. Workers' compensation is a "no-fault" system, which means workers can get paid after a work injury regardless of whose fault the accident was. Workers also cannot sue their employers for a work-related injury.
However, things are not so straightforward all the time. There are situations when an employer allows dangerous conditions to exist in the workplace in violation of safety laws and regulations. There are cases where parties other than an employer are to blame for a workplace accident.
So, if you have been injured in a workplace accident, other avenues of compensation may be open to you of which you may not even be aware. This is why it is absolutely critical that you seek the counsel of an experienced Los Angeles workplace injury lawyer who can take a close look at your case and determine who can be held liable for your injuries, damages and losses.
It is also important to understand that workers' compensation won't cover all your losses after a work injury. For example, it may not compensate you for lost future income, cost of necessary surgery such as reconstructive surgery to fix scars or disfigurement, or pain and suffering. So, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit to recoup these types of losses.
If you are injured on the job by the negligent or careless actions or inaction on the part of someone other than your employer, you are most likely eligible to file a third-party claim. These are civil personal injury lawsuits, which require you, as the plaintiff to prove the cause of your injuries. Some examples of situations that could give rise to a third-party lawsuit include car accidents, slip-and-fall cases, dog attacks, defective equipment or machinery, chemical exposure, etc.
While third-party claims could stem from any industry, they are more common in the construction industry because there are multiple parties and companies working on a construction, often all at the same time, such as general contractors, property managers, architects, sub-contractors and other potential third parties.
Another question we commonly get is: Why file a third-party lawsuit when workers' comp pays for a work-related injury? As work injury lawyers, we commonly observe that it is common for workers' compensation to fall short of what an injured worker and his or her family needs to recover from injuries or in many cases, financial devastation, after the loss of a loved one.
Third-party injury lawsuits aim to recover full or maximum compensation for your injuries, damages and losses, which can include diminished or lost earning capacity and long-term care, which workers' comp may not cover. So, third-party lawsuits may be worth much more than workers' comp benefits.
What Steps Should You Take?
If you have been injured on the job, there are a number of steps you can take to make sure you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve. First, make sure you report the injury to your employer as soon as possible. Under California law, you must report it within 30 days of the incident. But, it's advisable not to wait that long and report it as early as you can.
It is also important that you get prompt medical attention, care and treatment. Follow the doctor's orders with regard to follow-up care and treatment. Save all documentation relating to your injuries and treatment including hospital bills, receipts, prescription medication bills, etc. Do not post details about your work injury on social media or online. You don't want your personal information to be used by insurance companies to minimize or invalidate your work injury claim.
Contact an experienced work injury lawyer who will not only remain on your side and fight for your rights every step of the way, but also help you avoid the mistakes and missteps that could jeopardize your claim and prevent you from getting paid or fully compensated for your work injury-related losses.