All employers are required to provide their employees with a reasonably safe and healthy work environment. However, when employers fail to provide such an environment for employees, workplace injuries could occur. Injuries on the job could result in major or catastrophic injuries such as head injuries, spinal cord trauma or amputations to broken bones, strains and other muscle and tissue injuries.
How Can I Protect My Rights If I Suffer an Injury on the Job?
The easiest and most effective way to protect your legal rights if you are injured on the job is to report your injury to your employer. In California, generally speaking, workers are required to give their employers written notice of the injury within 30 days after they are injured. While this may not always be possible, depending on the circumstances and nature of the injury, it is important to report it as soon as possible. The next step you can take is to make sure and file a workers' compensation claim so you are not renouncing your right to compensation. Once your claim is filed, certain protections go into place automatically. Therefore, this is an important step.
Understanding Your Rights
Here are some of the crucial rights you will be able to protect once you take action soon after you are injured on the job:
- You have the right to file a workers' compensation claim if you've suffered an injury on the job.
- You have the right to see a doctor and to pursue medical care and treatment.
- If you are not able to return to work because of your injuries that leave you temporarily or permanently disabled, you have the right to seek disability benefits.
- If you don't agree with a decision that was made by your employer or their insurance company or by workers' compensation court, you have the right to appeal that decision.
- You have the right to be represented by a California work injury attorney throughout the process.
While understanding your right to take certain actions as an employee, it is also important to avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes during the process. For instance, if you have been injured on the job and your employer urges you to get your own health insurance company to pay for your medical expenses, you have the right to say "no" to such a request. If your employer offers you an incentive in order to convince you not to file a workers' compensation claim, that is outright illegal. You have a right to refuse such incentives.
California laws state that you have the right to pursue a workers' compensation claim or a third-party lawsuit without fear of retaliation or harassment from your employer. However, if your employer makes it difficult for you to exercise your rights freely, they could face penalties for stifling your rights. It is absolutely illegal for your employer to harass you at work or retaliate by making you take a pay cut, demoting you or other adversarial actions simply because you sought compensation for your work-related injury.
What Are My Rights Against Entities Other Than My Employer?
There are times when your on-the-job injury could have been caused by negligence on the part of a third party. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to hold these third parties financially responsible for the injuries and damages you have sustained. For example, a third party could be the manufacturer or designer of a faulty piece of equipment that injured you.
A third party could be a negligent driver who struck or injured you. Other examples of third parties include contractors, subcontractors, construction companies, building owners, etc. These claims are different and separate from workers' compensation claims. They are civil personal injury lawsuits that are filed in state or federal courts.
It is important to understand that you can seek damages in a personal injury lawsuit that you cannot normally secure by filing a workers' compensation claim. A workers' comp claim typically compensates workers for medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. You are not allowed to seek compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress, which most workers sadly do suffer after an on-the-job injury. In a third-party lawsuit, you are allowed to seek compensation for non-economic damages, which includes pain and suffering.
Such lawsuits also allow workers who are severely injured to seek compensation for lost future income, something workers' compensation does not allow. This is particularly important in cases where workers suffer injuries so severe that they are unable to return to work or in cases where workers end up suffering fatal injuries.
Third party lawsuits are worth a lot more than workers' compensation claims. Often, workers' compensation benefits in California are woefully inadequate when it comes to covering all losses and truly compensating people who have lost their livelihoods or those families that have lost a loved one who was likely a primary wage earner or sole breadwinner.
Families that have lost loved one in a work-related accident could file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. The damages available by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against at-fault parties include medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future income, loss of benefits (pension, retirement, health insurance, etc.) and loss of love, care, companionship and support.
However, California has statute of limitations to file personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. If the lawsuits or claims are not filed in time, they may not be adjudicated and you could very well lose your right to pursue compensation. Time is of the essence, which is why it is important to contact an experienced work injury lawyer right away.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you have been injured on the job, it is important to understand that you have options other than just filing a workers' compensation claim. The experienced Los Angeles work injury attorneys at Greenberg & Ruby LLP have a long and successful track record of helping injured clients and their families secure fair and full compensation for their injuries and losses. We understand the physical, emotional and financial stress our injured clients endure in the aftermath of a trenching accident or any workplace accident. Call us today at (323) 782-0535 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.