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 often occur.
Preventable work accidents can result in catastrophic suffering due to head injuries, spinal cord trauma, and amputations to broken bones. These injuries can cost victims hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it incredibly important that compensation is secured.
What Are My Rights After a Work Injury?
Here are some of your crucial work injury rights:
- You have the right to file a workers' compensation claim if you've suffered an injury or illness 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 injury claim 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 at work and your employer urges you to get your own health insurance company to pay for your medical expenses instead of their workers' compensation insurance, 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 against another insurance company without fear of retaliation or harassment from your employer. If your employer makes it difficult for you to exercise your rights freely, they could face penalties for stifling your rights. It is 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 seek 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 a third-party insurance company 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 insurance 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 those who are severely injured on the job 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' insurance company. 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 injury 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.
The Right to Be Free from Discrimination and Retaliation
If you have been injured on the job, you have the right to be free from discrimination. You cannot be treated differently by your employer simply because you suffered an injury on the job. If you have suffered a disabling injury, the law prohibits employers from discriminating against a disabled employee. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, employers must provide "reasonable accommodations" to workers with disabilities.
In addition to being free from discrimination, injured workers also have the right not to face retaliation. This means that your employer is prohibited under the law from firing you, laying you off, demoting you or taking some other adverse employment action because you filed a workers' compensation claim after your work injury. If your employer takes some type of retaliatory action against you, your work injury lawyer can seek additional compensation on your behalf.
The Right to Be Treated Fairly
When you suffer a work-related injury, whether you file a third-party lawsuit (personal injury lawsuit) or a workers' compensation claim, you have the right to receive fair treatment. The insurance companies involved must handle your claim in good faith. This means that they cannot unnecessarily delay your claim, not pay attention to evidence in your case or violate your legal rights. Insurance companies, however, do not always handle claims in good faith. If you are being treated unfairly after a work injury, your Los Angeles work injury attorney may be able to help you secure additional compensation for such mistreatment.
You also have the right to calculate your own losses. You do not have to accept what the insurance company offers you. Often times, insurance companies will attempt to present low-ball offers. If you are not fairly and fully compensated for your losses or if you are not offered a fair settlement, you have the right to fight for the amount you are rightfully owed.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Represent Me?
You do not legally need to have a lawyer on your side to fight for your rights. However, when you retain an experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer early on in the process, he or she can help you pursue maximum compensation for your losses. Also, when you do not hire a lawyer, you may end up missing filing deadlines or making mistakes that could jeopardize your claim. Your could potentially lose your right to fair compensation when you don't have a vocal advocate on your side fighting to protect your rights every step of the way.
How Can I Protect My Rights If I'm Injured at Work?
The easiest and most effective way to protect your work injury legal rights 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 on the job. 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 injury claim is filed, certain protections go into place automatically. Therefore, this is an important step.
When to Contact an Experienced Lawyer
If you have been injured at work, 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 and Ruby have a long and successful track record of helping injured workers and their families secure fair and full compensation for their injuries and losses. They understand the physical, emotional and financial stress our injured clients endure in the aftermath of a trenching accident or any workplace accident. Call them today at (323) 782-0535 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.