Workplace injuries are common. But, for an injured worker and his or her family, it can be costly, financially challenging and emotionally draining. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 5,333 workers died from a work-related injury nationwide in 2019, which was up 2% from the 2018 total of 5,250. During the same year, 2.8 million workers were injured on the job.
California requires employers to carry workers' compensation insurance in order to ensure that workers receive the medical care and monetary compensation they need during such a difficult time. However, workers' compensation alone is not sufficient to compensate workers and their families, especially if the work-related injury resulted in a permanent disability or worse, a fatality.
Filing a Work Injury Lawsuit
Workers' compensation benefits don't look at whether or not an employee was at fault for a work-related injury that he or she suffered. Workers' compensation laws require employers to provide these benefits regardless of who was at fault. A personal injury lawsuit in a work injury case is usually filed against a third party – someone other than an employer – who caused the accident and resulting injuries.
Such lawsuits may be filed against several parties. For example, a general contractor or construction company that allowed dangerous conditions to exist in a worksite could face a third-party lawsuit if those hazardous conditions caused the work injury. In some cases, accidents are caused by defective or malfunctioning tools or equipment. In these scenarios, workers may be able to file a third-party lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective product, a distributor or retailer who sold the product.
How Work Injury Settlements Are Reached
Like most personal injury claims, a majority of work injury claims are settled out of court and rarely go to trial. Closing a work injury claim typically involves a settlement that is negotiated between the insurance company and the injured worker, often through their attorneys.
The settlement process begins with an offer from the insurance company and the defendant in the case. This may include payment for medical bills, lost wages and costs related to future medical treatment. If a worker is permanently or catastrophically injured, he or she may also be able to claim additional work injury compensation for themselves and their families.
A work injury settlement can be either a lump sum or a structured payment plan. A lump sum payment refers to a one-time payment for all medical expenses and benefits under the claim. This may mean in some cases that workers must agree not to seek future reimbursement for the injury. A structured payment is one where the worker receives regular payments over a specified period of time.
What Exactly Goes into a Work Injury Settlement?
Prior to reaching a settlement, the employee and their attorney calculate an amount what they think the work injury payout should be. This amount should be sufficient to cover past and future medical expenses and should take into account the following:
- Pending medical bills including those for emergency transportation, surgeries, hospitalization, cost of rehabilitative therapy etc.
- Cost of future treatments such as additional surgery or physical therapy.
- Lost wages and loss of future wages including loss of earning capacity.
- Temporary or permanent disability payments.
- Attorney's fees and court costs.
Once the calculation is finalized based on these and other factors, the employee and his or her attorney will negotiate a settlement with the insurance company. Once a settlement is reached, a judge will formalize it. It is important to know that settlements could take weeks or even months to finalize. During this time, it is crucial that you know what your rights are in terms of returning to work. If you are unable to reach a settlement, the case will be headed to court.
Damages for Pain and Suffering
The biggest difference in damages between a personal injury lawsuit (a third-party lawsuit) and a workers' compensation case is that you are not entitled to receive benefits for pain and suffering in a workers' comp case. In a personal injury claim, you are entitled to recover all of the damages that you have sustained such as lost earnings, lost earning capacity, all past and future medical expenses, permanent injuries, disabilities, etc.
In a workers' compensation case, you cannot receive benefits for pain and suffering. These are generally known as non-economic damages because they are not precisely quantifiable. These are also damages that could be challenging to calculate. This portion of the work injury settlement is meant to compensate injured workers for the physical pain and emotional distress they endure in the aftermath of the on-the-job accident.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer?
If you have been injured on the job, you may be wondering if you need a lawyer to help you reach a settlement. This depends on what you wish to accomplish. If your injuries did not require medical treatment, if you did not take time off work to recover and don't anticipate additional expenses in the future, you probably do not need the representation of a personal injury lawyer.
However, if you have been injured enough to seek medical help, take time off and are experiencing uncertainties about when you might return to work or what type of treatment you will need, you require the services of an experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer who will remain on your side and ensure that your legal rights are protected every step of the way. You need a work injury attorney who is also a skilled negotiator and can help you secure a settlement that will provide the maximum possible compensation for your injuries, damages and losses. Workers' compensation will not compensate you for all lost wages, loss of earning capacity, rehabilitation costs or pain and suffering. This could make a significant difference in a case where a worker has suffered a catastrophic or career-ending injury.
The experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyers at Greenberg & Ruby have a long and successful track record of helping injured workers secure the settlement they need and rightfully deserve. It is also important to get a work injury lawyer early on in the process so he or she can start compiling crucial evidence in your case, which is necessary to strengthen your claim and put you in a position to receive fair and full compensation for your losses. Call us today at (323) 782-0535 for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.