A workplace injury can be devasting. Not only do you have to deal with the physical pain the injury inflicts upon you, but you also have to deal with the mental anguish of potentially missing weeks (or even months) of work. How are you going to pay the bills? How are you going to support your family?
If you live in California, you are in luck. There are workers’ compensation policies in California that protect the rights of injured workers and help them with the physical and financial consequences of a workplace injury. If you are injured at work in California, it is absolutely essential to understand your rights to workers’ compensation and how to protect your eligibility for benefits. Below, you can find a brief overview of your California workers’ compensation rights.
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS IF I GET INJURED AT WORK?
If you are injured at work, California workers’ compensation laws require that the following rights are protected:
RIGHT TO MEDICAL TREATMENT
If you are injured at work, you have a right to seek the medical treatment you require and have the cost covered by your employer. This includes seeing a doctor, receiving treatment, and any rehabilitation required to get you feeling fully healthy.
RIGHT TO RETURN TO WORK ONCE YOU RECOVER
Your employer is required to allow you to return to your job once you are cleared by your doctor and have experienced a full recovery. If an employer does not allow you to return to your pre-injury job, you need to take legal action immediately.
RIGHT TO DISABILITY COMPENSATION IF UNABLE TO WORK
If your workplace injury has permanent consequences that make you unable to complete your previous job, your employer must provide disability compensation. This should compensate you for all lost funds due to your injury, as well as additional compensation if the injury negatively affects your quality of life.
RIGHT TO APPEAL THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION DECISION
If you do not agree with the workers’ compensation decision for your claim, you have the right to appeal the decision and state your case. Employers cannot deny your ability to appeal the decision.
RIGHT TO A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ATTORNEY
As in all matters of law, you have the right to an attorney. Make sure you pick an experienced and trusted workers’ compensation attorney to help you win the compensation you deserve.
RIGHT TO REFUSE UNLAWFUL EMPLOYER REQUESTS
If your employer has an unlawful request of you or makes an unlawful offer, you have the right to refuse the offer without damaging your standings with the company.
RIGHT TO AN INJURY CLAIM WITHOUT FEAR OF RETALIATION
Some employers may try to convince you to avoid making a workers’ compensation claim, and may even threaten some kind of retaliation if you are not a “company man”. They can threaten all they want, but your right to pursue a workers’ compensation claim without fear of harassment or retaliation is protected by California law.
RIGHT TO BRING A CLAIM AGAINST A NEGLIGENT THIRD PARTY
If your employer’s health insurance company is being negligent and not giving your claim the attention it deserves, you have the right to pursue legal action. Your right to bring a claim again a negligent third party is fiercely protected.
WHAT DO WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS INCLUDE?
If you get injured at work, California law requires your employer to pay for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits include:
Workers; compensation will pay for all of the medical care you need.
TEMPORARY DISABILITY BENEFITS
Some injuries may leave you temporarily disabled. If that is the case, workers’ compensation should pay for temporary disability benefits to help you maintain a high quality of life.
PERMANENT DISABILITY BENEFITS
If you are permanently disabled due to a workplace injury, you will get lifetime benefits to help you live a happy and fulfilling life.
SUPPLEMENTAL JOB DISPLACEMENT BENEFITS
If your injury makes it impossible to complete your job, you will get job displacement benefits to help you pay your bills. These displacement benefits can be for just a few weeks, or possibly even a few years.
If your job requires you to complete certain physical tasks, then workers’ compensation benefits will cover vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation gets your body ready to perform all of your job’s needed tasks.
If a workplace injury results in a death, the family of the deceased individual will receive benefits and compensation to help them survive this difficult time.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MY RIGHTS?
There are two important steps to protect your rights to workers’ compensation:
- REPORT YOUR INJURY
In California, you have 30 days from the date of your accident to notify your employer of your injury. If you have an injury that developed over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, you should report it to your employer as soon as you miss work because of your symptoms or when you see a doctor and believe the injury was caused by your job. If you fail to report your injury within 30 days, you may lose your right to file for workers’ compensation.
- FILE A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIM
After you report your injury to your employer, you must officially file for workers’ compensation. Notifying your employer of your injury alone does not count as filing a claim. To file for workers’ comp, you must fill out a series of documents including:
DWC-1: Your employer will give you a DWC-1 within one working day after you report your injury. This form will require you to provide details about the time, date, location, and nature of your injury. You will return this form to your employer, either by personally delivering it to him or her or sending it by certified mail.
Application for Adjudication of Claim: This form gives the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) jurisdiction over your claim. In other words, filing this document gives the court power to resolve issues and disputes related to your claim. You will submit this form personally at the WCAB district office or send it by mail with a proof of service form.
Declaration Pursuant to Labor Code 4906(g): By filling out this form, you are essentially swearing that you haven’t bribed a doctor, hospital, or medical center to submit fraudulent information to the Department of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). You will submit this claim at the WCAB district office along with your Application for Adjudication of Claim.
Document Cover Sheet: Include this completed document with the other forms you’re submitting.
Document Separator Sheets: You’ll place a document separator sheet between each of the forms in your package.
A WORKERS’ COMP ATTORNEY CAN HELP YOU PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
The days, weeks, and months following a workplace injury can take a physical, emotional, and financial toll. During such a stressful time, the guidance of a lawyer who is experienced in workers’ compensation is invaluable. At The Law Office of Matthew Russell, we can help you make sense of your case, file the proper forms on time, and stand by your side throughout every step of the legal process. Your initial consultation is free, and there are no up-front or out-of-pocket costs for representation. Call us today at (619) 544-1506 to see what we can do for you.