Workers’ Compensation Law
For over two decades, our Workers’ Compensation attorneys and staff have fought to obtain the full range of benefits for employees who have suffered work-related injuries. California’s workers’ compensation laws are designed to help injured workers receive the medical treatment necessary to recover from work-related injuries and partially replace lost wages.
Types of Workplace Injuries
Workplace injuries may be due to a specific event or may occur over time due to repetitive physical stress, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and leg problems. Injuries also include other work-related illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease, breathing problems or exposure to toxic chemicals or fumes. We have a team of highly experienced and qualified California Workers’ Compensation lawyers to help you win the case.
Protecting Your Rights If You’re Injured on the Job
California Workers’ Compensation laws are designed to protect both the employee and the employer in the event of an on-the-job injury. California workers’ compensation laws provide guaranteed coverage to employees for medical care for their personal injury and, in many cases, provide guaranteed compensation during and after the recovery period as well.
In California, employers are required to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance, or qualify for self-insurance to cover such injuries. This may cover benefits for lost earnings during recovery from an injury, reimbursement of medical expenses, and compensation for any permanent impairment or disability. Determining your eligibility and compensation can give rise to complex issues which may lead to disputes, and that is when you will need an experienced California Workers’ Compensation lawyer advocating for you to make sure you receive fair payment and medical care for your injuries. Protecting your rights is particularly important during the First 90 Days of a Workers’ Compensation Claim.
Although most cases are handled by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, some unions have entered into Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) programs. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are well-versed in the ADR system and can represent you throughout the process.
Sometimes workplace injuries involve a third party – someone other than your employer. The experience of our Workers’ Compensation attorneys, combined with that of our Personal Injury attorneys, allows us to coordinate third-party cases ensuring you the best possible outcome.
Workers Compensation Benefits
You are entitled to reasonable medical care needed to cure or relieve the effects of a work-related injury or illness. Learn how an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help.
If you can’t perform your job duties while recovering from a work-related injury or illness, you are entitled to Temporary Disability (TD) benefits. It can get complicated; let us guide you.
Permanent Disability (PD) payments are calculated in various ways. We will help you receive a high PD rating.
It is vital to know your rights when it comes to returning to work. If necessary, we can help you make a fresh start at new occupation.
Workplace injuries are often serious and sometimes deadly. We are here for your family when a workplace accident takes the ultimate toll.
1. Medical Care
You are entitled to reasonable medical care needed to cure or relieve the effects of a work-related injury or illness. In some cases, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) can award lifetime medical care for a work-related medical condition. Medical care can include the following:
- Hearing Aids
Under California’s Workers’ Compensation law, “doctor” includes:
- Physicians and surgeons
- Chiropractic practitioners
Workers’ Compensation also includes reimbursement for transportation to and from medical treatment and pharmacies. If you file a claim on or after April 19, 2004, your employer must provide medical care within 24 hours of the filing of the claim and pay up to $10,000 in treatment for the alleged condition—even if they have not accepted the claim—until the claim is rejected. Beginning in 2005, the manner in which employers provide treatment to injured workers changed. Beginning in 2013, further changes were made to procedures regarding appeals of denials of medical treatment.
Pre-designating your Doctor
You may advise your employer in writing before an injury that, if hurt on the job, you wish to be treated by your personal physician. The doctor must agree to be the treating physician, in writing. He or she must be the employee’s regular physician, with an existing medical record and history of care. Employees are able to pre-designate a doctor if they have group medical coverage, either through their employer, through a spouse, or purchased on their own. Employees should complete a pre-designation form and make two copies (one for their records and one for their doctor’s files) stamped with the date they file it with their supervisor. Pre-designated physicians may refer employees to appropriate specialists and therapists for other treatment. A pre-designation form is available here.
Limits on Medical Treatment
The law caps chiropractic care and physical therapy to 24 visits each for injuries after Jan. 1, 2004. Occupational therapy is also limited to 24 visits for injuries after April 19, 2004. The Labor Code now defines “reasonable and necessary” treatment based on approved medical treatment guidelines. Understanding these treatment guidelines ensures that care is being authorized properly. Doctors and lawyers specializing in Workers’ Compensation cases rely on this understanding to ensure that injured workers get the necessary medical care for their injuries.
The Attorney’s Role in your Medical Care
An attorney can give you experienced guidance on your choices and availability of medical treatment and evaluation. Laws concerning rights for treatment and disability benefits are quite complex. It is important to seek skilled legal advice to ensure that your rights are protected. It is in your best interest to see an attorney before choosing a doctor from a State Panel Qualified Medical Examiner list to evaluate your disability. If you choose a doctor from a State Panel, your future Workers’ Compensation rights and benefits may be adversely affected.
2. Temporary Disability
You are entitled to Temporary Disability (T.D.) benefits if you are unable to perform your job duties while recovering from a work-related injury or illness. Benefits begin on the fourth day you are absent from the job due to a work-related injury or illness. There is no compensation for the first three days unless you miss 14 days of work or are hospitalized overnight.
T.D. benefit rates are two-thirds of your average weekly salary, up to the legal maximum of $1,251.38. The first payment is to be paid no later than 14 days after your employer is made aware of the injury and accepts liability. Additional payments must be made at least twice a month. These benefits are non-taxable.
For injuries before 2004, T.D. payments are made until you return to work, or until your condition reaches a point of maximum recovery, or becomes “Permanent and Stationary”—with no time limit. T.D. benefits for injuries on or after Jan. 1, 2004 and before December 31, 2007, with very few exceptions, are no longer payable after two years from the date of the first payment. For injuries after January 1, 2008, T.D. benefits are payable up to two years within a five-year period from the date of injury.
3. Permanent Disability
If you were hurt at work before 2005 you may qualify for Permanent Disability (P.D.) benefits if your injury or illness resulted in any of the following:
- Permanent symptoms
- Loss of function
- Work restrictions
- Decreased ability to compete in the labor market
Under the old system, these weekly payments were based on a person’s loss of ability to compete in the open labor market.
4. Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit (Voucher)
If you are an injured worker with an injury occurring after January 1, 2005, and you are not offered a permanent or modified job with your employer within 85% of your pre-injury wages, you will qualify for a Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit (voucher). The amount of the voucher will vary depending on your date of injury and, in some cases, your level of permanent disability. There are detailed rules that describe how an injured worker may access and spend the voucher money to assist in returning to work. If your disability precludes you from going back to work, it is important to consult with an attorney about your right to this voucher.
5. 120 Million Dollar Return-to-Work Fund
The 2012 reforms provided for a $120 million fund for “injured workers whose permanent disability ratings are disproportionately low in comparison to their wage loss.” Eligibility for the benefits and the specifics of how the fund will be administered will be based on research to be performed by the State of California in consultation with the Commission on Health, Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC). Eligible injured workers must apply through the state of California. These benefits could be made available to workers who sustain injuries after January 1, 2013.
6. Death Benefits
If an employee dies on the job from a work-related injury, or from a heart attack, cancer, stroke or other disease found to be caused or aggravated by work, the surviving spouse, minor children or other dependents may be entitled to receive benefits. Dependents who are good-faith members of the household also may be eligible for benefits, even if not legally married. For example, the family of an employee with three or more dependents may be entitled to benefits of $320,000.
If the job-related injury was not the main cause of the death, but contributed to the cause of death, a dependent spouse and children still may be entitled to full death benefits. Even survivors only partially dependent on support of the deceased worker may be eligible for this benefit. There is also an allowance for reimbursement of burial expenses.
A $250,000 benefit is now owed to the estate of safety officers without dependents who die from job-related injuries that occur on or after Jan. 1, 2003.