Injured on the Job in California: What Can You Do?

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( — June 8, 2019) — It’s an unfortunate fact that each and every person is a candidate for personal injury at any given time. For many people, their workplaces involve the most dangerous activities they’ll participate in.

Common workplace injury causes include slips and falls, falling equipment or debris, improper use of equipment, repetitive strain, inhaling dangerous fumes, and many more. In recent years, nonfatal workplace injuries have stabilized in California, and they’ll hopefully start decreasing in the future.

If you suffer an injury on the job in California, your best option will generally be to file a workers’ compensation claim. The following are the steps you’ll need to take to file a claim and your options for when this isn’t enough.

Report the injury

California operates under a no-fault workers’ compensation system, which means employers are generally barred from suing employers for injury, with rare exceptions. This system also benefits employees in that they don’t have to prove that the employer was at fault for the injury, although they do still have to prove the injury was work-related.

In order to ensure that you receive workers’ compensation benefits, and that your benefits don’t get delayed, you’ll need to report your injury and begin the filing process as soon as possible. The time limit to report your injury starts immediately after you’re aware of the fact, and you generally have a maximum of 30 days to give your employer written notice.

This is a fairly straightforward process if you’ve suffered an obvious workplace injury like a fall or deep cut, but it can be more complex if it’s a chronic disease or repetitive stress injury. In these cases, your time limit to file begins after a doctor has explained the situation to you.

As with any injury, you’ll need to seek immediate medical attention. If it isn’t an emergency situation, you’re free to go anywhere for care. Otherwise, you may have to see a doctor in your employer’s network. Always be sure to explain the injury is work related, and follow all instructions for treatment carefully.

This gives you the best chance for a quick recovery and also keeps your medical records up to date. Inconsistent records are among the most common pitfalls that can damage an injury case.

Filing the claim

Within 24 hours of reporting the injury to your employer, you should receive the DWC-1 form and fill out the employee section as soon as possible. Ideally, the employer’s insurance company will approve your claim, and you’ll be entitled to all appropriate benefits.

These include expenses paid for all medical treatment, including any prescribed medicines, as well as any appropriate disability benefits depending on the severity of the injury.

Denied claims or disagreements

The employer’s insurance company typically has up to 90 days to deny a claim if they believe it is invalid. Until that time, they are responsible for up to $10,000 in medical treatments.

If you believe that your claim was denied unjustly, or if you run into disagreements with the insurance company regarding your benefits at a later time, you may want to contact a personal injury attorney. They can help you file again or file for an Adjudication of Claim if your medical condition changes. This is essentially a modification to your existing claim based on new information.

Suing an employer

Due to California’s no-fault system, there are very few instances where suing an employer is even an option. Generally, the only cases where suing an employer for injury is possible is if the injury is due to physical assault by the employer, if the injury is caused by the employer concealing relevant information, or if the employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance at the time of the injury. Naturally, you’ll need an attorney on your side for a case of this nature.