Workers Compensation Lawyer in San Francisco
On the job injuries can happen anytime, regardless of your type of employment. While some occupations require their employees to perform more dangerous tasks, even the easiest job can end up being a threat to your health. On the job injuries can be serious and even life threatening, and the financial ramifications from these injuries can be severe. Injured workers often face heavy medical expenses and hospital costs, and lost wages can create uncertainty not only over how to pay these bills, but also how to support your family. Your injuries may result in temporary or even permanent disabilities, and you may find yourself facing long months and even years out of work, or being forced to switch careers on account of limitations resulting from your injury. Fortunately, if you have suffered a work related injury or illness, workers’ compensation benefits may be able to help you in continuing to provide for your loved ones, while getting the medical care and benefits you need to recover.
Injured Worker Facts
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were over three million people injured on the job in 2014. More than half of these cases involved injuries that were serious enough to involve multiple days off work, as well as job transfers, and general job duty restrictions once workers returned to their fields. Locally, the State of California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) recorded over 460,000 on the job illnesses and injuries in California alone in 2014. According to occupation injury and illness reports from the DIR, the most common types of jobs in which workplace injuries or illnesses occurred within the state included:
- Repair and maintenance jobs;
- Jobs in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industries;
- Law enforcement and public safety workers;
- Healthcare and social service workers;
- Educational service providers, including teachers;
- Waste management workers;
- Transportation and warehousing employees;
- Wholesale and retail trade workers; and
- Workers in the construction field.
While some jobs are obviously more dangerous than others, accidents can happen anywhere. According to the Insurance Journal, some of the most common causes of on the job injuries include overexertion, accidents involving tools, machinery, or vehicles, as well as the repetitive motions used in performing day to day tasks. While some injuries may require only a few days to recover, others are more serious and can even be fatal. According to the BLS, of the more than four thousand worker fatalities that occurred in 2013 throughout the country, 42 of these fatalities happened in San Francisco, which average to just under one per week.
Types of On the Job Injuries
According to a November 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) news release on occupational injuries, while the rate of worker injuries was down from 2013, on the job injuries still caused nearly 1.2 million workers to miss multiple days of work. The median number of days off needed to recuperate from on the job injuries for 2014 was nine, which is one day more than in 2013. These are only averages, as some workers require fewer days while other require more, depending on their injuries. In addition, the ability to return to a job does not mean that the injury is completely healed. Often it can take weeks, month, and even years of medical care and rehabilitation to heal from an on the job injury, and some injuries caused permanent disabilities that, while they may not affect a worker’s ability to do their job, can significantly impact other areas of their lives.
The BLS reports that the most common types of on the job injuries suffered by workers in 2014 include the following:
- Muscle Or Tendon Sprains, Strains, And Tears: These types of injuries often occur as the result of overexertion, and can be the result of either a one-time event, such as lifting too much, or as the result of doing retentive tasks as part of a daily routine. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), sprains and strains range from mild to severe, and can result in lingering and even permanent damage.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome And Tendonitis: According to the AAOS, these are chronic overuse injuries and are often associated with performing repetitive tasks on the job. Entering data, stuffing envelopes, and performing a specific task on machinery can result in chronic conditions that often require surgery.
- Bone Fractures: A fracture is simply another word for a broken bone, and these injuries may occur as the result of a slip and fall injury, by being struck by an object, or as the result of a vehicle accident. The AAOS advises there are different types of treatment depending on the type and location of the brake. Treatments may include using a cast, elevation of the injury site, or surgery to install metal pins, rods, or plates.
- Cuts And Lacerations: Cuts and lacerations can occur as the result of handling sharp instruments, such as knives or processing equipment, as well as from objects which are broken in accidents. Cuts pose a high risk for infection, and deep cuts have the potential to severe a muscle, tendon, or artery, causing disabling and potentially life threatening injuries. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), cuts to the hands are a common type of on the job injury, and while these injuries may seems minor, they can have a serious impact on everyday tasks, such as holding a pen and writing, dialing a phone, or entering information into a computer.
- Amputations: Deep cuts and lacerations could end up causing amputations. Losing a finger or a limb can be the result of either sharp machinery, as well as being struck against or caught in a machine or machine part. Loss of blood and shock can be life threatening in these situations, and the trauma of amputations generally involve some type of ongoing disability as well as a challenging emotional recovery.
- Bruises And Contusions: According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), bruises and contusions are caused when blood vessels are injured or burst and blood collects under the skin. Bruises are common after falls or being struck by or against an object, and often occur at the sight of muscle strain or ligament damage. The NIH advises that bruises can occur either within the skin, to the bone, or within a muscle, and can take months to heal.
- Burns: According to the NIH, burns can be the result of exposure to high temperatures and heated objects, or as the result of dangerous chemical leaks or spills. Burns can also involve inhaling fumes which burn the throat, lungs or trachea. Burn injuries are extremely painful, and while a first degree burn only does damage to the outer layer of skin, second or third degree burns destroy the deeper layers and tissues underneath,, and can result in shock and potentially death.
- Back Injuries: Back pain and injuries can result from overexertion, repetitive tasks, as well as fall or being struck by or against an object. According to the Mayo Clinic, back pain can be the result of muscle strain, or it can be due to injuries to the vertebrae or disks in the spinal column. For many people, back pain is a chronic and disabling conditioning, and while strengthening exercises, chiropractic care, and even surgery in some cases may help, many sufferers face the challenge of having to restrict their activities and live with the pain.
- Multiple Traumatic Injuries: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traumatic injuries are a leading cause of disability and death among workers in the United States. Injuries that have a dramatic impact on body systems and functions, such as brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, are usually the result of accidents such as falls from heights, being struck by heavy objects, crushing injuries, and vehicle accidents, as well as major workplace accidents such as collapses and explosions. Recovery from traumatic injury is often a long and painful process requiring numerous procedures and close monitoring. Permanent, life impacting disabilities are often the result.
In addition to the above, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that roughly five percent of injuries that occurred on the job were not injuries as much as job related illnesses. Occupational illness can result from exposure to hazardous substances, as well as illnesses related to general job hazards and stressors. Occupational illnesses may include nervous disorders such as anxiety and trouble sleeping, as well as heart disease, respiratory problems, and different types of cancer.
San Francisco Workers’ Compensation Benefits
For workers who have been injured on the job, the workers’ compensation program can provide some much needed forms of relief. According to the San Francisco Department of Human Resources Workers’ Compensation Division, workers’ compensation is a state mandated insurance program which provides the following types of benefits for injured workers:
- Medical treatments, including transportation to and from doctor appointments;
- Temporary disability payments for lost wages while recuperating from your injury;
- Permanent disability payments for any lasting disabilities resulting from your injury;
- Supplemental job displacement vouchers, if you are unable to return to your former occupation as the result of your injuries.
For families who have lost a loved one as the result of a work related accident, injury or illness, the workers’ compensation program also offers death benefits. These benefits cover funeral costs, as well as payments to the survivors of workers who have been killed based on the worker’s income and the amount of years they would have received that income had they lived.
What To Do If You Are Injured On The Job
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), if you are injured in a work related accident or suffer an occupation related illness, you should take the following actions:
- The first step is to immediately report your injury or illness to your supervisor. If you have an injury or illness that developed over time, report it as soon as you are aware of it. Be sure your supervisor reports it to your employer, as failing to report an injury within 30 days of its occurrence could result in your benefits being denied.
- Get medical care. If your injury is an emergency, go to your nearest doctor or hospital emergency room. If not, ask your supervisor or employer where you should go to receive treatment.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions exactly when it comes to treatment of your injury, as well as any limitations they suggest in terms of returning to work or limiting other activities.
- Fill out the DWC 1 claim form your employer gives you. Your employer should make this form available to you within 24 hours of your injury. If your employer fails to do so, you can download it on the forms page of the Division of Workers’ Compensation website. This form begins the process of discovering what benefits you may be entitled to under the California workers’ compensation laws.
Once this form is completed and returned to your employer, you should receive notice of whether your claim for benefits was accepted or if it has been delayed or denied within 90 days.
What If My Workers’ Compensation Claim Is Denied?
If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you will be sent a letter notify you of the DWC’s decision. Pursuant to your workers’ compensation rights as an employee in the state, you have a right to appeal this decision, and to have your case heard by a workers’ compensation administrative judge. The process for appealing a denied workers’ compensation claim includes the following:
- To begin this process, you would need to file an Application for Adjudication of Claim.
- The DWC will inform you once they have received your application, and they will issue you a case number, which will be used for all correspondence and documents related to your case.
- You can request a mandatory settlement conference, at which the administrative judge will attempt to reach a settlement regarding your case.
- If a settlement cannot be reached, a hearing will be scheduled in the matter, and the judge will make a ruling based on all the evidence in the case, such as witness statements from your accident, and medical reports from your doctor attesting to the injury.
The Application for Adjudication of Claim can also be used if a decision regarding your application for benefits has been delayed. It is important to remember that if the WCI delays in making their decision, you are entitled to up to $10,000 in medical expenses during the time it takes for your case to be reviewed.
If you have been denied benefits or your benefits have been delayed, or if you dispute the amount of benefits you have been awarded, it is generally in your best interests to contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. There are strict time limits and exacting procedures you need to follow in order to appeal or dispute a decision from the WCI. Your lawyer can guide you through this process, protecting your best interests, and assisting you in getting the compensation you deserve.