Hazardous work conditions and on the job accidents can cause serious and potentially life threatening injuries and illnesses. If you have been hurt on the job or in the course of your employment, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about the California Workers’ Compensation program:
How do I know if I am covered for workers’ compensation benefits?
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), all employers in the state are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance in the event a worker is injured, even if they only have one employee. In addition, Section 3550 of the California Labor Code requires that employers provide notice of workers’ compensation coverage, as well as instructions for workers in the event they are hurt on the job, to be posted in a conspicuous location.
What types of benefits am I eligible to receive?
According to the DWC, the types of workers’ compensation benefits you may be entitled to include medical expenses related to your injury, temporary disability benefits if your injury prevents you from performing the requirements of your job, permanent disability benefits if you suffer a permanent disability that may or may not prevent you from working, supplemental job displacement benefits, if you need to acquire additional skills or training as the result of a job injury, and death benefits for workers who suffer fatal injuries in the course of their employment.
What types of injuries are covered?
Under Section 3208 of the California Labor Code, an injury may be specific to a certain event, such as an accident on the job site, or they may be cumulative, resulting from ongoing exposure to conditions or the result of overuse. Any type of injury you may have incurred during the course of employment may be covered, such as vehicle accident injuries, slip and fall injures, exposure to hazardous chemicals, fractures and muscle strains, injuries caused by violence or sexual abuse, emotional or mental problems, and traumatic injuries such as brain or spinal cord injuries.
What if I am partially responsible for my injury?
Under California law, workers’ compensation is available to injured employees regardless of whether they may have been at fault for the accident or injury. The exceptions to this may be in certain cases where an employee may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the injury, or was exhibiting in conduct that was illegal or against company policies.
How do I apply for workers’ compensation benefits?
The DWC advises that your first step if you are injured on the job is to notify a supervisor and seek medical attention immediately. Within 24 hours of your injury, your employer should give you a claim form to fill out. Return this form to your employer as soon as possible. If your employer does not provide you with a claim form, you can download this form on the DWC website.
What should I do if my benefits claim is denied?
According to the DWC, if your claim was denied it generally means that your workers’ compensation claim administrator disputes whether your injury qualifies for benefits. You have the right to appeal this, and request a hearing before an administrative judge who can hear the evidence in your case. You can dispute your claim and begin the appeals process yourself at your local DWC office, or you can contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to represent you in the matter. Your lawyer will be familiar with filing these types of appeals, and can guide you through what is often a complicated and confusing process, while serving as your advocate and ensuring your best interests are protected. Whether you seek the assistance of an attorney or go it alone, be sure to act promptly in getting the ball rolling as there are time limits in terms of disputing the denial of your claim.