A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney can help employees recover benefits for work-related injuries

Injured workers in Sonoma County and surrounding areas in Northern California often wonder whether their injury entitles them to workers’ compensation benefits. Making an appointment with a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney at Kneisler & Schondel is the best way to answer the question, but here are some basic principles that injured workers should keep in mind.

1. Entitlement to Workers’ Compensation Benefits Depends on Whether the Injured Worker is an Employee

workers compensation benefitsThe workers’ compensation system covers employees. It does not cover visitors to a business or customers who are injured on business premises who are not employed by that business. Injured visitors and customers should consult with a personal injury attorney if the injury may have been caused, at least in part, by the business’ negligence.

Independent contractors are not employees and are therefore not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, even if the business pays them for their work. However, labeling a worker as an independent contractor does not necessarily mean that the worker is not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Some businesses misclassify employees as independent contractors so that they can avoid paying overtime, payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance premiums with regard to the worker.

If there is any question as to whether a person who was injured while working should be classified as an employee for the purpose of workers’ compensation, the worker should consult a workers comp lawyer.

2. Workers’ Compensation Benefits Do Not Depend on Citizenship Status

California’s workers’ compensation system covers all employees, whether they are U.S. citizens, permanent residents (green card holders), or working illegally. Undocumented immigrants are eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits for job-related injuries even if they have no legal right to work in the United States, provided they were hired as an employee by a California employer.

3. Workers’ Compensation Covers Work-Related Injuries

Employees are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits when their injuries are work-related. Sometimes it is obvious that an injury occurred on the job. For example, a broken bone that occurs when a heavy container falls onto an employee’s foot while the employee is unloading an employer’s truck, is clearly a work injury.

An injury that occurs during a traffic accident is covered if the injury occurred while the employee was driving to perform a job duty. Driving to work before the workday begins, and driving home after it ends, will not usually count as work-related driving, although there are occasional exceptions to that rule. Driving while performing errands for an employer, such as picking up the employer’s lunch during the employee’s lunch break, may be work related.

An injury that occurred while an employee was fighting or otherwise disobeying work rules might disqualify an employee from workers’ compensation benefits, even if it occurred at work. When in doubt, it is best to obtain advice from a workers’ compensation lawyer.

4. Even Employees Injured Because of Their Own Carelessness Are Usually Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Unlike personal injury claims, an employee who is injured on the job does not need to prove that the employer was at fault in order to recover workers’ compensation benefits. An employee whose injury was the result of the employee’s own carelessness is usually entitled to recover workers’ compensation benefits for the injury.

5. Employees Who Need Medical Attention for a Work-Related Injury Are Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Medical Benefits

Any time an injured worker needs medical attention for a work-related injury, her medical bills must be paid by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company (or by the employer if the employer is self-insured). Medical coverage is a benefit that is available to all employees who need medical attention after being injured at work.

To take advantage of that benefit, injured workers should notify their doctor that the injury is job related. The doctor must then bill the employer (or the employer’s insurance company) rather than the injured worker. The injured worker should also notify the employer as soon as possible so that a workers’ compensation claims adjuster can make sure that medical care is provided for the injury.

6. Employees Who Miss Work for a Job-Related Injury Are Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Temporary Disability Benefits

After missing work for three or more days due to a work-related injury, an employee is eligible to collect temporary disability benefits.

Temporary disability benefits make up a portion of an injured workers’ lost income. The weekly disability rate depends on the injured workers’ earnings (from all sources) at the time of injury. The employer, or its insurance company, is required to pay disability benefits at the rate of 2/3 of the injured workers’ average weekly wages. When payment of temporary disability benefits is disputed, the injured worker should seek advice from a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney.

7. Employees Who Suffer a Permanent Disability as a result of a Work-Related Injury Are Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Permanent Disability Benefits

Permanent disability benefits are available to injured workers who have been told by a doctor that they have reached maximum recovery from their injury and will never be as healthy as they were before the injury. The amount of permanent disability benefits the injured worker will receive depends on a number of factors, including the extent of the injury and whether the injured worker is capable of doing any kind of work.

Questions About Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Injured workers who are uncertain about their eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits, as well as injured workers who have claimed benefits that a claims adjuster has denied, could contact Kneisler & Schondel, a Santa Rosa based workers’ compensation attorney. Call us at (707) 542-5132 for a free initial consultation to obtain answers from an experienced Sonoma County workers’ compensation lawyer.