A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer offers important information about the rights of injured employees in California
Nearly every California employee is covered by the workers’ compensation system. Employees who are injured have the right to speak to an attorney about their claims. A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can give employees the advice they need to protect their right to receive benefits for a work-related injury.
Employees will be in a better position to maximize their workers’ compensation benefits if they understand their rights. Here are some critical facts that all employees should know about the California’s workers’ compensation system.
Fault Is Not an Issue in Most Workers’ Comp Cases
The California workers compensation system is considered a “no fault” insurance system. That means proving who was at fault in causing an injury is rarely necessary in a workers’ compensation claim. With limited exceptions, California’s workers’ compensation law relieves injured employees of the responsibility of proving who was at fault in causing their work-related injury.
Workers’ Comp Benefits
Damage awards in personal injury cases are determined by a jury when the parties are unable to settle their differences informally. In a workers’ compensation claim however, benefits are determined by an administrative law judge when the parties are unable to settle their differences informally.
The award of workers’ compensation benefits is established by California law. The administrative law judge has little discretion to increase or decrease an award of benefits. Instead, the judge determines the facts and applies the law to the facts that are presented at a settlement conference or trial.
In disputed cases, the most common issue in dispute is the extent of the injured workers’ permanent disability. The judge determines the extent of permanent disability by considering two factors. First, the judge looks at the medical evidence, particularly the report written by the evaluating physician, generally called a Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME).
Second, the judge considers the “rating” that is obtained from an analysis of the QME’s report. The “rating” is a mathematical formula which attempts to calculate an injured workers’ permanent loss of functional impairment as a consequence of her work injury.
Ratings are based on a disability schedule that has been adopted by the State of California. Insurance claims adjusters and attorneys might analyze the same medical report and arrive at different conclusions about the correct rating. A seasoned workers’ compensation attorney in Santa Rosa can fight for a disability rating that maximizes the injured employee’s entitlement to benefits.
Injured Workers Need to Notify Their Employers Promptly
Failing to give timely notice of an injury to an employer can negatively affect the employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits. An employee should notify his or her employer as soon as possible after the injury occurs.
In an emergency, injured employees should make it a priority to get the emergency care they need, but should then contact the employer as soon as they are able. If an injury or occupational disease developed over time, the employee should notify the employer as soon as the employee realizes that the condition is work-related.
Most Workers’ Compensation Disputes Settle
The common excuses that workers’ compensation claims adjusters give for refusing to pay the full value of a claim (or refusing to pay it at all) include:
- The injury was not work related
- The employee has no injury
- The employee is exaggerating the disability that the injury caused
- The employee failed to follow required procedures
Claims adjusters are much more likely to be reasonable when an injured employee is represented by a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney. Most cases settle when an employee is represented by an attorney. Of course, an experienced workers’ comp attorney is always prepared to present the employee’s case to a workers’ compensation judge if the claims adjuster continues to be unreasonable.
Employees Cannot Legally Be Fired for Making a Workers’ Compensation Claim
California law protects employees if they are fired simply because they were injured on the job. California law also protects employees if they are fired simply for filing a workers’ compensation claim. In some cases injured workers may have a separate claim against their employer if they were fired because they got hurt or filed a workers’ compensation claim.
Failing to allow an employee to return to work after the employee is capable of working may also be unlawful. A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can review the facts and circumstances of a termination and advise employees whether they are entitled to receive penalties that the law imposes when they are unlawfully fired (or not allowed to return to work) in retaliation for being injured or filing a workers’ comp claim.
Employees Have the Right to Representation
Injured employees have the right to retain an attorney to represent them with regard to a workers’ compensation claim. Injured employees do not need to face the complex workers’ compensation system alone. An injured worker in Northern California can contact Kneisler & Schondel to learn more about the rights that a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can help them protect. Call us at (707) 542-5132 or submit a question online to learn how we can help.