A Santa Rosa workers compensation lawyer responds to the questions most frequently asked by employees who are injured at work

Injured workers usually have many questions about their entitlement to workers compensation benefits. Here are some common questions that worker’s compensation lawyers answer for victims of workplace injuries.

Can I Sue My Employer If I Am Injured at Work?

In California, benefits provided by the workers compensation system is the exclusive remedy for someone injured at work. All work-related injuries must be addressed by the workers compensation system. Injured workers may not bring their work injury claims to superior court in a civil lawsuit. If a third party, someone other than the employer, caused the injury, however, an injured worker may be able to sue the third party for negligence in a civil lawsuit. Car accidents are the most common situation in which civil lawsuits are pursued against third parties despite the availability of workers’ compensation benefits.

Can I Collect Workers Comp Even if the Accident Was My Fault?

The workers’ compensation system is considered a “no fault” system. That means with rare exceptions, workers’ compensation benefits are paid regardless of how a work injury happens. Limited exceptions include injuries caused by an employee’s intoxication, self-inflicted injuries, and injuries caused by fighting when the employee is the initial aggressor.

Can I Collect Workers Compensation If I Am an Independent Contractor?

No, independent contractors are not covered by California’s workers compensation system. You may be able to sue the business that hired you if the business was negligent and if that negligence caused your injury, but that lawsuit occurs outside of the workers’ compensation system.

Many California businesses try to save money by improperly classifying employees as independent contractors. If you should have been classified as an employee, you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for job-related injuries. If you only worked for one business, did your work at an assigned job site, were told how to do the work, were closely supervised, and did work that is integral to the business that hired you, the business might have misclassified you as an independent contractor rather than an employee. You should talk to a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer about whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

What Kind of Injuries Are Covered by Workers Compensation?

All work-related injuries and illnesses are covered by the workers’ compensation system. If ones work contributed to the injury or illness, it will usually be covered. For example, an employee who is injured in a car accident while delivering goods for her employer is covered by workers’ compensation insurance, even if the accident is her fault. This is because the accident would not have occurred if the driver had not been working.

Workers’ compensation insurance covers both specific injuries (those that are caused by a specific workplace accident) and cumulative injuries (those that develop over time, such as repetitive stress injuries).

Injuries caused by off-duty activities (such as falling in the bathroom at home) are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance.

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Diseases?

Workers’ compensation insurance covers health conditions, including diseases, which are caused by work. For example, occupational diseases that are caused by inhaling dangerous substances in the workplace over a period of time are covered. To avoid missing the time limit for making such a claim, employees should talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as they learn or suspect that a disease is related to their work.

Does Workers’ Compensation Pay My Wages If I Miss Work?

Workers’ compensation insurance does not pay wages when employees miss work due to an on-the-job injury, but it does provide a fixed amount of wage replacement, or disability benefits, when employees miss more than three days of work or spend the night in the hospital.

Temporary disability benefits are fixed at two-thirds of gross wages, subject to a minimum and maximum benefit. The benefits are not taxed, so they are sometimes comparable to take-home pay. The maximum weekly benefit in 2018 is $1,215.27.

How Long Can I Collect Temporary Disability Payments?

Temporary disability benefits end under any of these circumstances:

  • When the injured worker returns to work in some capacity;
  • When the injured worker completely recovers from the work injury;
  • When the injured workers injury has stopped healing and is unlikely to get any better; or
  • When the injured worker has received temporary disability benefits for the maximum period allowed by California law (generally 104 weeks).

If the workers’ compensation claims adjuster stops paying benefits and the injured worker disputes that decision, the she should seek legal advice from a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer.

What Happens If My Injury Does Not Fully Heal?

Injured workers are entitled to receive permanent disability benefits if they suffer permanent disability, whether or not they are returned to work, returned to a different kind of work, or are incapable of working. Injured workers become eligible for permanent disability benefits when a physician determines that the injury has become permanent and stationary (that is, the injury has stopped healing and will never fully heal).

The amount of permanent disability benefits that that an injured worker is entitled to depends on many factors, including the amount of wages earned at the time of injury, the nature of the work performed, the injured workers age, and the degree or extent of the disability. A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can help injured workers understand the kind of permanent disability settlement they might expect to receive.

Can I Collect Workers’ Compensation for Psychiatric Injuries?

Workers’ compensation insurance generally covers mental health problems that are disabling or that require medical treatment if the mental health problem was predominantly caused by work-related events. Since it is more difficult to bring a successful claim for a psychiatric injury than a physical injury, employees will generally benefit from the advice of a workers’ compensation lawyer when pursuing a claim for psychiatric injuries.

Do I Need a Workers Compensation Lawyer?

Most injured workers will benefit from having a lawyer if their claim for benefits is denied or if they suffer from a permanent disability. To get advice from a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer, call Kneisler & Schondel at (707) 542-5132. You can also ask a question by submitting our online contact form.