What You Should Know about Workers’ Compensation Laws
Changes to the Laws
In April 2004 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law sweeping changes to the California Workers’ Compensation laws. Your employer’s insurance company is skilled at using these legalities to deny you disability payments and proper medical treatment.
You need a lawyer who knows how to use the new laws to your maximum advantage. As an active member of the California Applicant’s Attorneys Association, George Henderson has been trained in using the new laws to secure compensation and medical treatment for you.
Learn how the laws apply to your case – with a FREE evaluation!
Purpose of Workers’ Compensation Laws
California workers’ compensation laws ensure that employees who are injured or disabled on the job receive medical treatment and monetary compensation for their injuries. These laws also provide benefits for dependents of workers who are killed because of work-related accidents or illnesses.
Benefits Granted by Workers’ Compensation Laws
If you have been injured on the job, whether from a single event (for example, hurting your back in a fall, getting burned by a chemical spill, being hurt in a car accident while making deliveries) or repeated exposures (for example, hurting your wrist from repeated motion, losing your hearing because of constant loud noise), California workers’ compensation laws stipulate the following benefits:
Medical Treatment at the Employer’s Expense – The employer or its insurance company is completely liable for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment costs. In the case of a severely disabling injury, the employer may be responsible for paying for home care costs if you are unable to completely care for yourself.
Temporary Disability Payments – If the employer admits the injury was industrial, you will receive two payments per month to replace lost income while you are off work receiving medical treatment and recovering from the injury. If the employer denies your injury was industrial, the employer will not pay temporary disability benefits, but you still may be eligible to receive State of California disability payments (EDD).
Permanent Disability Settlement – If your doctor writes a final report declaring that you suffered permanent impairment as a result of your work injury, you are entitled to be compensated. Settlement will be a lump sum of money based on the value that the final doctor’s report gives to your injuries.
Vocational rehabilitation – If the doctor’s final report indicates you are eligible for job retraining, the employer’s insurance carrier can be made to pay a lump sum to an approved school for job retraining. Under current law no money is paid to you for vocational rehabilitation.
Settlements and Awards
There are several different ways to resolve a work injury claim in California. A Settlement is a voluntary agreement entered into by both parties; there are three primary types of settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, either party may request an administrative trial that, if successful, results in a Finding as Award.
Structured Settlement – In the case of a catastrophic or chronic injury, a structured settlement stipulates that you receive lifetime monthly payments.
Settlement by Compromise and Release – The settlement amount is usually paid in a lump sum and you are not entitled to reopen the claim at a later date nor are you entitled to future medical treatment.
Settlement by Stipulation and Award – If you continue to work for the employer you worked for at the time of injury, you may be paid the amount of settlement in equal monthly installments. The claim can be re-opened within five years of the date of injury for “new or further injury” and you can receive medical treatment for life at the employer’s expense for the body parts injured on the job.
Finding and Award – If the parties cannot agree on a settlement amount, either party may request a trial before a workers’ compensation administrative law judge. (There is no right to jury trial in the workers’ compensation system.) Finding and Award is subject to two levels of appeal; however the appellate courts usually let stand the award of a trial court judge in workers’ compensation cases. Therefore, it is wise to settle the claim if at all possible.
A Note about Admitted Injury Claims
Once the injured worker is released from care by a treating doctor, or is determined to have reached maximum medical improvement by a doctor in the case, the employer’s insurance company will begin advancing in equal bimonthly installments the amount of permanent disability they feel is owed. At the point of settlement, or award, the amount of permanent disability that has been advanced (PDA) will be subtracted from any settlement or award.