If you have been injured on the job in Long Beach, California, you may have cause to file a worker’s compensation claim. However, California worker’s compensation laws can be somewhat confusing and a little tricky to navigate. While employees are not always eligible to sue an employer for unintentional injuries, California law does allow for workers to pursue a worker-compensation claim for injuries suffered while on the job irreverent of whether the employer was at fault or not. If you have experienced a work-related injury in the Long Beach area, you should speak with a long beach workers’ compensation attorney before signing any documents to ensure your rights are protected.
What Are My Rights Under California Workers’ Compensation Laws?
The State of California has passed a collection of laws referred to as the “Workers’ Compensation Act” that set forth a comprehensive program for recovering employee benefits. This assures employees who have sustained workplace injuries prompt compensation. It is important to know that California law expressly prohibits an employer or their insurance company from discriminating or retaliating against employees who have been injured while on the job.
Because an injured worker is able to seek compensation, irrelevant of whether or not the employer was at fault for the injury, employers have an incentive to maintain a safe workplace. Some employers dislike filing worker’s compensation claims so much they may even try to dissuade an employee from filing a claim for fear that a claim will affect their workers’ compensation insurance policy rates. Sometimes this can result in an employer attempting to retaliate against a worker who tries to pursue their rightful workers’ compensation benefits. In these cases, the Worker’s Compensation Act is most often the only legal remedy for an employee who has been injured at work. Because of the act, employees who are struggling financially due to their injury may have no alternative but to seeking legal rectification.
As specified under California workers compensation law, employers are prohibited from taking any discriminatory action against workers who have suffered injuries in the course of performing their employment duties. California courts have consistently ruled that this policy is set forth to protect employees from retaliation by employers for filing a workers compensation claim. The purpose of the law is to protect workers who have been fired or feel they are being treated unfairly as the result of their long beach ca workers compensation claim. As there are many types of retaliatory behavior that may be considered unlawful, it is critical that anyone in the Long Beach area who has suffered a workplace injury to consult a Long Beach workers’ compensation attorney to ensure their rights are protected.
California law prohibits employers from firing, or threatening to fire, an employee regarding compensation claims for any of the following actions:
• Submitting a worker’s compensation claim.
• Stating an intent to file a compensation claim or an application for benefits.
• Obtaining a disability rating from their healthcare provider.
• Settling a workers’ compensation claim or the securing of workers’ compensation judgment against their employer.
Additionally, it is illegal for an employer to fire or threaten to fire other employees who testify on behalf of the worker filing a claim in a workers’ compensation proceeding.
California courts have also consistently found that it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for missing work because of a job-related injury. The Supreme Court of California ruled that an employer may not fire an employee due to the employee missing work due to an injury sustained in the course and scope of the employee performing their official duties. Additionally, if an injury results in a disability, California law prohibits any form of discrimination based on the disability caused by the injury. Furthermore, California law prohibits employers from penalizing or firing employees for participating in any rehabilitation services provided by their workers’ compensation benefits. Job retraining may also be offered as a rehabilitation service in some situations.
What Mistakes Could Compromise My Long Beach CA Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Another reason to consult a workers compensation lawyer in Long Beach CA is to prevent making mistakes that could result in losing worker’s compensation benefits. Employers often do not inform their employees what to expect or what to do if they become injured while on the job. Following a workplace accident, it is up to the employee to take steps to protect their health and rights when filing a worker’s compensation claim.
Because the law is often times difficult to navigate, it can be hard for a worker to know if they are making the correct decisions or if they might make a mistake that could damage their chances for securing a claim. Here are six of the most common worker-compensation claim mistakes:
Mistake #1) Failing to report a workplace injury in a timely manner.
It is imperative for you to notify your employer of an injury as soon as possible after the accident. There are often instructions on how to report a workplace injury in the employee manual. However, if there are not, you should let all of your coworkers, supervisors and the HR personnel know what happened without delay. Failing to report an injury promptly could result in your benefits being compromised.
Mistake #2) Filing the worker’s compensation claim late.
In addition to informing the employer, employees must also file an official workers’ compensation claim on a DWC-1 claim form. The employer should provide this to the employee when the injury is reported and the form should be filled out and returned to the employer within 30 days of the injury. Failure to fill out the form properly and file it within the deadline can result in you forfeiting the right to your benefits that can include lost wages as well as any medical benefits. To be certain it is done properly, employees should consult a Long Beach workers compensation attorney for help filling out the DWC-1 claim form.
Mistake #3) Permitting the employer to choose a physician.
While California law entitles the employer to choose the physician who initially diagnoses the injuries, most employees don’t know that they are not required to continue seeing that doctor beyond the initial diagnoses. The employer should provide a list of physicians in an approved medical provider network, or MPN, to treat work-related injuries. However, there is one caveat to this rule. An employee can “predesignate” the doctor of their choice before an injury occurs, such as at the time of hire, by informing the employer of their wishes in writing. In this event the employee has the legal right to see the previously designated physician immediately after the injury occurs.
Mistake #4) Failing to undergo a prescribed treatment plan.
It is imperative that the employee keep all scheduled appointments with treatment providers. Failure to do so may result in the employer, the employer’s insurance company or their attorney filing an application to suspend benefits. If benefits are suspended, it can be a lengthy process to have the benefits reinstated.
Mistake #5) Not seeking a second opinion.
If the employee disagrees with the initial diagnosis and/or treatment plan, the law gives employees the right to seek a second, and even a third, opinion from other doctors in the MPN. If you still disagree with your diagnosis or treatment after getting a third opinion, you can then request an independent medical review if you are still not satisfied after consulting with the third physician.
Mistake #6) Not promptly consulting a workers compensation attorney.
Injured employees are often hesitant to speak with a lawyer about their claim over fear they will have to pay the attorney a large percentage of the claim. While a lawyer will typically get a portion of the award, an experienced Long Beach workers compensation attorney can dramatically increase the settlement amount. So, while the attorney will get a piece of the pie, injured workers who retain an attorney almost always receive a larger payout even after legal fees are paid.
Who Qualifies for Workers’ Compensation in Long Beach California?
In general, workers’ compensation is only available to employees who sustained their injury as a result of job related activities. Volunteers who typically work for nonprofit organizations are not generally eligible for benefits, unless the nonprofit has chosen to cover their volunteers on the organization’s worker’s compensation insurance. Additionally, independent contractors are not covered by worker’s compensation insurance.
California laws require employers provide worker’s compensation insurance for their employees and benefits can cover a variety of issues. While many people think of things like spraining a wrist from being hit with a heavy object or breaking a leg from falling off a ladder when they consider workers comp claims, a repetitive motion injury like carpal tunnel syndrome may also be covered. Additionally, compensation need not be limited to physical injuries and workers suffering from mental health issues, like depression or anxiety, may also be able to collect a settlement if the condition was a result of their work-related responsibilities.
How Are Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Paid?
In California a worker’s compensation attorney is paid an agreed upon percentage of the employee’s settlement, however the attorney is required to provide a free initial consultation to injured workers. Not all benefits are considered when calculating the attorney’s fee and a worker’s compensation judge must approve the amount, or percentage, the attorney will collect if the case is successful.
As a rule, worker’s comp attorneys take the case on a contingency, meaning they only get paid if they are successful at securing a judgment on their clients behalf. If the client, in this case the injured employee, does not receive a reward, then the client does not own the attorney any fees. Because the attorney is only paid if the case is successful, the lawyer will want to meet with the injured employee to evaluate the case and assess the chance of a successful outcome. Conversely, the client should treat this consultation as a job interview to determine if the attorney will be able to win the case.
Is it Worth Getting a Long Beach Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
Hiring an attorney to handle a worker’s compensation claim is a big decision, but it is almost always worth the time and expense. National surveys show that hiring a worker’s compensation attorney results in a higher settlement. Because California has specific laws regulating how much a worker’s compensation attorney can charge, it is best to consult with a workers compensation lawyer in Long Beach CA to get the facts.
How Can a Long Beach Workers’ Compensation Attorney Help?
One immutable fact of life is insurance companies hate to pay claims. As such, the employer’s worker’s compensation insurance company will try to get out of paying the claim or attempt to pay out the least amount possible. The only way for an injured party to get the maximum benefits under the law is to be represented by experienced worker’s compensation attorney. The attorney will navigate the legal waters and assess the strength of the case. Additionally, an attorney will ensure their client sees an independent doctor who will be able to provide clear and unbiased testimony as to the severity of the injuries and the need for compensation.
Can I Sue My Employer for Denying Workers’ Comp?
California Law offers protection for employees who file for worker’s compensation benefits and the employee can sue for damages if the employer or the employer’s insurance company denies a claim. If you want to object to the denial of a claim, a case must be filed at a trial court where the dispute will be decided by a judge, but without a jury. Claimants must first file an “Application for Adjudication of Claim” and a “Declaration of Readiness to Proceed” to request a hearing. Because it is critical for these documents to be filed properly and in a timely manner, you should seek out the help of a workers compensation lawyer in Long Beach CA.
Will Workers’ Comp Offer Me a Settlement?
A number of factors play a role in the decision to offer a claimant a settlement. If the company thinks you will be able to return to work soon, they may try to avoid offering you a settlement, try to drag it out or offer a smaller settlement than what you are entitled to. There are some circumstances where you may want to consider taking a settlement. These include:
• If you don’t want to wait for the worker’s compensation process to play out.
• If you are in litigation against your employer.
• If you are not getting along with your employer and want to quit.
• If you are concerned about losing your claim.
• If you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement, or MMI, where you are no longer progressing in your recovery and your doctor thinks you have recovered as much as you are going to. Note that waiting until you have reached MMI will allow you and your physician to evaluate your future medical expenses so you can negotiate a proper settlement. However, you should consult with a Long Beach workers compensation attorney before you accept a settlement offer.
Get a Free Consultation with a Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Long Beach.
Remember that California law requires worker’s comp lawyers to provide a free initial consultation to workers who have sustained an injury on the job. To be sure your rights are fully protected, it is always the smart play to talk to a workers compensation lawyer in Long Beach CA before making any decisions.