What is Workers' Compensation?
"Workers' compensation benefits are designed to provide you with the medical treatment you need to recover from your work-related injury or illness, partially replace the wages you lose while you are recovering, and help you return to work. Workers' compensation benefits do not include damages for pain and suffering or punitive damages." (Department of Industrial Relations) www.dir.ca.gov
Your employer is required by law to pay workers' compensation benefits in the event that you sustain a work-related injury or illness. Too often, employees do not understand their legal right to collect workers' comp benefits. We here at the Law Offices of William C. Bibb also deal with many cases where an employer will attempt to deny or diminish the amount of workers' compensation benefits that an employee receives for his or her qualifying injuries. Many workers' comp cases are denied pending investigation.
Many people are also not familiar with all of the different types of injuries and illnesses that can be considered work-related, and therefore warrant pursuing workers' comp benefits. Sustaining an electrical burn on the job site would definitely be considered a work-related injury. Other injuries that develop over a long period of time can also be considered work-related, even if symptoms do not immediately appear. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive injury to the wrist that is common among office workers and those who spend a great deal of time typing on the computer. Connecting an injury like carpal tunnel syndrome to the workplace can be far more complex than illustrating the connection between the job site environment and the electrical burn. Therefore, it is important for you as an injured employee to understand your legal rights when it comes to pursuing and collecting workers' compensation benefits. Filling out the employee's first report of industrial accident often requires legal advice.
Immediately Report the Injury or Illness to Your Employer
* Your employer or their insurance carrier could potentially deny your workers' comp claim on the grounds of “failure of notice” if you delayed reporting your work-related injury or illness.
Get Emergency Treatment if Needed
* Your health and safety is the most important thing.
Learn what Benefits You are Entitled to
* Medical care covered by your employer.
* Temporary disability payments because the nature and severity of your injuries prevent you from working while you are recovering.
* Permanent disability indemnity payments to account for your partial recovery.
* Supplemental job displacement benefits, which are vouchers to help pay for retraining in the event that you do not return to work for your employer.
* Death benefits in the form of payments to your spouse, children, or other dependents if your job-related injuries are fatal.
In the event that you sustain a work-related injury or illness, it is incredibly important for you to complete the claims form provided by your employer. Questions and/or concerns over how to correctly complete the DWC-1 Workers' Compensation Claim Form should always be addressed to an experienced workers' compensation attorney, as an insurance adjuster or human resources representative may not give you the most accurate or helpful information possible. I have represented scores of workers' comp claimants throughout my career, and am all too familiar with how employers and insurance providers attempt to skirt their responsibility to their employees.
Workers' Compensation is not the same as a Civil Case
Workers' Compensation cases are based on a "no-fault" system. Therefore, you are not obligated to prove that your work-related injury or illness was the result of someone's negligence in order to receive benefits. However, the benefits that you receive are not the same as damages awarded in a personal injury case like an automobile accident. Instead of proving liability, achieving workers' compensation benefits depends largely upon illustrating that your injury or illness is work-related.
Most importantly, workers' comp cases do not go to jury trial. Damages for pain and suffering are not awarded in workers' comp cases as well.
Related Civil Claims - "Third-Party” Cases
In some cases, it may be appropriate to pursue a work-related injury claim against someone other than your employer. A negligent third party (a person or company not hired by your employer) may be responsible for your injury, or your work-related injury could be related to a defective product, chemical, or machine. Under these circumstances, the same work-related injury or illness could be grounds for you to file for workers' compensation benefits and pursue a claim against the liable third party as well. A jury trial and compensation for pain and suffering would apply depending on the circumstances. It is important to note, however, that the workers' compensation insurance carrier could be entitled to reimbursement of benefits paid from the third-party settlement that you receive. Having sound and reliable legal representation during such proceedings is crucial to ensuring that your case is handled correctly, and that the overall outcome is beneficial to you. We here at the Law Offices of William C. Bibb are experienced in handling simultaneous workers' compensation cases and third-party civil claims, and know how to achieve the compensation you deserve.
Effectively pursuing a third-party case often involves multiple areas of tort law. A joint investigation can also be coordinated with your employer's insurance provider when necessary. Other factors, such as whether a fellow employee was responsible for your injuries, are taken into consideration when filing for workers' compensation benefits, so it is always important to consult with a qualified attorney as early as possible. I have almost 40 years of experience handling workers' compensation and third-party cases, and also have the resources to refer you to an outside workers' compensation attorney when appropriate.