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Workers' Compensation Law

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California Workers’ Compensation Laws

Across California, workers expose themselves to the risk of a workplace injury every day. They could be an office employee in San Diego or an agricultural worker in Merced. While the level of risk and the types of harm they suffer can vary, the possibility that an injury prevents them from working is a real concern for both.

Workers’ compensation exists as a way to protect workers after they suffer an injury – ensuring they are not left out of pocket for medical expenses or without any income if they are unable to work. Workers’ compensation rules outline how these benefits are paid, and how a claim for workers’ compensation should be made.

What is workers’ compensation insurance?

Every Californian employer with one or more employees must have workers’ compensation insurance to cover the cost of workers’ compensation benefits. These are awarded for eligible injuries to cover medical expenses and lost income, regardless of who was at fault for the accident which led to the injury. Employers must prominently display details of their workers’ compensation insurance in their properties, and there are serious consequences for employers who are uninsured.

What does workers’ compensation cover in California?

In general, workers’ compensation will cover any injury sustained while doing something for your employer as part of your employment. This includes accidents which occur on a business’ premises, as well as off-site if an employee was there due to their employment (for example, a salesperson meeting with a client for a business lunch).

When a worker suffers a workplace injury, workers’ compensation will cover expenses for:

  • Medical treatment & rehabilitation
  • Disability benefits – to cover lost wages while recovering from an injury
  • Vocational benefits to retrain if a workplace injury causes you to lose your livelihood
  • Death benefits

If an employee’s injury has been caused by their own serious and willful misconduct, California law says that the benefits to be paid will be reduced by half. However, this rule doesn’t apply if:

  • The injury results in death, or a permanent disability of 70 percent or over,
  • The injury is caused by an employer’s failure to comply with any law or safety order, or
  • The employee is under 16 years of age when they are injured.

Can I work while receiving workers’ compensation?

If you return to employment on a salary that is the same or higher than before your injury, it is likely that workers’ compensation benefits will stop. However, workers’ compensation can cover a drop in earnings if a workplace injury negatively affects your earning potential. Medical expenses related to the effects of a workplace injury can still be covered after returning to work.

What is the process for claiming workers’ compensation after a work injury in California?

If you are injured while working, you should report the injury to your manager or supervisor in writing within 30 days. Your employer must provide you with a workers’ compensation claim form within one day of reporting the injury. You should also see a doctor about the injury as soon as possible.

A claim must be submitted within one year of the injury which caused the disability. Once you have submitted a claim form for workers’ compensation, your employer should submit this to their workers’ compensation claims administrator. They should also authorize up to $10,000 for necessary medical treatment.

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