California Workers’ Compensation – Death Benefits
The California Workers’ Compensation system provides death benefits to the dependents of workers who die as a result of a work-related injury or illness. These benefits are intended to provide financial support to the surviving family members and dependents of the deceased worker.
The amount of death benefits that a dependent is entitled to receive depends on various factors, such as the worker’s earnings at the time of the injury and the number of dependents.
Generally, the death benefits include:
Burial expenses: Up to $10,000 for reasonable burial expenses.
In California, death benefits are usually paid as a flat sum to the beneficiaries, which could include:
$250,000 for one dependent or claimant.
$290,000 to be evenly split between two dependents or claimants.
$320,000 to be evenly split between three or more dependents or claimants.
Many deaths on the job may also involve misconduct of the employer, and if proven, the dependents may be entitled to a 50% increase in all benefits awarded.
If you’re a dependent of a worker who died as a result of a work-related injury or illness, consider consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you understand your rights and options. We can be reached at 714-547-5025.
California Workers’ Compensation – Serious and Willful Misconduct of the Employer
Serious and Willful misconduct in the context of California workers’ compensation law refers to a reckless act or omission by an employer with a disregard for the safety of an employee.
Under California law, if an employee is injured as a result of Serious and Willful Misconduct (S&W) on the part of the employer, the employee may be entitled to 50% additional compensation beyond what they would receive through traditional workers’ compensation benefits. This additional compensation is known as a serious and willful misconduct penalty.
In order to be entitled to potential S & W benefits, the worker ( or dependent(s) ) MUST a special applicant with the Workers Compensation court BEFORE the 1-year anniversary of the date of injury, or the S & W claim will be barred by the Statute of Limitations.
To establish a claim for serious and willful misconduct, the employee must show that the employer had a reckless disregard for the employee’s safety and that the act or omission was a substantial factor in causing the employee’s injury. Often, an expert witness is necessary to prove the S & W case.
Examples of serious and willful misconduct may include an employer’s intentional failure to provide safety equipment or training, intentional disregard of safety rules, or intentional removal of a safety guard from machinery.
If you believe that you have been injured as a result of serious and willful misconduct on the part of your employer, you should consider consulting with an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your legal options. We can be reached at 714-547-5025.
Offsite Injuries: Are They Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation covers a variety of injuries sustained by workers on the job, from slips and falls to forklift accidents. But what if the worker is injured off-site?
Workers’ Compensation Coverage For Off-Site Injuries
Typically, workers’ compensation covers off-site injuries that are work-related. However it can be difficult to determine if the injury is work-related. Workers’ comp judges will need to decide if the employment caused the injury. Off-site injuries that may be covered by workers’ compensation include:
- Injuries sustained while traveling if:
- The employee is a traveling sales professional with no fixed job site.
- The employer provides a company car for transportation or reimburses the employee for travel expenses
- Injuries sustained during an off-site company-sponsored event, such as a Christmas party
- Injuries sustained during a company-sponsored recreational activity, such as a company fitness program or team-building games
- Injuries sustained during a recreational activity to entertain potential clients
Injuries Not Covered By Workers’ Compensation
If an employee sustained an injury during a lunch break, the employee typically isn’t eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The employee may only qualify for benefits if the employer benefited from the employee’s actions. For example, purchasing lunch for a boss so that the boss can continue working may be considered a work errand and covered by workers’ comp. However, if the employee runs personal errands during the lunch break and picks up food for coworkers, injuries won’t be covered by workers’ comp.
Injuries sustained during a work commute typically aren’t covered by workers’ comp because their work hours don’t begin until they’ve arrived at the workplace. However, commuting may be covered if the employee is performing work duties while driving. For example, transporting a client or boss may be considered work-related activity.
If you’ve sustained an injury while performing work activities off-site, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. Insurance companies may look for reasons to deny your claim, and without an experienced lawyer you may not receive the compensation you deserve. Contact Thomas F. Martin, PLC for a consultation. His expertise in workers’ compensation is unmatched in Orange County and he will fight for your rights. Give his office a call today to build your case.
Top Safety Risks In The Warehouse Workplace
The warehouse is a busy workplace with many moving parts — forklifts, workers, truckers, ladders, heavy boxes, and other machinery. The risk of injury at a warehouse is higher than an office, making it especially important to follow safety protocol. Here are the top safety risks in the warehouse and how employees can protect themselves from injury.
- Electrical hazards
Operating machinery exposes workers to electrical hazards, such as electric shock and even electric fire. When electrical problems arise, some warehouse managers ask workers to fix the problem. But unless they’ve received training in electrical work, employees aren’t qualified to address electrical issues. In these cases, it’s best to hire an electrician to avoid electricity-related injuries.
- Not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
Some workers must wear protective eyewear, hard hats, goggles, gloves, and dust masks in the warehouse. Failure to wear personal protective equipment could lead to hearing loss, eye injuries, crushing and impacts, respiratory issues, and severe illness caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. Workers should be trained to safely wear, clean, and maintain PPE to reduce the risk of injury.
- Falling objects
Warehouses are designed to maximize storage space, which means workers often stack objects to utilize vertical space. This creates the risk of injury caused by falling objects. Workers should be trained to properly stack items using safe techniques and movements.
- Slips and falls
Holes or cracks in the floor, loose cords, spilled liquids, and unsecured mats increase the risk of slips and falls in the warehouse. Warehouse managers should be on the lookout for any of these hazards and train workers to take the necessary steps to prevent slips and falls.
A single spark could ignite stacks of materials and products, spreading like wildfire in a warehouse. Every warehouse should have automatic sprinklers and numerous emergency exits to reduce the risk of injury or death caused by fire.
- Harmful substances
To prevent injury or illness caused by harmful substances, all chemicals must be properly stored and labeled. Workers should be trained to safely clean up spills and dispose of dangerous chemicals.
- Heavy equipment
Operating heavy equipment, such as a forklift, for an extended period of time could cause workers to become lazy or develop shortcuts that could increase the risk of injury. All workers should be taught safety procedures for working near forklifts.
If you’ve been injured while working at a warehouse, contact the best Orange County workers’ compensation attorney for the legal representation you deserve. Thomas F. Martin is just a phone call away!
What To Do After You’ve Been Injured At Work
Though safety laws have helped reduce the rate of injury at work, accidents still happen. When they do, workers need to know what steps they should take to ensure their injury is properly documented and treated.
- Seek emergency medical treatment
If the injury is life-threatening, workers should seek emergency medical care. Let hospital staff know the injury or illness is job-related and when you’re in a stable condition, contact your employer for further instructions.
- Report the injury or illness to the employer by filing a claim form
It’s important to file a claim with your employer’s workers’ compensation company as soon as possible to ensure your injury or illness is covered. Request a claim form from your supervisor and fill out the “employee” section of the form. Sign and date the form, submit it to your employer, and keep a copy for your records.
The employer will then complete the “employer” section and forward the completed form to their workers’ compensation insurance company. They should also give you a copy of the completed form for your records. The insurance company then has 14 days to mail a letter providing the status of the claim.
- Check the status of your claim
If the claim was denied, workers have the right to challenge the decision. But it’s important to file a dispute as soon as possible. Hiring a workers’ compensation attorney could help increase the odds of a successful claim. In California, workers must file an Application for Adjudication of Claim at the DWC office in the county where they live or the county in which they were injured.
Once the form has been filed, the DWC will send a notice confirming the form has been filed and provide a case number.
- Attend all medical appointments
While the claim is being processed, workers need to attend all medical appointments. Missing an appointment could give the insurance company a reason to deny the claim and withhold benefits.
- Hire a workers’ compensation attorney if your claim was denied
Certain factors make it difficult for injured workers to secure benefits. In these cases, they may need the expertise of a workers’ compensation attorney.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact Thoms F. Martin, PLC, the best workers’ compensation attorney in Orange County, for legal representation.
7 Tips For Staying Safe In The Workplace
Regardless of whether you work at a desk or operate heavy machinery, the workplace poses safety hazards that could lead to injuries. To stay safe and avoid injuries, here are a few tips every employee should keep in mind.
- Use equipment, machinery, and tools properly
Don’t think that you can figure out how to use equipment properly on the fly. No matter your experience level in the industry, it’s important to approach every new piece of machinery with caution. Take the time to learn how the equipment works and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and others.
- Report unsafe conditions immediately
If you see unattended machinery, loose cords, cluttered spaces, broken glass, spilled liquids, broken lights, or uneven surfaces, report these safety hazards to your manager or supervisor.
- Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated helps you stay alert and focused. Keep a bottle of water nearby to remind yourself to drink water regularly.
- Practice good posture
Whether you’re sitting for long periods of time or lifting heavy objects, it’s important to use the right posture. Use an ergonomic desk and keyboard to minimize strain on the wrists and arms. Remind yourself to sit up straight and keep the shoulders in line with the hips when moving objects. A habit of poor posture will strain the back, neck, and shoulders, leading to serious injury.
- Take regular breaks
Working nonstop may seem noble, but in fact it’s counterproductive. Without regular breaks, employees tend to get distracted, careless, and fatigued, which increases the risk of injury. Take short walks and avoid using your phone during your breaks.
- Be aware of surroundings
If you’re working in a busy environment with many moving objects and people, it’s important to look out for the following:
- Signage indicating hazardous areas and materials
- Emergency exits and procedures in case of a fire, flood, or earthquake
- Unsecure railings
- Items blocking hallways and passageways
- Avoid shortcuts
If you’re running behind schedule, you may be tempted to skip a few steps to catch up. But those steps could be the difference between safety and an injury. Don’t take shortcuts and always follow instructions for using tools and machinery.
3 Key Milestones in Worker Safety
The Industrial Revolution brought many changes to the workplace that accelerated production but also increased the risk of injury and even death. Dangerous work conditions led to the creation of workplace safety laws that continue to shape working conditions today.
- Employers Liability Law
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was passed in 1908 to protect railroad workers supporting the rapid expansion of the nation’s railway network. Under the law, employers could be held liable for worker injuries and death on the job. Employers were also required to compensate injured workers and their family members. However, employees were required to prove employer negligence to receive benefits.
- Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation insurance was created in Germany in 1870 and spread across Europe in the late 19th century. The first comprehensive workers’ compensation law in the US was passed in Wisconsin in 1911. In 1948, workers’ compensation insurance was available in all states. The workers’ compensation system gave injured workers access to medical care and wage replacement benefits.
Today, workers’ compensation insurance is regulated at the state level and most employers are required to provide coverage.
- Safety Agencies
Throughout the 20th century, many government agencies and non-governmental organizations were established to monitor workplace safety and enforce compliance. The three main safety agencies in operation today are:
- The US Department of Labor (DOL)
The DOL offers resources and training for job seekers and retirees and sets wage standards. Its mission is “To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”
DOL oversees numerous offices, agencies, and program areas to fulfill its mission.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Part of the DOL, OSHA was established in the 1970s to enforce the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA sets workplace safety standards and enforces policies to keep employees safe and healthy. The administration also provides training, outreach, education, and signage to employers.
- The National Safety Council (NSC)
This non-governmental, non-profit, member-driven organization promotes health and safety by providing safety training, conducting research, and offering tools to mitigate risk. NSC also engages in government advocacy across national and local levels to drive awareness and create policies that support workplace safety.
How To Build a Successful California Workers’ Compensation Case
If you’ve been injured on the job, taking the right steps is key to building a successful workers’ compensation case. An experienced workers comp attorney will guide you through the process and ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.
- Understand the basics of workers’ compensation.
In California, a workers’ compensation case primarily addresses physical injuries. Workers may receive benefits for mental and emotional injuries, but these cases (referred to as stress claims) are more difficult to prove and must meet stringent requirements. To receive benefits for a psychiatric injury, workers must:
- Have a mental disorder that has been diagnosed under acceptable procedures
- Have required medical treatment or experienced disability
- Have worked for the employer for at least six months
- Prove that actual events of employment were the predominant cause of psychiatric injury
- Obtain prompt medical treatment.
Workers with physical injuries must seek medical care right away. Neglecting early treatment may give insurance companies a reason to deny or fight a claim. Once workers have reported the injury to their employer, they may receive $10,000 worth of medical care regardless of whether their claim is approved or denied.
- Don’t skip medical appointments.
Claimants must show their commitment to receiving medical treatment and attend every medical appointment. Gaps in treatment will give the insurance company a reason to doubt the validity of your claim and the extent of your injuries. A consistent record of medical appointments will help build a solid workers’ compensation case.
- Set realistic expectations for case value.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will determine the value of your case and help you set realistic expectations. It’s important to understand that the California Workers’ Compensation system doesn’t give workers the full range of benefits available in the civil court system. Injured workers won’t receive compensation for pain and suffering or compensation for punitive damages.
- Choose the right attorney.
An attorney specializing in workers’ compensation will know the ins and outs of the legal system and help you secure the compensation you deserve. Before hiring an attorney, read customer reviews, schedule a consultation, and find out who will be handling your case. If you have any questions about your workers’ comp case, don’t hesitate to reach out to Thomas F. Martin, PLC.
The Top 7 Causes of Workplace Fall Injuries
An experienced work injury attorney has worked on many cases involving falls. Though there are numerous causes of workplace falls, the injuries workers sustain from a fall inevitably require medical attention and time off from work.
Recognizing the risk factors for falls in the workplace can help prevent these accidents and keep workers safe. Here are the top seven causes of falls in the workplace.
- Uneven floors
Uneven floors may be slightly angled, without any warning signs posted. In other cases, the sidewalk outside of a building may have sunk into the ground or risen up, creating cracks that could lead to an accident. Cracked tile floors with missing pieces could also lead to a fall.
- Loose cords
Loose cords from equipment and machinery pose a trip hazard that could lead to serious injuries affecting the back, hip, pelvis, spinal cord, and bones. Workers may suffer concussions, fractures, and even brain damage from just a few loose cords.
- Wet floors
Floors that were recently cleaned should have a caution sign posted, warning workers to watch their step. On the other hand, oil or other liquid spilled onto the floor should be cleaned as soon as possible to prevent falls.
- Insufficient lighting
Poor lighting makes it difficult to see steps, uneven flooring, and obstacles on the floor, increasing the risk of a fall. Employers need to make sure lighting is working properly in all work areas and install additional lighting where necessary.
One common cause of falls is obstruction. Work injury attorneys often handle cases in which workers tripped over boxes, tools, and various containers.
Old, small rugs aren’t very sturdy and likely to become bunched up and create a tripping hazard. Workers can fall in bathrooms, storage closets, and hallways, and sustain injuries that require medical treatment.
- Improper footwear
Restaurants, stores, and manufacturing buildings are likely to have wet floors that increase the risk of a fall. Employers should ensure every worker is wearing slip-resistant footwear in these environments.
Choosing a Work Injury Attorney
Not every fall is preventable and in some cases workers can sustain serious injuries. Hiring the right work injury attorney is key to receiving the necessary benefits and compensation. Call Thomas F. Martin today for a legal consultation.
What to Expect From a Psychiatric Workers’ Comp Claim in CA
When we think of workers’ comp injuries, we generally think of physical injuries like broken bones, tissue damage, burns, and lacerations. But workers’ compensation also includes psychiatric injury, which is a mental disorder determined to be at least 50% caused by the workplace.
How to claim a psychiatric injury.
To obtain compensation for a psychiatric injury, an employee must:
- Show employment for six months or longer
- Prove that work activities or the work environment were greater than 50% of the cause of psychiatric injury
- Prove the injury was not a consequence of physical injury
If the psychiatric injury was caused by a violent act, then the employee must show that 35-40% was caused by work. In addition, the six-month requirement doesn’t apply to injuries caused by a sudden and extraordinary event.
Can physical and psychological injuries be combined in a claim?
A psychological injury cannot be caused by a physical work injury. An injured employee can only add a psychological claim to the original injury if it was due to a violent crime or a catastrophic injury such as paralysis, severe burn, amputation, or severe head injury.
What is the difference between an injury and a permanent disability?
If the worker has not sustained a psychiatric work injury, then they will not receive any medical treatment, temporary disability, or permanent disability. If a physician does identify a psychiatric injury in a worker, then the extent of disability and evaluation of non-work-related factors will be determined on a separate basis.
How a psychiatric claim is rated in CA workers’ comp.
In California, a psychiatric work injury is rated using the Global Assessment of Function (GAF) scale, which is then converted to a percentage and adjusted up or down using the Permanent Disability Rating Scale (PDRS). A GAF rating below 70 is considered a permanent disability.
What to expect during a psychiatric injury claims process.
To determine a worker’s eligibility for compensation, the insurance company will ask questions about the workers’ relationship with friends and family, medical conditions, sex life, past abuse, and trauma. An injured worker should decide if filing a psychiatric claim is worth answering questions on such personal matters.