If you’ve recently suffered a work injury or condition, finding a work injury attorney in Santa Ana, CA can be challenging. There are hundreds of attorneys claiming they can help you. The bottom line is an experienced attorney can take the burden of navigating the workers’ compensation system and let you focus on getting better.
To be prepared for your meeting with a workers’ comp lawyer, having the information and paperwork gathered in advance of your meeting will make the process smoother for you – and the attorney.
Information to Bring When Meeting a Work Injury Attorney in Santa Ana, CA
During the consultation, the attorney will need answers to questions like:
- Where the injury took place
- What you were doing when the injury occurred
- Witnesses to the injury
- What your injuries are
- A list of doctors you saw and their phone numbers
- Proof of your wages at the time of the injury
A work injury attorney in Santa Ana, CA will also need to know the details about your job history. This information can help determine the amount of benefits you’re eligible to receive.
If there was an accident report written at the time of the accident, bring a copy of it when you attend the appointment with the lawyer.
If you haven’t received a copy of the report, the attorney can issue a subpoena for it.
Bring pay stubs, your employee ID number, hire date, job title, and a list of daily duties to the consultation. Your workers’ compensation benefits are usually based on to how much you were making at the time of the accident. Your work injury attorney in Santa Ana, CA will need detailed employment records to calculate your average earnings and make sure you obtain the compensation that you deserve.
Paperwork And Documents From Your Employer
After making a workers’ compensation claim, you may receive paperwork in the mail from the workers’ compensation administrator, such as letters about the workers’ compensation system, information about physician networks, and documents describing the workers’ compensation process, the benefits available to you, and your legal rights. Make sure you have these letters handy for your meeting with a workers’ compensation attorney.
Initial and Follow Up Medical Treatment Records
Bring records of any medical treatment you received immediately after the accident, in addition to any medical paperwork suggesting a treatment plan and recommendations for follow-up care. This information will help verify the link between the accident and your injuries and establish the extent of your injuries and your inability to work in the aftermath of the accident.
You should also consider bringing information related to any other expenses associated with your injury, such as purchasing equipment related to treatment and traveling to doctor’s offices for medical appointments. Medical bills, whether you’ve paid them or not, are another important part of your case, so be sure to bring any medical bills with you to the consultation.
Other Records to Bring
Also bring photos (and videos, if you have them) of your injuries to show the extent of your injuries. If you have photos of the accident scene, this could be valuable evidence, especially if the insurance company has denied your claim.
Records of phone and email correspondence with your employer and insurance company is also important to document the interactions.
An experienced work injury attorney in Santa Ana, CA will need the information noted above to assist in promptly securing the benefits you make be entitled to.
California wildfires are now a yearly event.
Nearly four million people work outdoors in California. Industries like agriculture, construction, landscaping, and utilities rely on employees to work outdoors, even during wildfire season.
Though employers are required to take steps to protect outdoor workers from breathing in harmful levels of smoke, such as providing N95 masks, California’s Division of Occupational Health and Safety (known as Cal/OSHA), cited employers just 11 times between July 2019 and October 5, 2021. Only two agricultural employers were fined by CAL/OSHA for failing to provide enough respirators or effective training to employees exposed to wildfire smoke, according to agency data.
Excessive exposure to wildfire smoke can cause eye and throat irritation, persistent coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and even certain types of cancers. Exposure to just 2.5 parts per million can even lead to reduced lung function, heart failure, and even early death.
An investigation by The California Newsroom linked the rise of wildfire smoke to sharp increases in hospitalizations for heart and lung conditions in California. The investigation also revealed a dramatic rise in prescriptions for the asthma medication albuterol as the number of “smoke days” increase. There is simply no denying the correlation.
Nayamin Martinez, executive director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network said, “I always find it very ironic when the agencies brag, ‘Oh, we have more stringent rules [than] the entire nation.’ Well, those rules are out there. But if you don’t enforce them, then there’s nothing good out of them.”
A recent survey of more than 300 agricultural workers in the San Joaquin Valley conducted by Central California Environmental Justice Network found that nearly 60% of farmworkers weren’t provided N95 masks nor did they know what “N95s” even were. About 45% said they didn’t know what protections they had from California wildfire smoke.
The fact that so many at-risk workers are not even aware of the type of masks that would provide enhanced protection is proof that employers are not stepping up to their responsibility when it comes to educating and protecting their workers.
CAL/OSHA is taking steps in the right direction. The agency has begun posting videos and other training materials on its website in both Spanish and English with the goal of protecting workers, and providing safety information that employers are not.
When searching for an award-winning Orange County, California Work Comp Lawyer, it’s not always easy to identify the lawyers that have been routinely recognized for their skill and ethics.
How to Find an Award-Winning Orange County California Work Comp Lawyer
If you do a Google search for “award-winning Orange County California Work Comp Lawyer”, you’ll likely see ads for top lawyers in the area. But well-worded ads, flashy commercials, and big promises don’t always mean the attorneys have the experience, depth of knowledge, attention to detail, and ethics you deserve to have.
Look For Awards That Really Matter
There are many awards an attorney can receive, but Martindale-Hubbell has been the premier rating service for attorneys for over a century.
“For more than 130 years, Martindale-Hubbell has been evaluating attorneys for their strong legal ability and high ethical standards through a Peer Review Rating system. Prior to the 1887 edition of Martindale’s American Law Directory, which was the first publication to provide such ratings to attorneys, there was no way of truly knowing if the lawyer you were considering to do business with was trustworthy, ethical, or skilled in the legal field.
Today – Martindale-Hubbell continues to provide verified ratings for attorneys based not only on their legal ability and ethical standards as judged by their peers, but also based on reviews from their clients. While the criteria and format of the Peer Review Rating system have evolved since the 1800’s – the goal of Martindale-Hubbell ratings remains the same: to help keep the public informed when making the decision to do business with an attorney or law firm.”
Martindale Hubbell explains its rating system this way:
“Historically the Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ system utilized an “A – B – C” scale to estimate the legal ability and ethical standards of an attorney. To qualify for an “A” rating an attorney had to be reported as “Very High” in their legal ability and had been practicing for at least 10 years, a “B” rating meant an attorney was rated “High” and had to be practicing for at least 5 years, and a “C” rating meant that the attorney was rated “fair” with no limitations on how long they were practicing. A second rating was also given to go along with the “A – B – C” rating and that was a “V,” meaning that the attorney’s peers stated they had “Very High” ethical standards. Over the years this transitioned to “AV”, “BV”, and “CV” ratings – with an “AV” rating meaning that the attorney had reached the highest of professional excellence and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity.
Today, Martindale-Hubbell conducts a thorough review of attorneys who wish to receive a Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™, through a secure online peer-review survey where a lawyer’s ethical standards and legal ability in a specific area of practice is assessed by their peers. Once the review process is completed an attorney may receive 1 of the following Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™:
AV Preeminent®: The highest peer rating standard. This is given to attorneys who are ranked at the highest level of professional excellence for their legal expertise, communication skills, and ethical standards by their peers.
Distinguished: An excellent rating for an attorney who has some experience and is widely respected by their peers for their professional achievement and ethical standards.
Notable: A rating is given to a lawyer who has been recognized by a large number of their peers for their strong ethical standards”
Of all the awards and recognitions he is privileged to receive, Thomas F Martin is proud to advise he has been once again given the AV Preeminent® rating from Martindale Hubble for 2022.
Thomas F. Martin, PLC has won other industry awards for his contributions to the workers’ comp system, and decades of recognition as a thought leader in the practice of workers compensation law as evidenced by his invitations to lecture to various attorney groups for decades.
Other recognitions include The Orange County Register, The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Orange Coast Magazine, and many other professional organizations. He has been rated a top workers’ comp attorney by “Best Attorneys” and continues to be known for his relentless pursuit of appropriate benefits for the clients he has chosen to represent.
Thomas F. Martin has been a speaker at various industry events, lecturing to thousands of workers’ compensation attorneys and professionals about the latest changes and methods in the workers’ comp legal system.
He has also served as a Judge Pro Tem for the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.
If you have been seriously injured on the job, Thomas F. Martin is available to personally discuss your potential case.
Billboards, TV and radio commercials, bus benches.
Lawyer ads seem to be everywhere claiming to be the “best” if you get injured. But does a hefty advertising budget mean that a lawyer knows what they are doing in court?
If you are injured on the job beware of lawyers claiming to be the “best in town”. Here are four things worth considering when you are deciding on an Orange County lawyer to represent you for your work injury:
- Look For Actual Experience
It seems obvious, but having a lawyer who discusses your case with you personally, works on your case personally, and makes court appearances on your case personally makes a big difference in the outcome of your workers’ compensation case.
With over 30 years of experience handling workers’ compensation cases in Orange County and decades of awards and recognition by his fellow lawyers as a highly-skilled and ethical lawyer, Tom Martin doesn’t rely on nicknames, songs, or billboards everywhere you look. Instead, he limits his practice to only representing injured workers and getting the results each of his clients deserves and lets his work speak for itself – the vast majority of his clients come from “word of mouth”, the best advertising a lawyer can have.
- Do Past “Wins” Matter?
Yes. Like other lawyers, Mr. Martin has recovered tens of millions of dollars for his clients over the years, and that speaks to his skill going against the biggest employers and insurance companies in California.
But does his past successes on behalf of his clients mean that’s the only reason to retain him? No.
What really matters is what his strategy is to recover what you deserve in your case – because every case is different, and you and your injuries are unlike any other case.
Visit www.ThomasFMartin.com to see why Tom Martin’s personal attention to your case matters.
- Fees Based On Performance
Many lawyers charge by the hour no matter what the outcome of the case is. That’s not how Tom Martin gets paid for his work on your case.
His fee is 15% of the amount of the recovery for his client. This fee structure protects the injured worker because if there is no recovery there is no fee. With this fee structure, Mr. Martin is in the “same boat” as you – the goal is to secure the Award you are entitled to – no less.
- Do you get to talk with a lawyer, or just a ‘legal assistant”?
Mr. Martin personally appears in court for his clients every week. He’s busy representing his clients, securing the financial benefits and the medical treatment they are entitled to. The best work injury lawyers in Orange County aren’t shooting TV and radio ads, or coming up with catchy songs and nicknames – they are in the courtroom fighting for their clients.
Many workers’ compensation attorneys use paralegals to process cases, and non-lawyers to appear in court. Before you retain an attorney, find out who is actually going to work on your case. It matters. After all, if you’re going to hire a law firm, you deserve to have the lawyer handling your case!
Regarded by his peers as one of the best workers ’comp attorneys in Orange County, consider calling Thomas F. Martin, PLC at 714-547-5025.
Types Of Workers Compensation Settlements Negotiated By An Orange County Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
As a top Orange County workers’ compensation lawyer, Thomas F. Martin, PLC explains the main types of settlement formats options in workers’ comp law:
- Stipulated Findings and Award
This type of settlement is an option when an injured worker and the employer (or its insurance company) agree on the permanent disability rating and need for future medical treatment. The stipulation is the parties’ agreement about the findings of the case. These findings include the disability rating percentage, the fact that a work injury caused the disability, and the need for future medical care.
When the settlement paperwork is presented to a workers’ compensation judge, the agreement will have the same force and effect as if the Judge made the findings after a trial. In most cases, after obtaining the medical reporting and other evidence, the parties are often able to agree on what the Award should be.
A Stipulated Findings and Award settlement will require the insurance company to make a payment to the injured worker every two weeks for a specified period of time depending on the percentage of permanent disability. Sometimes, if the insurance company has not paid the permanent disability owed, a lump sum payment be paid to the injured worker to catch up on the payments owed according to the agreement.
This settlement is common in cases when an injured worker continues to work for the same employer.
- Compromise and Release
An Orange County workers’ compensation lawyer may negotiate a Compromise and Release if the injured worker wants to close out all rights in the case, including the right to request future medical treatment. In these cases, the injured worker accepts a lump sum of money to settle the worker’s compensation claim and close the case forever.
The workers’ compensation judge must still review approve the Compromise and Release to ensure it’s fair. Most Compromise and Release settlement agreements are approved if the worker has an experienced Orange County workers’ compensation lawyer representing them.
One advantage of this type of settlement is the immediacy of payment. Workers don’t need to wait for installments payments but receive the full payment. In many cases, clients receive a more favorable financial payment since insurance companies prefer not to be under any future obligation.
- Hybrid settlement
An experienced Orange County workers’ compensation lawyer may be able to negotiate a Compromise and Release ( closing out all rights for a lump sum) AND have future medical care left open in certain cases.
Not all lawyers are made equal. Some actually routinely go to court, and others spend their time promoting their catchy nicknames on billboards, radio and TV. Some even have songs that tell you absolutely nothing about their skill as an attorney.
When people suffer a work injury, it’s serious business. You deserve information about the lawyer that tells you what makes them qualified to help you navigate the California workers’ compensation system.
What qualities does a truly exceptional workers’ comp attorney have in Orange County?
- Communication With A Lawyer – Not A Paralegal
Clients have a right to know where their case stands at every point of the legal process. Having access to the attorney that is representing you shows they are personally involved in your case.
Some law firms have dozens of non-lawyers processing your claim. Why hire a law firm if you hardly ever get to talk to a lawyer? Does the lawyer even now about what is going on in your case? Or is he or she just relying on their staff to deal with the issues of your case?
Cases, like people, are dynamic – things can change rapidly. Is the lawyer available for unexpected developments? Is the lawyer ready to get a court date to deal with the problem, or are you going to just get talk from the non-lawyers at the firm? These are questions to ask BEFORE you hire a workers’ compensation attorney.
A workers’ comp lawyer should do what he or she says they are going to do. Ask the attorneys you are considering to help you what the game plan is on your case, and how they plan to give you feedback on your case.
If, for example, benefit checks suddenly stop coming without explanation, clients should be able to contact their lawyer immediately. There could’ve been a technical mistake or the insurance company could’ve decided benefits are no longer necessary, despite doctor’s orders. Can you rely on your lawyer to have a game plan? Or are you going to get the run around by the firms non-lawyers? Ask how such things will be handled BEFORE you decide on a lawyer to hire.
When interviewing lawyers to hire, are you sensing that the lawyer is paying attention to the unique aspects of your case, or are they just running through their “script”? If you aren’t straight answers to your questions, that may be a sign that you will be treated the same way as a client
An attentive lawyer will HEAR what you are saying, and do his or her best to answer your questions. know the details of every settlement offer — even if it’s unacceptably low — and share that information with their client before rejecting the offer.
- Strong Negotiation Skills
Insurance companies know who the prepared attorneys are. Making certain that your case is fully documented is hard work, and it puts your lawyer in a strong position to negotiate the result you deserve. If the insurance company is dealing with an attorney that is routinely unprepared or relying on non-attorneys to handle your case, your case is not going to be taken as seriously. Ask the lawyer you are interviewing how they process cases and what their reputation is for being prepared BEFORE hiring them.
The successful outcome of a case depends on the lawyer’s commitment to preparing the case for trial. Ask the lawyer if he or she is PERSONALLY preparing the case for the Judge, and PERSONALLY appears before the Judge BEFORE you hire them. If all the lawyer is relying on non-lawyers to do the critical work and appearances on the case, you deserve to know that ahead of time
- Knowledge About The Workers Compensation System
Does the lawyer you are interviewing doing a lot of different types of law, or ONLY workers compensation? Are they recognized by a past client and other lawyers as a skilled and ethical lawyer? An experienced workers’ comp attorney in Orange County is known and respected for their knowledge and skills.
Making The Decision
Look for these qualities in a workers’ comp lawyer before retaining a workers’ compensation attorney. It can make a big difference in the outcome of your case and your life.
If you’ve never sustained a work injury before, the prospect of going through the legal process can seem daunting — especially if you’re receiving medical care and struggling to figure out how to manage other daily responsibilities. However, not all work injuries require an Orange County, CA Workers’ Compensation lawyer, so it’s important to know what to consider to decide whether to hire an attorney.
Should You Consider Hiring an Orange County, CA Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
- Your employer or insurance carrier denies the accident is work-related.
Minor work injuries are often denied by the employer or insurance company. If an injury goes untreated, it could become more serious, and even provide an excuse for denying the injury. Injuries that occur over time, such as exposure to toxic chemicals or repetitive activities, such as typing or lifting need to be documented by a physician as soon as possible.
A workers’ comp attorney in Orange County, California could help a worker secure the proof necessary to obtain the compensation an injured worker deserves.
- Your employer isn’t taking your injury seriously.
It is the employee’s job to report the accident or injury to the employer as soon as possible. Once the employer is notified, it is their responsibility to follow California law and report the injury to its workers’ compensation carrier.
If your employer refuses to report your injury to its workers’ compensation carrier, or the carrier hasn’t contacted you within a week after you reported the injury to your employer, consider contacting a workers’ comp attorney to take appropriate actions on your behalf.
- You anticipate permanent disability.
If you anticipate permanent disability, you may not be able to return to the work you were performing at the time of the injury. Your future income may be reduced due to the injury and you may be entitled to permanent disability compensation to address your reduced earning capacity. Insurance companies are more likely to fight and deny claims with permanent disability because they tend to cost insurance companies more money.
- The insurance company refuses to pay for doctor-recommended treatment.
Insurance companies often deny much-needed medical treatment – even when their own doctors recommend it! An experienced Orange County, CA workers’ compensation lawyer can help you get the treatment you need so you can get back to work.
- The insurance company denies your legitimate claim.
When your legitimate claim is denied by an insurance company, a workers’ comp attorney can assist in gathering the information and documentation your will need to have a workers compensation judge decide the issue.
- The insurance carrier makes an inadequate settlement offer.
If the settlement offer made by the insurance company makes you a settlement offer that doesn’t come close to considering your financial losses and permanent injury, you may want to consider securing legal representation. Most permanent disability claims are valued based on the rating provided by an examining doctor. If the insurance company disagrees with a treating doctor’s rating of your permanent injuries, you have a right to an independent physician evaluation arranged by the State of California. A workers’ comp lawyer can assist you in documenting the permanent injury compensation you are entitled to.
- You have a preexisting condition.
Insurance companies try to blame your current Permanent Disability on “preexisting conditions” – even if you recovered from prior injuries and conditions. A workers’ compensation attorney can help you fight the insurance companies’ attempt to get a “discount” on the permanent disability compensation you deserve.
- You intend to file for Social Security Disability Insurance ( SSDI ) benefits.
There is a potential interaction between SSDI benefits and workers’ compensation benefits. A workers’ comp attorney can help you navigate these issues, and potentially reduce offsets.
- You experience employer retaliation due to your work injury.
If the employer fires or demotes you, cuts your hours, or pressures you to return to work too soon, you may have additional claims against the employer.
- Someone else is responsible for your work injury.
In addition to having a workers compensation claim, “third-parties” (a person or company other than your employer) may also be responsible to compensate you for the injuries you sustained. A workers compensation attorney can assist you in securing workers’ compensation benefits and also recover your damages in a personal injury case against the third party that caused your injuries while you were working.
Searching for the top Orange County, CA Workers’ Compensation lawyer? Contact the law offices of Thomas Martin, PLC for a free consultation.
Owen Diaz, a former Tesla employee who worked as an elevator operator at the company’s Fremont factory for nine months from 2015 to 2016, was recently awarded a $137 million settlement as compensation for the racial abuse he experienced during his tenure.
He was called racial epithets by coworkers, told to “go back to Africa”, and saw racist graffiti in the bathrooms. The jury found that Tesla had not taken reasonable steps to prevent racial harassment in the workplace.
The company’s lawyers stated the factory employed approximately 10,000 workers, many of whom were contractors hired through external staffing agencies. And so, they argued, there was no evidence that Tesla employees were directly responsible for the racial harassment.
Diaz’s attorneys brought three claims against Tesla:
1. The company subjected him to a racially hostile environment.
2. The company failed to provide a harassment-free workplace.
3. Tesla was negligent in its supervision of employees.
The jury sided with the plaintiff on all claims and ordered Tesla to pay Diaz $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $130 million in punitive damages — far above what his attorneys requested.
The eight jurors deliberated for four hours before reaching a decision.
Though Tesla has a practice of mandatory arbitration, the company’s reliance on contractors opened the door for the lawsuit. Because Diaz was a contractor himself, he never signed the company’s arbitration agreement and became the first worker to file a lawsuit against Tesla that went to a jury trial.
Tesla’s “Vice President of People” Valeria Capers Workman said, “The Tesla of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked in the Fremont factory) is not the same as the Tesla of today.” She added, “We acknowledge that we still have work to do to ensure that every employee feels that they can bring their whole self to work at Tesla.”
The company has not said whether it plans to appeal the verdict. Tesla is facing a similar lawsuit in California state court from Marcus Vaughn and others, who allege Tesla created a hostile workplace for Black workers.
According to research from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI), injured worker hospitalizations fell to 17.2% in 2020, down from 47.2% in 2010. Over the past decade, the number of inpatient discharges in California have declined steadily, except for Medi-Cal.
The report compiled data on nearly 39.2 million inpatient stays from 2010 through 2020. Since 2010, workers’ compensation hospitalizations have represented the smallest share of hospital stays, just 0.4%.
Factors contributing to the decline in workers’ comp hospitalizations include the adoption of cost-cutting programs requiring treatment of injured workers to meet certain criteria not found in other provider systems. Consequently, taxpayers end up paying for treatment that the workers’ compensation insurance companies refuse to cover.
Under Governor Newsom’s leadership, many injured workers were treated via telemedicine and didn’t experience significant delays in receiving treatment. Thankfully, the vast majority of COVID-19 claimants only needed limited treatment, contrary to the insurance industry’s original predictions that the losses would be catastrophic.
2020 wasn’t a banner year for PROFITS for workers’ compensation insurers and business owners. Insurers took in less premium but also paid fewer claims, according to the Insurance Journal.
The reductions in both the losses and premiums created an 86% combined ratio for workers’ comp calendar year 2020. This would be the third-lowest combined ratio in history and the seventh consecutive year of underwriting gains, according to National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) director and actuary Vicky Mayen.
Meanwhile, as insurance company profits soar, many injured workers are struggling to get back to work due to delays in their medical treatment.
A very familiar story, unfortunately.
Three bay area men — Eric Andrew Oller, Brian Christopher Mitchell, and Yama Sekander — former owners of painting companies, were arraigned September 20th in an Oakland court on fraud charges filed by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Insurance (CDI).
Oller and Mitchell owned Walnut Creek-based Signature Painting and Construction Inc. and were each charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime, six counts each of felony insurance fraud, and two counts of workers’ compensation fraud.
The defendants used Valhalla Consulting and A-1 World Class Painting, businesses owned by Oller and Sekander, respectively, as a shell company to pay painting company employees from 2017-18. SPC misrepresented or omitted information about the company’s structure, misclassified employees, and underreported payroll costs to illegally reduce their workers’ compensation premium.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said, “If a business creates an environment where they falsely pay a lower insurance premium, that company has an unfair competitive advantage over one that is law-abiding.”
Mitchell and Oliver are also charged with entering into agreements to move employees from one company to another to reduce workers’ compensation costs. Authorities have accused Mitchell of using Sekander’s A-1 company to obtain a workers’ compensation policy for SPC.
SPC owners paid some employees under the table and instructed injured employees to report they worked for a different company, which allowed SPC to avoid paying and reporting the full amount of taxes owed.
Their scheme defrauded insurance carriers of more than $5 million since 2015. State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) lost premium payments totaling $3.1 million and AmTrust lost about $1.9 million.
SCIF submitted a fraud referral against SPC in 2019 and authorities began their investigation. Crimes date back to 2015, according to authorities.
Charges were filed in late August and all three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The next court date is November 18.