California Workers' Compensation FAQs

Workers' Compensation Lawyers Serving the Bay Area

Q:  What should I do if I get hurt at work or suffer a work-related illness?

A:  You should report your injury or illness to your employer, because in California if you do not inform your employer within 30 days of incurring or noticing the injury, then you might lose your right to workers' compensation benefits.

You should consult with an attorney who is a Specialist in Workers' Compensation Law, who can advise you of your rights under California's workers' compensation system and whether or not you have a viable third party liability claim.  You should also complete a form called, "Employee's Claim for Workers' Compensation Benefits," and submit it to your employer.  Retain a copy of the form for your records.

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Q:  Who can receive workers' compensation benefits?

A:  In general, employers are required by law to pay for workers' compensation benefits if their employees suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.  Therefore, if you become injured or ill due to your work, you may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits.

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Q:  What types of injuries or illnesses are considered "work-related?"

A:  Workers suffer a wide range of work-related injuries on a frequent basis.  These can range from less serious injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome to major injuries such as back injuries or losing one's hearing due to persistent loud noise.  As for work-related illnesses, people are sometimes exposed to toxic substances at work, such as asbestos and other hazardous substances.

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Q:  What types of benefits can I receive if I am injured at work?

A:  If you are injured on the job, you may be entitled to receive various types of workers' compensation benefits, depending on your circumstances.  These benefits include the following:

  • Medical Treatment:  Employers or their workers' compensation insurance carriers are responsible for paying for your medical treatment after suffering a work-related injury or illness.  The medical treatment can include doctor's visits, hospitalizations, medical tests, physical therapy, medication, and any other treatment the doctor reasonably believes is necessary to treat your condition. 

You should designate a treating physician before suffering any work-related injury because the law allows you to do so, and if this designation is not made beforehand then your employer may control the type of medical treatment you ultimately receive. 

  • Temporary Disability Benefits:  If you are unable to return to work because of your injury or illness, you may be entitled to temporary disability benefit payments.  These payments are typically made every two weeks until you are able to go back to work or until the injury has reached a maximum point of improvement.

Generally, the amount of temporary disability benefits you receive is based on two-thirds of your gross (before tax) wages at the time of the injury, but there are minimum and maximum rates set by law that may apply to you.

  • Permanent Disability Benefits:  If you have a lasting disability that permanently impacts you or prevents you from reaching your full earning capacity, you may be entitled to permanent disability benefits.  The amount of permanent disability benefits you can receive and the duration of these payments depend on your percentage of permanent disability.

A Qualified Medical Examiner, who may be chosen by your attorney or your treating physician, will determine whether you are permanently disabled.  In making this determination, the doctor will consider whether your condition has become "permanent and stationary," which means your condition is not likely to change and you have reached a maximum level of improvement for your injury.

You should also note, however, that you can still have a permanent disability and still return to work if you are able to perform your job duties.

  • Death Benefits:  If the employee dies from the injury or illness, the employee's dependents, including the spouse and children, may be entitled to monetary benefits.  Workers' compensation insurance may cover burial expenses as well.

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Q: Can I sue my employer or anyone else for my injuries?

A:  In most circumstances, unless your employer does not provide workers' compensation insurance you cannot sue your employer or co-workers for your injuries.  However, you may be able to file a civil suit against a third party-a party not connected to your employer-who is responsible for causing your injuries.  You may be able to recover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages that exceed the amount you would recover under workers' compensation from the third party. 

If you have a workers' compensation matter where a third party might be liable, consult a lawyer immediately, as California has strict time limits on when third party lawsuits can be filed.

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Q:  If I do get an attorney to help me, how much will it cost?

A:  At Larson, Vandersloot & Rivers, we offer free consultations for workers' compensation, third party lawsuits, and personal injury claims.  In workers' compensation cases, attorneys' fees are paid out of the permanent disability award that the worker receives at the conclusion of the case.  In third party and personal injury cases, attorneys' fees are negotiable and paid out of the proceeds of the final settlement or judgment.  Thus, if there is no recovery, you pay no fee. 

If you need legal representation in connection with a workers' compensation or personal injury matter, contact the Bay Area worker's compensation lawyers at Larson, Vandersloot & Rivers today. Call us at (510) 223-2200 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation. 

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