Workers’ compensation in California is of interest to you if you live and work in California, and you or ill or have been injured as a result of your job. You may currently be having problems and difficulties with your employer in being compensated for that injury or illness.
You need to remember what workers’ compensation is. Workers’ compensation is a kind of business insurance. This business insurance provides benefits in the form of income, rehabilitation and medical coverage to employees and/or their family who suffer injury, illness or death in the course of, or as a result of, their job. This does not depend on whether you were at fault as an employee.
These benefits may be given to your surviving spouse and/or children if you die as a result of injury at your place of employment. These benefits are yours or your dependents or survivors as a matter of “right”. Your employer cannot resort to any legal defense. You and/or your dependents or survivors, in turn, cannot sue your employer for your injuries or death.
Workers’ compensation laws were established to mitigate the need for workers to prove that their injuries were the “fault” of their employer and to reduce the need for litigation. The first workers’ compensation laws were passed in Maryland in 1902. The first federal law was passed in 1906. By 1949, all of the states had passed some kind of workers’ compensation laws.
Originally, these laws were known as “workman’s compensation.” California uses the term, “worker’s compensation” or “workers’ comp.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees workplace health and safety at the national level. State laws vary and complement the regulations of OSHA.
There is no national agency, however, that requires all employers to provide workers’ compensation benefits. The laws regarding workers’ compensation are determined by each state.
Workers’ compensation in California is governed by the Department of Industrial Relations. The Division of Workers’ Compensation has the specific responsibility of administering workers’ compensation in California.
California passed its first workers’ compensation law under the Compensation Act in 1911. Under this law participation was voluntary for employers. In 1913, the Workers’ Compensation Insurance and Safety Act was passed that required employers to participate. Since that time this Act has been revised and reformed many times.
Workers’ compensation in California is seen as a trade-off between employers and employees. Employees are entitled to receive prompt, effective medical treatment for on-the-job injuries or illnesses no matter who is at fault. In return for these benefits, employees are prevented from suing employers because of those injuries.
If you live and work in California it is important for you to know and remember that all employers are required by law to have workers’ compensation insurance, even if they have only one employee. Workers’ compensation is mandatory meaning all employers are required to participate. Your employer has to pay for workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt or become ill because of your work.
Workers’ compensation in California provides six basic benefits. These workers’ compensation benefits are:
§ Medical care
§ Temporary disability benefits
§ Permanent disability benefits
§ Supplemental job displacement benefits or vocational rehabilitation
§ Death benefits.
The vast majority of workers’ compensation claims are resolved without any need for legal recourse. However, sometimes there can be a disagreement that arises between you and your employer. This disagreement can relate to issues such as was your injury or illness the result of your job, or how much in benefits you are entitled to receive because of the injury or illness.
When there is a dispute between you and your employer, the Division of Workers’ Compensation can help resolve it through its Information and Assistance Unit or by going before a judge at one of the division’s 24 local offices.
It is important to know the rights that you have when you are injured at your workplace in California. Under workers’ compensation laws in California you have the right to receive medical treatment. State law requires that your medical treatment has to be, “scientifically based, nationally recognized and peer-reviewed. Guidelines published by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) are correct in most cases.
You also have the right to disability payments. These may be temporary or permanent depending on the type and nature of your injury or illness that is work related. Permanent disability is any lasting disability that reduces your earning capacity after maximum medical improvement is attained.
You also have the right to return to work after you have recovered from your illness or injury. Returning to work as soon as possible after an illness or injury is important for both you and your employer. Workers who return to their jobs as soon as it is medically possible have the best outcomes. Recovery from injuries and illness is faster and wage loss is less.
You also have the right to the resolution of a disagreement over your claim. The steps for this resolution have already been mentioned above.
Workers’ compensation in California may be a serious matter for you. You or a friend or loved one may have been injured or become ill as a result of your work. To make matters worse, you or your friend or loved one is in an unresolved dispute with the employer over the injury or illness.
What can you do? What options do you have? Who can you turn to for help?
You or your friend or loved one may need the help of a legal professional. You may need the help of an attorney who knows and specializes in employment law in California. You may need the representation of a workers’ compensation attorney.