A workers compensation injury is defined in California’s Labor Code Section 3208 as any injury or disease arising out of employment. It can be physical or mental (non physical) harm. To be compensable the injury must produce disability or medical treatment more than first aid.
Workers compensation benefits are usually the exclusive remedy available to the injured worker. The system is designed to compensate injured workers for disabilities that occur on the job and to provide medical treatment that is reasonable and necessary to cure or relieve the effects of an injury.
An injured worker does not have to prove anyone was at fault for causing the injury. The trade-off for the employer is there are limited damages payments that are set forth by statute. No compensation is paid for pain and suffering and other general damages like those in personal injury lawsuits. However, wages are paid while the injured worker is off work, and in some instances, additional permanent compensation or job retraining are available.
The Law passed by the state Legislature more than 85 years ago, guarantees prompt, automatic benefits to workers injured on the job. Before workers’ compensation, injured workers had to sue their employers to recover medical costs and lost wages. Lawsuits took months and sometimes years. Juries and judges had to decide who was at fault and how much, if anything, would be paid. Too often, the injured worker got nothing. It was costly, time consuming and unfair.
Today, workers’ compensation is faster and fairer. If you cannot work because of a job injury, workers’ compensation pays your medical bills and provides money to help replace your lost income until you can return to work.
Senate Bill 899 was enacted into law on April 19, 2004. The following is a summary of some of the important changes in the law resulting from this bill.
There is no charge for the initial consultation in a workers’ compensation claim. Attorney fees are payable on a “contingency basis.” This means that if there is no recovery there is no fee. The attorney receives a percentage of the settlement or award at the end of the case. If a person chooses to be represented by an attorney, the attorney fees will be deducted from the settlement at the end. Attorney fees are normally 15% of the benefits awarded.
If you have an injury or illness serious enough to prevent you from returning to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability if you have been off work for 5 months or more. To qualify, you must have paid into the Social Security system in 20 of the last 40 quarters, and are likely to be off work one full year or longer. If you feel this applies to you, contact an attorney for more information.
Public employees who have retirement programs other than Social Security, may be eligible for disability benefits under the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), State Teachers’ Retirement System (STRS) or county, city or other retirement systems. Under certain situations you may also be eligible for State Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Long Term Disability etc.
Unfortunately, many injured workers wait until it is too late, or a crisis has occurred, before they consider hiring an attorney. The injured worker should consider the following facts:
If an injured worker retains an attorney, there is no charge for the interview or for any services along the way. The attorney fee is 15% on all cases.
Injured workers usually consider retaining an attorney if they feel they are at a disadvantage in dealing with the insurance company, or any time that benefits are being denied. An injured worker should also consider having an attorney when they are going to have a need for continuing or lifetime medical care, or if they are going to end up with a permanent disability.
If a worker has a permanent disability but does not have an attorney, they are required to select a doctor off of a three doctor panel. The claim will be resolved based upon that doctor’s report. Unfortunately, if the worker does not agree with this doctor’s opinion, they do not then have the right to get a second medical opinion. Essentially, the injured worker is stuck with that doctor’s opinion. However, if the injured worker is represented by an attorney, the attorney can refer the worker to any qualified medical examiner. The attorney can select a doctor who will listen to all of the symptoms of the injured worker and prepare a report for the injured worker, not the company.
If the injury was caused by the negligence of someone other than the employer or a co-employee, an injured worker should consult with an attorney as soon as possible following an injury. In that case, an injured worker may have the right to bring a personal injury action in addition to a workers’ compensation claim. There are strict time guidelines in which a claim would have to be brought. Merely because a person is continuing to receive workers’ compensation benefits does not mean that the statute of limitations against the negligent party does not run. As a result, it is extremely important that an attorney be consulted in those types of cases.
If you are injured at work, you must file for Workers’ Compensation within the Statue of Limitations, which are strict time limits set by law. Although there are many exceptions, the Statute of Limitations generally is one year from the date of injury. If you delay, or fail to report a work-related injury or illness, no matter what kind or how severe, your benefits may be delayed or denied. Because changes in the law have become effective different times, there may be different time limits depending on the date of injury.
During your case, you will receive notices from your employer. You must respond to these notices before the deadline, or benefits may be severely affected. There are many exceptions to the Statues of Limitations in Workers’ Compensation. If in doubt, consult an attorney.
Since 1987, Mehlhop & Vogt has been devoted to ensuring injured workers get the best medical attention and the workers’ compensation they deserve. Getting injured while on the job can affect your life in many different ways and due to the complexities in the legal process, having a workers comp attorney in Sacramento by your side is the best thing you can do for your future. Give us a call at (916) 930-9675 if you’ve been injured while on the job. Give us a call at (916) 930-9675 to speak to a work comp lawyer in Sacramento now.
There was excellent communication. If I didn’t understand something, Adam explained it. I was informed of what to be expected as the case was moving along. Very satisfied with the service.
I am very pleased with the services provided by Mehlhop & Vogt. The firm knows what they are doing and gets stuff done! I always felt respected and cared for. Adam always answered my questions right away and with great detail.
I liked the way Mr. Mehlhop handled my case, he was very professional at all times. I feel like he did the best he could considering my wages.