What is the California Workers’ Compensation system?

The California Workers’ Compensation system is not for the faint of heart. Originally conceived as an informal, easy-to-access system for injured workers, what exists today is very different. Whenever my friends ask me about the Workers’ Compensation system I always tell them the same thing—I sincerely hope that you do not find yourself inside the system because as an injured worker, the deck is stacked against you. That’s not to say that there’s nothing in the system for injured workers, but you need to tread carefully as you are often facing off with kind-seeming insurance adjusters helping their bottom line at your expense. With all that said, here’s a brief outline of the benefits available to an injured worker in California.

Do I get medical treatment for my work injury?

California law mandates that employers must cure or relieve injured workers from the effects of industrial injuries. What that means to you is that if you are injured at work and you report that injury to your employer, your employer must provide medical treatment to you for that injury. The kind of treatment you are entitled to and the limits upon that treatment will be discussed in a later article. But, suffice to say, just because you need a medical procedure does not mean that you will get it.

What happens if I can’t work after my injury?

If the Doctor your employer takes you to says that you are unable to physically do your normal work and takes you off work, your employer may offer you alternate or light duty. If they do not, your employer or their insurance company should pay you a temporary disability benefit. This benefit is paid while you are off work per your doctor’s recommendation. Temporary disability is calculated at 2/3s of your normal wage and is subject to other caps.

What if I have lasting effects from my injury?

If after your medical treatment, your doctor feels you have some level of permanent disability, he will assign you an impairment level which will then be converted to a permanent disability rating. The dollar amount of your permanent disability depends on your level of permanent impairment and your pre-injury earnings. The second opinion process will also be explored further in a later article. If the doctor says that you are unable to return to the same kind work due to your injury, you are also entitled to a voucher that can be used at accredited schools.

My spouse died from their injury, do I get any kind of benefit?

If the injured worker dies as a result of the work injury, his or her dependents may be entitled to a death benefit. The amount of the death benefit is determined by the number of total and partial dependents who survive the deceased injured worker. These situations can get complicated and it’s best to consult an attorney. As an injured worker traverses this maze, the workers’ compensation system presents many pitfalls. If you are confused, you’re not alone. If you have questions, you should consult a workers’ compensation attorney.

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