By Stuart K. Tubis
Any job, particularly a physically demanding job, carries some inherent risk of injury. In California, injuries that arise out of the course of employment are handled through the workers’ compensation system, yet most people know little or nothing about it.
The workers’ compensation system is administered in part through the Department of Industrial Relations. It is intended to provide medical treatment to recover from the injury or illness, partially replace wages while recovering, and help you return to work afterward. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation benefits do not include damages for pain and suffering or punitive damages as might be included in a typical personal injury lawsuit.
For accepted workers’ compensation claims, all reasonable and necessary medical treatment will generally be provided by the employers’ insurance company. If you are unable to work due to the injury, you will generally be entitled to temporary disability payments. These benefits are calculated as a percentage of your average income — usually about two-thirds of normal salary.
Once your medical treatment has stabilized, you will be evaluated to see if you have any lasting, permanent disability. If so, you would likely be entitled to permanent disability payments. Permanent disability benefits are calculated based on the severity of the injury, age, occupation, etc. Most mild injuries yield permanent disability in the amount of $10,000 to $25,000, while more severe injuries can yield permanent disability approaching $100,000 or beyond.
If you are unable to return to the same physically demanding job as before, it is often possible to include job retraining funds to help you get established in a new field or role. Finally, depending on circumstances, workers will often receive a lifetime right to future medical treatment for the injury as part of the case settlement.
But while these cumulative benefits can be significant, the system is not designed to provide a replacement income for the workers’ remaining lifetime. Commonly workers find themselves in a difficult financial situation when they can no longer earn their former income and the financial benefits of the workers’ compensation system have been exhausted. To avoid this predicament, other accommodations must be made, such as personal savings, private insurance, or government disability programs.
It is also important for workers to be aware of the one year statute of limitations for filing a claim. In other words, if you get injured and do not report the injury or file for workers’ compensation benefits for over a year, your right to benefits could be lost forever. So it is important to take legal action quickly after the injury occurs.
Stuart K. Tubis is an attorney with Mastagni, Holstedt, Amick, Miller & Johnson. This firm has a long history of helping injured employees obtain workers’ compensation benefits. Mastagni specializes in public safety and utility workers and has a long history of working with members of IBEW Local 1245. For more information, visit the website at www.mastagni.com.