There are many misconceptions as to how California Worker’s Compensation works. We will try to dispel some of those myths.
- Workers compensation just covers my medical bills. Right? Workers compensation not only provides payment for medical expenses, but also provides payment of a percentage of the injured worker’s pre-injury salary while you are rehabilitating, physical therapy, and possible assistance with training on a different occupation if you are unable to return to your prior employment.
- Worker’s compensation will only cover a specific injury, like a broken arm. Wrong, worker’s compensation also covers illnesses (including death) that result from a work related accident. In addition, if you have a pre-existing injury that is aggravated by a work related accident, that, too, can be covered by worker’s compensation.
- I can only claim worker’s compensation if the injury was my employer’s fault. Wrong. An employer must pay compensation to workers who were injured on the job, regardless of who was at fault. It might have been the employer, it might have been another worker at that company, a worker from another company, or even the injured worker himself.
- I fell out of the basket trimming trees around power lines, but shrugged it off and went back to work so I’m probably OK. Wrong. You should immediately report any injury you encounter on the job. If you shrug off the incident and two weeks later you find that you are now more seriously injured, the insurance company might say “how bad can it be, you’ve been walking around with it for two weeks?”. Report all accidents immediately whether or not you think you are injured.
- If I report an injury I might be fired. Wrong. If everyone who was injured got fired for filing a claim, there would be no one left to do the work. Employers pay for Workers’ Compensation coverage as a cost of doing business. They expect claims to be filed. They will do what they can to minimize their expense in the claim, but they do not fire people who injure themselves on the job.
- If I settle my claim and later find that I need surgery will it be covered? If you settle your claim with a stipulated settlement open for future medicals. The applicant’s attorney in addition to your permanent disability that has been calculated will also ask for the future medical treatment that your doctors are estimating that you will need.
- If I’m injured on the job I have to see the insurance company’s doctor, right? Wrong, if you and your doctor sign a pre-designation form available from the Department of Worker’s Compensation (available here) you can predesignate your personal physician as the one who will treat you if injured. However, he must sign the agreement and be willing to accept worker’s compensation insurance and you must give the signed document to your employer before you are injured on the job.
Dan Jakle is the manager of the worker’s compensation operations department of the Mastagni Holstedt law firm. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.