When you're hurt in a workplace accident, workers' compensation may not be your only recovery option. Discuss your case with a PARRIS work injury attorney today.
Workplace Injuries in California
Getting hurt on the job can be a devastating experience. Your injuries may leave you with pain and suffering, expensive medical bills, and weeks or months of lost wages—losses that can affect your life for years to come.
The vast majority of those who suffer injuries at work recover through workers’ compensation insurance, which pays out the cost of medical bills, lost wages, and, if applicable, permanent disability payments.
However, the coverage provided by workers’ compensation can be limited. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your workplace injury, you may also be able to pursue a personal injury claim that will help you restore your life more fully.
Speaking with an attorney is the only way to make sure your rights are protected—and the work injury lawyers at PARRIS Law Firm are here for you.
Our attorneys have over 37 years of experience dealing with work injury cases. Our clients are a part of our family—and we fight for our own. When you hire us, we’ll carefully prepare your case for trial, making sure you are updated at every step.
A workplace accident can change your life forever. But you do not have to walk through the recovery process alone—and having an experienced legal advocate by your side can make all the difference in the world.
Report your injuries to your employer in writing as soon as possible. In California, injured workers have 30 days to report their injury in order to remain eligible for workers’ compensation. Even if you pursue other forms of recovery for your injury, reporting the accident in a timely manner remains crucial to supporting your claim. If you are involved in a workplace accident and you don’t think you are injured, you should still file an accident report with your employer. If an injury or medical condition related to your accident appears later, you may be prevented from successfully making any type of injury claim if you failed to report the accident right away.
Seek medical care, if necessary. If the need for medical care is not urgent, ask your employer if you must visit a specific in-network medical facility to receive workers’ comp coverage.
Schedule a free case consultation with PARRIS Law Firm. The work injury attorneys at PARRIS will fully investigate your claim and inform you of your legal options.
Call PARRIS Work Injury Lawyers for a Free Case Consultation
PARRIS Law Firm is home to some of the nation’s most elite trial attorneys, committed to protecting you.
We have experience. Our partners have decades of experience fighting for victims of accidents at work, at home, and on the road.
We get results. Our clients have seen over $1.9 billion in wins since 1985.
We put clients first. Each case is assigned to a legal team that includes an investigator, case manager, client-care coordinator, legal secretary, paralegal, and attorney—each of whom gives your case the dedicated attention it deserves.
We charge no fees until we win. Our attorneys are paid on contingency, meaning we front all of the costs of your case and are only paid as a percentage of your result. If we are unsuccessful, you will owe us nothing.
Before you sign a single document, call PARRIS Law Firm to speak with a legal expert about your case.
What is California Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
When you report an accident at work, you will likely be asked to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance required by law for all employers in California. Workers’ comp, as it is often called, is designed to simplify the claims process following a workplace accident by providing nearly-guaranteed benefits to injured employees. However, these benefits are usually much less than what would be collected in a personal injury lawsuit.
Thus, the workers’ comp system is a compromise between employers and employees.
What Benefits Can I Get Through Workers’ Comp?
California workers’ compensation generally offers the following benefits to injured employees:
Coverage for medical bills. Under California law, this may include treatment from doctors, hospitals, surgeons, dentists, or other licensed medical providers.
Temporary disability payments, equivalent to two-thirds of your usual wages, during your recovery period.
Permanent disability benefits in cases where your injury changes your capacity to work and earn wages.
A voucher for training courses in case your injuries force you to pursue another line of work.
Death benefits for the family member of an employee killed on the job.
When Can I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Workers’ comp covers injuries that arise while the employee “is acting within the course of his or her employment.” In other words, you must be on the job, completing duties related to your job, when the injury occurs.
Injured workers can file claims for both physical and mental injuries arising from work. However, workers’ compensation does not cover:
Injuries arising from the use of alcohol or drugs
Injuries incurred by an employee who started a fight
Injuries incurred while the employee was committing a felony
Assuming your injury qualifies for coverage, it is imperative that you report your injury to your employer (preferably in writing) within 30 days of discovering the injury. Provided you meet this deadline, you then have one year to file a workers’ comp claim.
Pros of California Workers’ Comp
Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance, meaning that you will not be required to show your employer was negligent or at fault to receive benefits. As long as your injury wasn’t self-inflicted, you can even recover benefits if the injury was your fault.
Is Workers’ Compensation the Best Way to Recover?
Despite its pros, the workers’ comp system has several drawbacks for the individual worker. Workers’ comp benefits, though nearly guaranteed, may not provide the compensation you need to restore your life.
First of all, workers’ compensation may not sufficiently cover the cost of lost wages. Your temporary disability compensation is meant to be two-thirds your usual earnings. If your workplace injury renders you unable to work for months, this amount may not be enough to make ends meet.
Secondly, workers’ compensation does not allow claimants to recover pain and suffering damages. This can make it more difficult for workplace accident victims to return to normalcy.
For example, say a workplace injury causes a victim to lose his leg. Workers’ compensation will compensate for his medical bills, some of his lost wages, and some of his lost earning capacity. However, none of that can compensate for the physical, mental, and emotional suffering he may endure while he relearns how to complete basic tasks with his new disability.
Lastly, workers’ compensation prevents injured employees from seeking punitive damages intended to punish the employer. Punitive damages are designed to make sure incidents like those that gave rise to the injury claim do not happen again.
When a worker suffers life-changing injuries at the hands of an employer’s negligence, filing a workers’ comp claim may not seem like sufficient justice for the victim.
Workplace Injury Lawsuits
Thankfully, workers’ compensation may not be the only option for injured workers. You may have both a workers’ comp claim and a personal injury claim following a workplace injury.
Why Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit is Better Than Workers’ Comp
Workers’ compensation is designed to streamline the claims process following a work injury. It guarantees benefits for workers and protects employers from being sued (most of the time).
However, the benefits you receive through workers’ comp may not be enough to restore your life to what it was before your accident.
Work injury lawsuits are much different from workers’ comp claims. For one, benefits aren’t guaranteed, and your legal team will have to be able to prove that the person or business responsible for your injuries did something wrong.
Despite this hurdle, the damages available to plaintiffs in a personal injury lawsuit are much more significant than those awarded in a workers’ comp claim.
A personal injury lawsuit is designed to make the plaintiff “whole” again. When a person is injured in an accident that wasn’t their fault, they can recover the following damages through a personal injury lawsuit:
Medical bills, including the cost of future care,
Total lost wages,
Future lost wages, if applicable,
Pain and suffering damages,
Loss of companionship damages (for family members of the injured),
Punitive damages, and more.
At PARRIS, we fight for the maximum compensation available to injured clients in order to restore their lives. Filing a personal injury lawsuit after a workplace injury may be the best way to do just that.
Can I get workers’ compensation benefits AND file a personal injury lawsuit?
California law generally tries to prevent workers covered by workers’ compensation from filing a personal injury lawsuit in the Court system against their employers. The Workers’ Compensation Act lists workers’ compensation as the “exclusive remedy” (i.e. the only option) for workers injured within the course and scope of their employment.
However, important exceptions in the law allow injured workers to pursue legal action against their employer.
If you are injured at work in an accident caused by someone else, you may be able to pursue a workers’ comp claim from your employer and a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused your accident.
Examples of this scenario include:
A policeman is hurt in a car accident while on duty. The officer is free to collect workers’ compensation from his employer while pursuing legal action against the negligent driver that caused the accident.
A painter slips and falls on the property of the house he was hired to paint. Provided he is employed at a painting company, the painter can pursue a workers’ compensation claim with his employer and sue the property owners on the theory of premises liability.
A retail worker is attacked by a customer while performing closing duties in front of the store. In this case, she could collect workers’ comp from the store where she was employed and file a personal injury lawsuit against the customer who assaulted her.
Exceptions to Workers’ Comp
California law also lists explicit exceptions to the “exclusive remedy” rule for workers’ compensation.
1. If you are injured after an employer willfully assaults you, you may be able to sue your employer in court. This rule also applies when a coworker assaults a victim with the employer’s ratification, whether explicit or implied.
2. If an employer fraudulently conceals your work injury, you may file a personal injury claim against their employer. To prove fraudulent concealment, the victim must show that:
The employer concealed the injury.
The employer concealed the connection between the injury and your workplace.
The employer’s concealment aggravated your injury.
The fraudulent concealment exception to workers’ comp only applies when the employer knew that injury may be taking place yet failed to notify you. For example, if you worked in a factory that exposed you to asbestos and your employer failed to notify you, you may be able to sue them in court.
3. If an employer negligently causes your injury by failing in a capacity outside the employer-employee relationship, they may be liable in court for your injury. This “dual capacity” exception usually shows up in one of two ways:
The employer manufactures a defective product sold and used by a third party. If the defective product is the proximate cause of your injuries, then you may sue your employer.
The employer fails in their duty to you as a service provider, insurer, property owner, or other “capacity” and causes you to get hurt.
Here is an example of the dual capacity doctrine: a chiropractic nurse is injured while performing her job duties. She goes to her boss, a chiropractor, for an adjustment as part of her workers’ comp benefits. The adjustment aggravates her existing work injury. The court allowed the nurse to sue the chiropractor for malpractice because he failed in his capacity as a medical provider, not as an employer. (This example was taken from the original dual capacity case in California, Duprey v. Shane (1952) 39 Cal.2d 781.)
4. If a manufacturing worker is injured by a power press that is not equipped with the manufacturer-required handguards, they have legal recourse against their employer. (California Labor Code § 4558)
5. If the employer fails to secure workers’ compensation insurance, then the injured employee is free to sue and recover the cost of their damages from their workplace injury.
PARRIS Law Firm Will Fight Fearlessly For You
Knowing what action to take following a workplace injury can be a confusing, overwhelming task. Before you sign a single document, call PARRIS Law Firm for a free case review. Our legal team will determine if you have a workers’ compensation claim, a personal injury claim, or both.
But even if you have already signed your workers’ comp agreement, you have the right to speak to an attorney at PARRIS Law Firm about your options. Our attorneys regularly handle work injury cases that become personal injury cases—and because our clients called our firm, they were able to make a fuller, better recovery.
PARRIS Law Firm always offers FREE work injury case consultations and accepts all work injury cases on a contingency basis, which means that you pay no fees until we win your case.