Areas of Practice
A specific injury occurs as a result of one incident or expsoure which causes disability or need for medical treatment. The most common types of workplace accidents are from falling, lifting, pushing, being struck by or against an object, slipping or tripping, assaults, and motor vehicle accidents. Specific injuries can cause disability to any part of body and body system including your spine, shoulder, lower and upper extremities, head, hearing, vision, urinary system, pulmonary system, and neurological system. It’s important to file a claim form (DWC-1) with your employer immediately after you have suffered a specific work injury to obtain immediate medical attention at your employer’s expense and to preserve your rights to workers’ compensation benefits.
catastrophic and fatal injuries
A catastrophic injury can leave you highly disabled or permanently totally disabled. Progressive occupational diseases, such as asbestosis and hepatitis C, can often lead to a catastrophic disabling injury. A catastrophic injury which rates at 70% permanent disability or above, but less than 100%, entitles that injured worker to life pension payments in addition to their permanent disability benefits. A total disability, which is considered 100% permanent disability, does not mean that the employee cannot work, but rather represents a level of disability which one would not normally be expected to successfully compete against other workers in the labor market. A finding of permanent total disability entitles that worker to lifetime medical care and payments equal to 2/3 of their average weekly earning at the time of injury for the remainder of their life.
A fatal injury entitles the decedent’s wholly or partial dependent(s) to benefits and burial expenses. Death cases are complicated and usually require an experienced attorney to navigate.
SERIOUS & WILLFUL MISCONDUCT BY EMPLOYER
A petition for serious and willful misconduct under California Labor Code section 4553 can be filed if there has been a deliberate act, or a failure to act, by the employer (or employer’s managing representative) with knowledge that serious injury will likely occur from the act or from the failure to act. The employer must either be aware of the dangerous condition or knew of the possible consequences of his/her failure to act. Serious and willful misconduct is something much more than simple negligence. It involves conduct that is quasi criminal in nature. If successful in your claim, your workers’ compensation compensation will be increased by one-half and is paid directly by the employer, not the insurance company. You have one year from the date of the act to file a petition for these damages against your employer.
repetitive motion or exposure injuries
An injury which develops over time, occuring as repetitive mental or physical traumatic activities or a result of an exposure extending over a period of time to a disease-producing hazardous substance, is called a cumulative trauma injury. The combined effect of the activities or exposure causes disability and/or a need for medical treatment. A cumulative trauma injury can also consist of multiple specific injuries. Workers who spend the day using the computer, telephone, assembling, work around toxins, or workers in the construction trades, agricultural workers, warehouse workers, or truck drivers are some of the workers who often suffer from cumulative trauma injuries. If you believe your work has contributed to a cumulative injury, immediately file a claim form with your employer.
Police & firefighters
Public safety employees and certain public employees are entitled to full salary in lieu of temporary disability benefits for their period of disability, but not exceeding one year. Furthermore, various law enforcement officers and fire fighters whose develop heart trouble, hernia, pneumonia, and cancer are covered by a preumption that these injuries are industrial, subject to rebuttal. It’s important that our safety officers and fire fighters are provided the benefits they deserve for performing duties which keep the public safe.
INJURY CLAIMS AGAINST UNINSURED EMPLOYERS
If an employer does not possess workers’ compensation insurance, an injured employee is still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits as well as the right to pursue a separate lawsuit against their employer in civil court. Claims are paid from the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund (UEBTF) when illegally uninsured employers fail to pay workers' compensation benefits awarded to their injured employees by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. Certain steps must be taken before and after the issuance of an award in order to receive benefits from the UEBTF. If you were injured on the job and think your employer was illegally uninsured, you may apply to the UEBTF for any benefits to which you might be entitled. Filing a workers' compensation claim with the UEBTF is a complicated process. Contact Randmaa and Buie for information and assistance.
A psychological injury can occur from a sudden event or develop over time from a stressful work environment. An employee must have been employed at least 6 months to claim a psychiatric work injury unless the injury developed from a sudden and extraordinary employment condition. The psychiatric injury must have developed from actual events of employment, these events were the predominant (51%) cause of the psychiatric injury, and the events were either in bad faith, unlawful, or discriminatory. If you were a victim of direct exposure to a violent act as an employee, you only need demonstrate that the actual events of employment were a substantial (35-40%) cause of the psychiatric injury. For dates of injury on or after January 1, 2013, one cannot receive compensation for a disability from a psychiatric injury which arose from a physical work injury (i.e. pain, loss of employment, money concerns, litigation stress). However, you still can receive medical treatment for the psychiatric injury.
DISCRIMINATION (LABOR CODE 132(a))
California Labor Code section132a establishes a policy that employers should not discriminate against workers who are injured in the workplace. The labor code provides for damages for any employee who suffers from a detrimental discriminatory act by their employer in retaliation for that employee filing (or intending to file) a workers' compensation claim. Damages include an increase by one-half, but not exceeding $10,000, of the employee’s workers compensation benefits as well as reinstatement of their employment and reimbursement for lost wages and benefits caused by the employer’s discriminatory act. An injured worker has up to one year from the date of the discriminatory act to file a claim under Labor Code section 132(a).
SUBSEQUENT INJURIES BENEFITS TRUST FUND
The Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF) is a source of additional compensation to injured workers who already had a disability or impairment at the time of injury. For benefits to be paid from the SIBTF, the combined effect of the injury and the previous disability or impairment must result in a permanent disability of at least 70 percent. Also, the previous disability must have effected a hand, arm, foot, leg, or eye and the new disability is 5% or more in the opposite member from the previous disability OR the new injury causes 35% permanent disability or more. SIBTF benefit checks are issued to injured workers by the SIBTF Claims Unit after benefits are awarded by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. An Application for subsequent injuries fund benefits is the required application for SIBTF benefits. The assistance of an experienced attorney in SIBTF matters is recommended. Contact Randmaa & Buie for more information.