One moment you’re going about your Bakersfield workday and the next you’re being rushed to the nearest hospital. Not only are you unsure of the extent of your injuries, but you’re also worried about how you’ll provide for your family.
Fortunately, the workers’ compensation system is there to help you when you’re injured on the job. It was created to help injured workers pay their medical bills, provide disability payments and aid in their recovery. Yet when you look into filing a workers comp claim, the process can seem overwhelming and confusing. Even worse, despite of the seriousness of your injuries, your employer’s insurance company may try to pay you less or deny your claim outright.
Don’t handle your Bakersfield workers’ comp claim on your own. Instead, call The Dominguez Firm at 800-818-1818 for a FREE and confidential consultation. We can travel to your home or hospital at a moment’s notice. What follows is more information on workers’ comp and how The Dominguez Firm can help you and your family.
Are Any Employers Exempt From Having Workers Comp Insurance in California?
Here in Bakersfield CA and all of California, almost all employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance. This is true even if they only have one employee, use seasonal workers or just employ part-time workers. There are a few exceptions to this:
- Volunteers at non-profit organizations
- Business owners or sole proprietors (except for roofers)
- Independent contractors*
There’s an asterisk next to the last exception on this list because the definition of who is an independent contractor in the Golden State is constantly being challenged. If you were injured while working as an independent contractor and aren’t sure if you can collect workers comp, call The Dominguez Firm right away to see if we can help.
What Are Some of the Most Common Bakersfield Workplace Accidents?
Construction and transportation accidents are two of the leading causes of workplace accidents in the U.S. and Bakersfield CA.
- Vehicle accidents – Truck and delivery drivers come to mind when it comes to traffic accidents, but construction workers can be injured by forklifts, cement trucks, bulldozers and other construction vehicles.
- Workplace violence – You may be surprised to learn that violence is one of the leading causes of workplace injuries. Employees who deal with money or valuable items, overnight shifts or in high crime areas are more at risk for workplace violence. It can even be a physical attack by another employee. Note that even if your attacker is acquitted in criminal court, you can still sue them in civil court for your injuries.
- Electrocutions – Workers who deal with wires and high voltage machinery can suffer electrocutions and major burns.
- Slip and fall accidents – These accidents are no laughing matter and can cause major head injuries and even death, especially if the victim falls from a higher elevation.
- Machinery accidents – These can be caused by defective machinery or equipment that hasn’t been maintained properly. Workers can be left blind or suffer burn and crush injuries.
- Fires – Employees who are near flammable and volatile elements are at greater risk of being burned. This is often due to a failure to follow safety protocols. It can also be caused by an equipment malfunction.
- Falling or swinging objects – Either can cause serious injuries or fatalities. Heavy machinery is obviously dangerous to anyone around it, but so is a hammer that falls out of someone’s pocket on the tenth floor of a building under construction.
- Repetitive stress injuries – RSIs can take months or even years to develop. As the name suggests, they’re caused by repeated stress to a specific part of the body over time. The best known example is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in office workers, although workers in other industries can also develop it. Another common RSI is a torn rotator cuff. Workers who are required to lift heavy objects on the job are susceptible to this type of injury.
- Prolonged exposure to toxins – More on this category directly below.
Note that workers’ comp doesn’t cover workplace injuries exclusively. It also applies to worker illnesses such as individuals who became ill after being exposed to workplace toxins for any length of time. This can happen in just about any sector, not just the obvious ones like construction and mining. For example, there are well-documented cases of hair and nail salon workers suffering serious health problems because of the chemical products they handle on a daily basis.
I May Have Been Partially to Blame for My Bakersfield Workplace Injury, Can The Dominguez Firm Still Help Me?
In most cases, yes. Unlike personal injury claims where negligence must be proven, workers’ compensation in California is a no-fault system. This means the worker doesn’t need to prove their employer acted negligently. They only need to prove the illness or injury happened while going about their work duties.
If you did share some blame for your workplace injury, it would depend on the circumstances. Say you fell off a ladder because you were in a hurry, you could still file for workers’ comp. However, if you fell off that same ladder because you were joking around with a co-worker, it would be difficult to file a successful claim even though you were on the job.
Whatever the circumstances, if you were seriously injured on the job, call The Dominguez Firm for a free consultation to see if we can help you.
Can You Explain the Different Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Paid medical care
Once your claim is approved, you’ll have the right to paid medical care to help cure or stabilize your injury as prescribed by a doctor.
Examples of covered medical care:
- Doctor visits
- Medical tests and treatments
- Hospital fees
- Medical equipment
Temporary medical benefits
You would also be entitled to temporary medical benefits. There are two kinds of temporary medical benefits, depending on the extent of your injuries.
If you are completely unable to work, you would be entitled to temporary total disability. In most cases, this would be 2/3 of the pre-tax earnings you were paid before you were injured. These benefits aren’t subject to federal, state or local taxes.
If you can work, but not in the same capacity as before your work injury, you also receive 2/3, but not of your overall salary. It would be 2/3 of the wages you aren’t currently earning. So if you used to make $700 a week, but now earn $500 a week due to your injury, you would get 2/3 of the difference or $700-$500 = $200, 2/3 of $200 = $133.33. So you would receive $633.33 per week.
These benefits are paid every two weeks. Generally, they can extend to 104 weeks in a five-year period from the date of the injury. They end when you’re able to return to work or if a doctor states you’ve reached the maximum point of recovery and your injury can’t improve past that point.
Your benefits won’t end abruptly. A claims administrator must explain why your payments will end within 2 weeks of your final payment.
Permanent medical benefits
If your injuries are serious and permanent, you could be entitled to permanent disability benefits. There are two types of permanent disability benefits:
- Permanent partial disability – These workers have permanent injuries, but they can still perform job functions in some capacity.
- Permanent total disability – These workers are completely disabled, can’t return to their previous jobs and can’t do any other type of work either.
Benefits for either type of permanent disability are paid when a doctor confirms you are permanently disabled. Your payments are determined by your disability rating and what your earnings were before your accident. This is calculated by the Division of Workers’ Compensation Disability Evaluation Unit. Your payments begin 2 weeks after your temporary disability ends.
Having an experienced Bakersfield workers’ comp lawyer by your side will help ensure you receive the maximum compensation you’re entitled to for your injuries, whether they are temporary or permanent.
Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits
An employee who is on permanent partial disability can apply for supplemental job displacement benefits. These benefits entitle them to retraining resources such as books, tools, tuition, and certification and exam fees. 10% of supplemental job displacement benefits can also be used to consult with a vocational counselor.
A claims administrator has up to 25 days to send you a voucher once a judge awards you permanent disability benefits.
If you lost a loved one because of a Bakersfield workplace accident or illness, you may be entitled to workers’ comp death benefits for your loss. You need to be either a total or partial dependent of the deceased. The following are automatically considered total dependents:
- Any children under the age 18
- Physically or mentally disabled adult children
- A spouse who earned less than $30,000 in the previous 12 months
Generally, any family or household member who didn’t completely rely on the deceased for support is considered a partial dependent. An example would be a child over 18 who was still supported by the deceased because they were in college.
Non-relative household members of the deceased can also be considered dependents. For instance, if the deceased was living with their boyfriend or girlfriend, that person could be considered a dependent if they received any financial support from the deceased.
Qualifying dependents would be entitled to:
- Burial Expenses – Workers’ compensation pays for burial expenses up to $10,000.
- Death benefits – The total amount will depend on the number of dependents.
- 1 dependent – $250,000
- 2 dependents – $290,000
- 3 or more dependents – $320,000
Minor children of the deceased will continue to receive death benefits until they reach the age of 18.25, even if the death benefit amount has been exhausted. The payment is equivalent to what their parent would have earned in temporary disability payments had they lived.
What Steps Should I Take If I’m Injured While Working?
If you are injured at work, take the following steps, in order:
- Seek immediate medical treatment.
- Report your injury to your employer right away.
- File a DWC-1 form as soon as possible.
- Save all email, text and letter correspondence between yourself and your employer regarding your injury or illness.
- Contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation lawyers at The Dominguez Firm as soon as possible.
Your health should always be your first priority but try and follow these steps as quickly as you can.
How Long Do I Have to Report a Work Injury?
You have 30 days to report your work injury to your employer. Having said that, don’t wait 30 days to do so. The longer you delay starting the process, the longer it will take for you to receive any benefits. Even worse, the insurance company’s attorneys may question your timeline and whether your injuries happened on the job or somewhere else.
If your injury or illness developed over time, the time limits are a little different. This is known as cumulative trauma. An example would be welders who became ill after being exposed to welding fumes over time.
In cases involving cumulative trauma, the statute of limitations (time limit) for filing a claim starts when the employee becomes aware of the injury or illness and knows or should have been aware it was caused by their job. Work injury cumulative trauma cases can be complex and hard-fought. You should enlist the help of a workers’ comp attorney to assist you with this type of claim.
Is There a Waiting Period for Workers Compensation in California? What do I do About Medical Bills During that Time?
You’ll likely be faced with medical bills while you wait for a decision on your workers’ comp claim. The good news is your employer is required to free up to $10,000 for medical treatments within one workday of receiving your workers’ compensation claim.
Your employer must pay up to $10,000 whether your claim is denied or not. If it’s approved, your medical expenses will continue to be covered.
What Injuries Can’t be Reported to Workers’ Comp?
First, all injuries must be work-related. For example, falling and hurting yourself while running an errand during your lunch break wouldn’t qualify since you weren’t on the clock. Employees who injure themselves while violating company policy generally can’t file a workers’ comp claim either. Examples of injuries that don’t qualify for workers comp include:
- Injuring yourself while being drunk or high on the job.
- Getting into a physical altercation with someone at work.
- Injuring yourself while committing a felony.
How Long Can I Be On Workers Comp?
Most workers’ comp benefits in Bakersfield and California last for 2 years or 104 weeks. You don’t have to use the 2 years consecutively, but you do have a 5-year limit. More serious injuries allow for benefits to be paid out over 240 weeks or about 4 years and 6 months.
I’m an Undocumented Immigrant Who Was Injured While Working. Can I File for Workers’ Comp?
Yes, all workers, including those hired illegally, are considered employees in California. This is true even if you used false documents to obtain your job. Therefore, you are entitled to workers’ comp benefits. But there are some limitations regarding the benefits undocumented immigrants can claim.
As an undocumented worker, you can’t receive temporary disability if light or modified duty is available. And if permanent work is available, you can’t claim supplemental job displacement benefits. You may not be eligible for most retraining programs either.
My Employer Fired Me for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim. Can The Dominguez Firm Help Me?
Yes because that would be a classic example of employer retaliation, which is illegal in California. You would have two claims, one for worker’s comp and another for retaliation.
Fortunately, The Dominguez Firm can handle both types of cases. We have attorneys who work exclusively on employment law cases, such as retaliation and another department of attorneys that handles workers’ compensation claims. Having one law firm for both claims makes the legal process much more efficient and effective for you, our client.
I Was Injured in a Car Accident While Making a Delivery for My Company. Can I Still File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Yes. Even if your injury was caused by someone outside of your company, you can still file a workers’ compensation claim if it happened while you were on the job. You would also have two claims, one for workers comp and another for personal injury against the third party that caused your accident injury. This is known as a crossover case and The Dominguez Firm can help you with both your workers’ comp claim and personal injury claim.
Common causes of third-party work accidents:
- Traffic accidents involving a third-party vehicle.
- Being injured by a defective product while on the job.
- Being injured on a job site with multiple employers and subcontractors. This is particularly common on construction worksites.
- Being injured due to an unsafe condition on a third party’s property.
Generally, being injured during your commute doesn’t qualify for workers’ compensation because you’re not on the clock. This is known as the “going and coming rule”. However, not every situation is clear-cut. There are exceptions, such as when an employee is on a business trip. If you’re not sure, your best option is always to call The Dominguez Firm to see if we can help.
Let the Bakersfield Workers Comp Attorneys at The Dominguez Firm Help You
You can handle your Bakersfield workers’ comp case on your own, but why would you? No matter how serious your injuries, the insurance companies are not looking to pay out high settlement amounts. Plus, the paperwork involved can be extremely confusing. And if you file something incorrectly or miss a deadline, it can jeopardize your entire case.
We are a real law firm with real, award-winning workers’ compensation lawyers. For over 30 years, we’ve been helping injured workers throughout Southern California fight for every penny of the workers’ comp benefits they’re entitled to. Don’t try to navigate the workers’ comp system by yourself. You could be leaving much-needed money on the table by doing so.
Having a Dominguez Firm attorney by your side can give you a great advantage. Our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers will handle all of your paperwork and present the strongest case possible on your behalf so you can concentrate on your recovery. Don’t let the insurance company lawyers intimidate you into accepting a low amount for your injuries, hire The Dominguez Firm instead.
How Do I Pay You?
The Dominguez Firm works on a contingency basis. That means we receive a percentage of any settlement, award or death benefit we obtain for you. We receive that percentage at the end of your Bakersfield workers’ comp case. You don’t have to worry about any out-of-pocket expenses such as hidden fees or legal retainers to worry about. And in the unlikely event, we can’t obtain any compensation for you, you owe us nothing. In other words, if there’s no recovery, there is no fee!
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident or became ill due to your job, call the Bakersfield workers’ comp lawyers at The Dominguez Firm today for a FREE consultation at 800-818-1818. We can travel to your home or hospital at a moment’s notice.