Alternatives to Workers Compensation
When a worker is injured on the job, many obstacles can interfere with recovering and getting back to work. The workers’ compensation system in California can help some employees by guaranteeing to pay their medical benefits and a portion of lost wages. While this can do a lot to benefit some California workers, there are many cases in which workers’ compensation benefits are not enough to get injured people back on their feet.
At Corsiglia McMahon and Allard, L.L.P. , our workers’ injury attorneys often get questions about injuries in the workplace and possible ways to recover damages. Below is a sampling of some of the questions we commonly hear:
- When is it possible to go “beyond workers’ compensation” to recover a larger award?
- What is “serious and willful misconduct” and why does it matter?
- What if another person or company caused my injuries?
- What if I am an independent contractor instead of an employee?
- How do I know if I am an independent contractor?
- My employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance. What are my options?
Generally, when an employee gets hurt on the job, he or she can file a claim for workers’ compensation insurance. Because this is the employee’s “exclusive remedy,” he or she cannot sue the employer for causing pain, suffering or emotional distress. Workers’ compensation also only reimburses employees for a portion of their lost wages.
In many situations, however, injured workers have other options, including when:
- An employer’s “serious and willful misconduct” caused the worker’s injury;
- Another person or company is responsible for the worker’s injury;
- The worker is an independent contractor instead of an employee; and
- The employer broke the law by not carrying workers’ compensation insurance.
Other scenarios can also affect whether workers’ comp applies. Injured California workers should consult a workplace injury lawyer for more information.
What is “Serious and Willful Misconduct” and Why Does it Matter?
An employer commits serious and willful misconduct when it intentionally does something and knows that its act will likely cause a serious injury. A decision not to do something or a “failure to act” can also count as misconduct.
When an employer deliberately does something dangerous with the knowledge that it could hurt an employee, injured workers are entitled to extra compensation. In fact, a damages award can increase by 50 percent in these instances.
If you believe you were injured due to serious and willful misconduct by your employer, schedule a free consultation with our San Jose law office today.
What if Another Person or Company Caused My Injuries?
Workers’ compensation claims apply only to a worker’s employer or co-employees. In the modern workplace, however, employees often work side by side with another company’s staff. If someone other than the worker’s employer is responsible for an injury, the worker can sue that third-party person or company with a civil claim for personal injuries.
These cases often involve motor vehicle accidents that happen while an employee is driving as part of his or her job. Construction sites also frequently involve mistakes by workers that seriously injure another company’s employees. Accidents that take place in leased buildings may also result in third-party claims against landlords or property management companies. In other cases, defective products cause on-the-job injuries, creating a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
What if I am an Independent Contractor Instead of an Employee?
Only a company’s employees are entitled to workers’ comp. This means that independent contractors cannot rely on those benefits, but they can still pursue personal injury claims.
How do I Know if I am an Independent Contractor?
This can be a complicated question. The law does not necessarily allow a company to just decide that a worker is an independent contractor. Instead, courts and agencies look at a number of things, including whether:
- The company controls the details of the worker’s job;
- The company provides equipment and building materials;
- The company has the right to fire the worker; and
- The company can decide what days and hours the worker will be on the job.
These are only a few of the things that matter in answer to this question-just because an employer says something does not mean it is actually true. Contact an experienced on-the-job injury lawyer for more information.
My Employer Does not Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance. What are my Options?
Although California requires all employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, sometimes companies break this law.
If an employer does not have workers’ comp insurance, a statewide fund often helps with the employee’s medical costs. A workplace injury attorney can help workers apply for these benefits.
However, because the uninsured employer did not do its part to help get the employee back on his or her feet, the employee can also then bring a civil claim. The employer is still responsible for paying all of the bills involved in the employee’s injury or condition.
Many things can affect the journey back to work after a serious on-the-job injury. California workers should consult with an experienced workplace injury attorney to learn more about their rights and options. For a free consultation with the worker injury lawyers at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P., call (408) 289-1417.