Workers’ compensation is a system of benefits mandated by state law. It provides benefits to employees who are injured on the job.
Additionally, if an employee dies as a result of a work-related accident or illness, the employee’s dependents are entitled to receive death benefits. Under California’s labor code, workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system.
When an employee is injured in the workplace, instead of filing a personal injury lawsuit against the employer, the injured employee is entitled to receive compensation through the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. In general, it does not matter if it was the employer’s fault or the employee’s fault.
In either case the injured employee would be entitled to benefits. However, in exchange for this no-fault arrangement, the amount of compensation that the employee would be entitled to receive is typically significantly less than the employee might be entitled to receive through a personal injury lawsuit.
Benefits include medical benefits, temporary disability, permanent disability, supplemental job displacement benefits and death benefits.
Medical treatment and expenses
You are entitled to have your medical treatment for your illness or injury paid for by your employer. This includes medical treatment for up to 90 days after you file your claim and are awaiting a decision on it, up to specified maximum benefit. You are also entitled to reimbursement for the cost of going to and from medical appointments.
Temporary disability benefit
Workers’ compensation provides cash benefits while you are unable to work. The amount of temporary benefits you are entitled to receive is based on your salary or wages. It is equal to 2/3 of your average weekly wage up to a specified maximum. For 2014 the maximum benefit is approximately $1100 per week.
Permanent disability benefit
If your injury or illness is so severe that you will not be able to work well into the future, you may qualify for workers’ compensation permanent disability benefits. The dollar amount of the benefit is based on several factors such as your previous occupation, your age, your injury, and your work restrictions.
Based on this information, a determination will be made as to your level of disability, and the amount of cash benefit to which you are entitled. If you are 70% to 100% disabled, you may also be entitled to a lifetime pension.
Supplemental job displacement benefit
If your injury is such that you are unable to return to your previous occupation and if your employer does not offer you modified or alternative work, you can receive a voucher that is redeemable for education-related retraining and skill enhancement at state schools.
If you were a dependent of an employee who died as a result of a work injury, you may be entitled to recover death benefits, including burial expenses and a fixed lump sum of money. A dependent is defined as a surviving spouse and minor children. If the employee had no spouse or children, surviving parents are considered dependents.
While workers’ compensation benefits are designed to be guaranteed if the injury was work-related, the claim process is far from simple.
In many cases the injured employee must go through an appeals process before benefits awarded, or the employee may have to negotiate with the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier before receiving benefits.