Workers' compensation: Claims process not always simple

California business owners must carry insurance to cover on-the-job injuries of employees. Even those who have a single employee must have workers' compensation insurance or private insurance for that purpose. While the medical expenses and lost wages of any work-related injury are compensable, there are circumstances under which injured workers may have questions about alternative options for recovery of damages.

Typical workers' compensation benefits cover doctors' bills, hospital fees, physiotherapy, medication and other medical expenses along with a portion of lost wages. However, it provides no compensation for emotional damages such as pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment and other psychological issues. The only way in which additional compensation can be pursued is by filing a separate civil personal injury lawsuit against the employer.

Because the workers' compensation program is a no-fault system, and workers can claim benefits even if they were at fault, they may not sue their employers. However, exceptions exist. If a worker can prove that his or her employer's gross negligence was responsible for the injury, there might be grounds for a civil lawsuit in addition to a workers' compensation benefits claim.

Other circumstances that might arise include an injured worker who discovers that his or her employer does not have the necessary insurance coverage in place. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can assess the circumstances of an injured worker and explain the available options under California laws. He or she can then provide the necessary support and guidance to seek maximum compensation. A lawyer can also explain the circumstances under which workers may be advised to pursue Social Security Disability benefits.

Source: FindLaw, "Injured at Work? 3 Potential Options for Recovery," Jenny Tsay, accessed on Jan. 19, 2018

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