If you have been injured at work, there are a few things that make matters more complicated. California started the Division of Workers’ Compensation to monitor the administration of workers’ compensation claims, and provide administrative and judicial services to assist in resolving disputes that arise in connection with claims for workers’ compensation benefits.
Worker’s Compensation Benefits?
Theoretically, workers’ comp benefits provide workers with medical treatment required to recover from their work-related injury or illness, partially replace lost wages while the worker is recovering, and help workers return to work. So, if you were injured at work, here’s what you will want to do:
- Report the injury or illness to your employer. Notify your supervisor as soon as possible.
- Get emergency treatment if necessary. If it’s an emergency, call 911, or go to the emergency room right away. Tell the medical staff it was job related.
- File a claim. Once you file a claim, your employer is required to provide you with medical care.
In a perfect world, your legal issues would end there. But, this is not a perfect world.
What problems arise because of filing workers’ compensation claims?
One of the main problems with filing workers’ compensation claims is that you might need a workers’ compensation lawyer. Workers’ compensation lawyers are trying to help employees maximize the value of their workers’ compensation claims. Often times workers’ compensation lawyers will suggest you go to a lawyer who will say that you are TTD, or temporarily, totally disabled.
The problem is you are probably not temporarily, totally disabled. In fact, there is a good chance that you would be able to perform the essential functions of your job if you were provided with reasonable accommodations. So, it can look like you are lying to maximize your workers’ compensation benefits. It can also make it more difficult to recover later if you are alleging disability discrimination, and failure to accommodate, or failure to engage in a timely, good faith interactive process. You see, if you are injured at work, you probably developed some sort of disability under California law.
Under California law, a disability is anything that interferes with a major life activity, and since working is a major life activity a physical or mental disability that interferes with your ability to work is a disability. If you have a disability, your employer must engage you in a timely, good faith interactive process to determine what essential functions would allow you to perform the essential functions of your job. In other words, they have to work with you to figure out what kind of help you need to get back to your old job. But, if you are TTD, then you are saying you cannot perform the essential functions of your job, or any other job, without reasonable accommodation.
The other problem that arises when you file a workers’ compensation claim is that employers typically hire workers’ compensation insurance administrators to handle the workers’ compensation claims for them. But, these workers’ compensation insurance administrators can engage in some seriously underhanded tactics.
Real Life Story of Local Injured At Work
Take for example, the case of Mr. Braulio Ruvalcaba. Mr. Ruvalcaba worked for Santa Cruz City School Districts as a night custodian. He got hurt on the job, he filed a workers’ comp claim, and Keenan & Associates (“Keenan”), workers’ compensation insurance administrator for Santa Cruz City Schools District (the “District”) took over from there. Keenan withheld multiple medical reports from the District, including Return to Work Reports from two different Qualified Medical Exams. Keenan repeatedly misstated Mr. Ruvalcaba’s restrictions to the District. Keenan , made his injury and restrictions seem worse than they really were. As a result of Keenan’s manipulation, the District believed it could not accommodate Braulio and terminated him.
To make matters worse, they told him he should go on State disability. This is a common ploy when terminating a disabled worker. See, it requires the worker to certify under oath that they are “unable to work” due to their disability. The employer then uses that statement against them in any subsequent discrimination suit. It is much better to go after unemployment.
See, Keenan’s goal was to target people injured at work, in precarious financial positions, to pressure them to close their workers’ compensation claims through a Compromise and Release (C&R). The C&R means the injured worker signs away their right to future medical care for a lump sum payout today, and can even be used to include signing away rights to bring future disability discrimination suits against the employer. Keenan is not the only company to do that. It’s common within the industry. Lie about injuries. Let a worker get fired. Offer the terminated employee with a pittance. Get them to take the pittance. Avoid having to pay out what is really owed.
Keenan and the District got theirs though. A Santa Cruz Jury returned a nearly $35 Million verdict against Keenan based on $6.908 million for emotional distress to Mr. Ruvalcaba, and $27.6 million in punitive damages.
If you have been hurt at work, you need attorneys who understand the complicated crossover issues of workers’ compensation and disability discrimination. Top California Employment Attorney John McCarthy started his career at an employment defense firm, representing employers in disability discrimination suits, and workers’ compensation discrimination claims. He understands the cross-over issues that often arise. He is a fierce advocate with successful judgments and settlements on behalf of injured workers.
We offer a free, confidential, case evaluation form. The form goes straight to Attorney McCarthy’s inbox. He makes it a point to review and respond to every inquiry, typically within 24 hours. If he thinks he can help, he’ll send you an email setting up a free consultation. If he doesn’t think he can help, he’ll send you resources to help you understand the law, find a lawyer who might be able to help, and even help yourself. If we end up taking on your case, we will probably take it on a contingency fee basis, which means we will only get paid a percentage of whatever we recover for you.
There are strict deadlines to file these types of cases. Once those deadlines pass, you can lose all your rights. So, why wait?
Experience Counts and the experienced and hard working team at McCarthy Law will put their experience to work for you!
Contact McCarthy Law Today!