I Was Injured at Work. What Are My Rights?
Every year, thousands of workers throughout the U.S. visit hospitals for serious work-related injuries. Dangerous jobs and premises can cause many occupational injuries and illnesses – including some that are permanently disabling or fatal. If you were injured at work in Southern California, it is critical to understand your legal rights and options. Otherwise, your employer, an insurance company or another party may take advantage of you.
General Rights as an Injured Worker in California
First, understand your general rights as an injured worker in the State of California. These include the right to go to the nearest hospital immediately after a workplace accident and to file a safety complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for a workplace hazard. If you get injured on the job, you automatically have the following rights:
- The right to return to your job if your physician says that you are physically and mentally fit to do so.
- The right to receive disability compensation if you are temporarily or permanently unable to return to work because of your occupational injury.
- The right to take medical leave (paid or unpaid) without fear of losing your job, under the California Family and Medical Leave Act.
- The right to have an insurance company handle your claim in good faith (in an honest attempt to come to a resolution).
- The right to appeal an insurance company’s decision on your workers’ compensation claim if you do not agree.
- The right to be free from retaliation, harassment and discrimination for filing a workers’ compensation claim or safety complaint.
- The right to have a work injury attorney represent you throughout the legal process.
Working with a Glendale workers’ compensation lawyer from the very beginning of your case can ensure that you adequately understand and protect all of your legal rights as an injured employee. Your lawyer will not allow anyone to take advantage of you, including a powerful employer or insurance corporation. Your lawyer can help you pursue just financial compensation for your injuries and related losses.
The Right To Seek Financial Compensation
After an injury that takes place at work, you may have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim and/or personal injury lawsuit. A workers’ compensation claim is a no-fault insurance claim that uses your employer’s workers’ comp insurance to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, disability and other losses without requiring proof of negligence.
If you believe that your employer, a coworker or another party could have prevented your injury or illness, you may wish to file a third-party lawsuit instead. A personal injury lawsuit against your employer or another party could result in greater financial compensation than a workers’ comp settlement in California. You may receive payment for pain and suffering, for example.
If a party other than your employer caused your injury, you may be able to recover financial compensation through both workers’ comp and an injury lawsuit. Note, however, that you cannot file a lawsuit against your employer after you accept workers’ compensation. You must choose one legal option or the other, or else file a lawsuit against someone other than your employer after accepting workers’ comp.
How Can You Protect Your Rights if You Are Injured at Work?
If you suffer an occupational injury or illness, report it to your employer right away. California law requires injury reporting within 30 days of the accident. Go to a hospital for emergency treatment, if needed. Otherwise, go to a doctor from your employer’s list of acceptable providers. Obtain copies of your medical records, x-rays, pay stubs, accident reports and other evidence. Then, work with your employer to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Before you accept a workers’ comp settlement, review your rights and legal options with an attorney. An attorney can recommend the correct legal action(s) to take to maximize your financial recovery.