The year 2023 presents many challenges and questions for working people in America. The job market remains inconsistent from industry to industry, Covid-19 variants continue to threaten the livelihood of anyone who needs to be among other people to make their living, right-to-work laws are being pushed back against in some states, and inflation and housing crises are making it more difficult to calculate fair compensation.
The stark reality is that many working-class American families are only one incident away from financial hardship. As a working person, it’s natural to want to know what resources are available to protect you and your family throughout all this uncertainty.
California’s Workers’ Compensation Program
Thankfully, there is a robust package of laws, regulations, and workplace protections that apply to all working people in California. One of the most important and valuable among these is the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program, administered through the state’s Department of Industrial Relations.
The workers’ compensation system in California operates on a no-fault principle, meaning that a court of law does not need to make a specific determination of who was at fault for an injurious workplace accident. This means that you do not have the burden of proving that your employer was negligent, malicious, or in violation of labor laws when your injury occurred — only that it occurred on the job.
There are, of course, certain common-sense limitations to the no-fault system. For example, a worker who is injured while illegally operating heavy machinery under the influence of drugs would not be eligible for a workers’ compensation payout. On the other end of the spectrum, an employer engaged in illegal activity at the time of an injury could be subject to additional action in criminal or civil court, wherein the no-fault nature of the workers’ compensation system would be irrelevant.
California Workers’ Compensation Insurance Basics
The workers’ compensation program is a mandatory insurance fund that each employer in the state must pay into. When a working person is injured on the job and becomes unable to perform their job duties, they are eligible to receive payments from this fund to compensate for their lost income while they recover from their injury. A payout from the workers’ compensation program can look different from person to person depending on your income level, the severity of your injury and extent of treatment, and the length of time you’re out of work. Regardless of the circumstances of your employment, the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program covers a breadth of workplace injury types, including:
- Acute workplace injuries. Acute injuries are those that occur suddenly as the result of a single event. Such injurious events can range from mundane to seriously traumatic. A serious paper cut, an ankle sprained in a slip and fall accident, and a limb lost to a heavy machinery malfunction are all acute injuries but of vastly different severity levels.
- Chronic or repetitive stress injuries. A workplace injury doesn’t have to take the form of a single, dramatic incident to qualify for a workers’ compensation claim. Injuries caused by repetitive motion or repeated exposure to injurious working conditions over time are also valid workplace injuries under California workers’ compensation laws. These types of injuries can sometimes be harder to verify as work-related than acute injuries since there will not be concrete surveillance video footage of an accident to point to, for example. Examples of a chronic workplace injury would be the development of carpal tunnel syndrome from daily typing, high-frequency hearing loss due to loud workplace conditions, or someone who moves heavy objects as part of their job developing a serious back injury over time.
- Psychological and stress-related injuries. Even significant psychological and emotional damage can qualify for workers’ compensation in some circumstances. You may be able to collect workers’ compensation for non-physical injuries when emotional damages can be verified by a doctor, directly linked to your job duties, and are severe enough to prevent you from working. These sorts of injuries — while just as valid and debilitating as physical injuries — can be extremely hard to prove. The employment law specialists at The Ali Law Group, P.C. will be instrumental in moving these sorts of highly sensitive claims through the state’s workers’ compensation system successfully.
When bringing forth complex workers’ compensation cases such as those involving repetitive stress injuries, psychological damage, or other difficult-to-verify injuries, retaining high-powered legal representation from a qualified employment lawyer can be a critical asset, even if you never expect your case to end up in a courtroom. The experienced workers’ compensation team at The Ali Law Group, P.C. can assist you in filing your claim completely and correctly to avoid unnecessary delays and wrongful denials.
Collecting Workers’ Compensation Benefits
In California, the workers’ compensation program provides a robust safety net for injured workers. The benefits an injured worker may be able to collect include:
- Paid medical expenses. Your employer’s unemployment insurance, rather than your personal medical insurance, will foot the bill for all medical expenses related to treatment and recovery after a workplace injury. All doctor’s visits, hospitalizations, diagnostics, medications, treatments, and qualifying ancillary costs will be covered for you.
- Disability benefits. Nobody should be left wondering how to meet their basic expenses and support their family after an on-the-job injury leaves them unable to work. For this reason, California’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance fund provides cash payments in lieu of an injured worker’s wages. These benefits can range from short-term to permanent, depending on the severity of the injury suffered.
- Supplemental displacement benefit. Special vouchers are available through workers’ compensation to help workers who have been injured and left unable to perform their job duties or who do not get re-hired by their employer after an injury. These vouchers can be used towards the costs of continuing education courses to help workers expand their skill sets or learn new trades, thereby increasing their demand in the labor market.
- Return-to-work supplement. Workers injured in 2013 or later who have received the supplemental displacement benefit may additionally be eligible for a one-time payment of up to $6,000 to support their journey to re-enter the workforce.
- Death benefits. If an on-the-job injury results in death, the workers’ compensation program pays out a death benefit to the spouse or dependents to help make up for lost income and cover final expenses.
2023 Changes to California Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is constantly being reviewed and updated to meet the needs of modern workers in the face of rising costs and shifting markets. For 2023, the minimum and maximum weekly payouts under the temporary disability benefit were subjected to routine adjustment.
The Division of Workers’ Compensation put the following rates for temporary disability payments into effect on January 1, 2023:
- Minimum weekly temporary disability payments increase to $230.95 (up from $203.44)
- Maximum weekly temporary disability payments increase to $1,539.71 (up from $1,356.31)
These rates are calculated based on the state’s average weekly wage, a formula mandated by Labor Code Section 4453(a) (10).
FAQ About California Workers Compensation Law
What is workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a mandatory insurance program in California and many other places. All employers must pay a certain amount into the program for each employee on their payroll. When a worker is injured on the job, these funds are used to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and job re-training benefits.
What are an employer’s responsibilities under workers’ compensation laws?
Each employer in California must carry a qualified employment insurance plan from a state-approved insurance carrier. Such plans can be purchased from private insurance carriers; there is also a state fund available. Employers with the financial means may also self-fund their workers’ compensation programs. Besides properly funding their workers’ compensation insurance plans, California employers are also required to cooperate with state authorities in investigating and processing workers’ compensation claims.
Are there time limits for filing claims?
Yes. In California, a workplace injury must be reported within 30 days of the incident, and the related workers’ compensation claim must be filed within one calendar year. In most situations, the timeline should be much faster than this for both elements. If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to complete and file all the necessary paperwork, a qualified employment attorney from The Ali Law Group, P.C. can help you expedite your claim.
How much does California Workers Comp pay?
Each person’s payout under the workers’ compensation system will be different, just as each person’s employment situation and on-the-job injury are different. Your total benefits will depend on your job, the nature of your injury, the extent of medical treatment, whether you’re able to return to work, and whether you’re eligible for special benefits like the Return-to-Work Supplement. Even with a temporary disability benefit — one of the more common workers’ compensation payout types — weekly cash benefits can range from around $200 to over $1,000.
The Ali Law Group, P.C. — Helping Injured California Workers Get the Support They Need
At The Ali Law Group, P.C. of Anaheim, we believe in using the full power of the law and the legal process the way it was intended: for the benefit of everyday people and working families. While most workers’ compensation claims never see a courtroom, cases can nonetheless be complex and time-consuming. The experienced workers’ compensation personal injury attorneys at The Ali Law Group, P.C. can help you state your case in a concise and compelling manner, deflect any harassment or pressure from employers and insurance agencies, and ensure you’re pursuing every cent you’re entitled to. Let Ali Law Group, P.C. handle your workers’ compensation claim so that you and your family can focus on what matters: your healing.