Basics of Workers’ Compensation in California

If you have suffered an injury in the workplace, or while performing a job duty out-of-office, then you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits pursuant to California law. Under some circumstances, you may also have the right to sue and recover damages from the employer or third-parties.

What is Workers' Compensation?

Workers' compensation coverage applies to most workers in California (and most other states include some form of workers' compensation coverage). Stated simply, workers' compensation is a no-fault system that awards benefits when a worker (part-time or full-time) has suffered injuries while on-the-job.

An on-the-job injury does not exclusively mean an injury occurring in an office or other specific workplace location. It may refer to an injury occurring while the worker is performing a duty (or acting in furtherance of some legitimate business purpose) while out of the office. For example, if a salesman is meeting with a potential client at a coffee shop, then any injury suffered while driving to the coffee shop would likely be considered an on-to-job injury that qualifies them for workers' compensation.

The no-fault aspect of workers' compensation is quite beneficial for injured workers, as it is unnecessary for those workers to prove that the employer has acted negligently or recklessly in causing their injuries - it is enough to show that they have actually suffered injuries, and that there are measurable losses.

For example, if you fall off a ladder and injure yourself while working in a warehouse, you need not prove that the employer was negligent in inspecting the safety of the ladders, or that the employer negligently supervised workers during such tasks - you need only show that you suffered the injury you are claiming.

How Workers' Compensation Affects Damage Recovery in a Lawsuit

Workers' compensation coverage operates as an exclusive remedy. Simply put, workers' compensation coverage precludes you from suing your employer and recovering damages directly (in situations where they were negligent or reckless). This is one of the fundamental sacrifices that workers make - employment grants workers' compensation coverage, which enables them to make a "no fault" claim for benefits, but prohibits the injured worker from making a more substantial claim for damages pursuant to a civil lawsuit.

Remember, the benefits available through workers' compensation are limited to: medical expenses, temporary and permanent disability benefits, supplemental job displacement benefits, and death benefits. When resolving a workers' compensation claim, bear in mind that you are not entitled to benefits that include pain and suffering damages, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, property loss, and others.

Now, if you are injured in the workplace (or in some other qualified scenario), then you may still sue and recover the range of damages typical of normal personal injury litigation, but the lawsuit will only be justified in very specific circumstances:

  1. if the defendant-employer acted intentionally to cause your injuries; and/or
  2. if a third-party substantially contributed to your injuries.

Employers do not enjoy an absolute liability shield in the workers' compensation context. If your employer acts willfully or maliciously, and in doing so causes you to suffer injuries, then you may be entitled to bring an action against your employer for significant damages. These cases are quite rare, but are worth pursuing - depending on the circumstances, the court may even award punitive damages, which could spike the total damage recovery higher.

The more common situation for supplemental recovery is where a third-party has contributed to your injuries. For example, suppose that you are driving a company vehicle, making a delivery of products to a buyer's warehouse, when the brakes fail and you collide with the highway median, suffering injuries. You would not only be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, but would also be entitled to sue and potentially recover damages from the brake manufacturer (assuming that there is some latent defect with the brakes).

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced San Jose Injury Attorney

If you have been injured in a workplace accident (or have otherwise suffered injuries in an accident that occurred while acting in a capacity that is significantly related to your overall job duties), then you may have the right to workers' compensation benefits pursuant to California law. Depending on the circumstances, you may - alternatively - have the right to sue your employer, or to sue a liable third-party.

Here at the Law Offices of Brian O'Grady, we have decades of experience representing the interests of injured workers throughout California. Thanks to this extensive history of injury litigation, we understand the contours of a typical workers' compensation claim, and the challenges that may arise in situations where employer liability and third-party liability are in question. Our track record speaks to the efficacy of our client-oriented approach - we have secured substantial compensation on behalf of our clients, through negotiated settlements and in hard-fought verdicts.

Interested in learning more?

Call (650) 318-6131 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced San Jose injury attorney here at the Law Offices of Brian O'Grady. We will evaluate your entitlement to workers' compensation and determine how best to proceed to secure maximum recovery for your injuries.