Am I Suing My Employer?
By Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLC
Many of our new Workers’ Compensation clients ask us if they are “suing” their employer by hiring an attorney in a Workers’ Compensation case. Our answer: There are no “lawsuits” in Workers’ Compensation.
Here’s how it works. An employer pays premiums to an insurance company (or in some cases an employer is approved to be self-insured, setting aside a sum of money) to insure its workers in case of a work injury. This is similar to you paying an insurance premium to a company for insurance on your automobile. When a worker is injured and reports the work injury, a Workers’ Compensation claim is filed with the insurance company (or administrator).
Workers’ Compensation is a no-fault system; benefits are paid for injuries on the job regardless of fault. There is no lawsuit or civil action against your employer. Any dispute concerning what benefits are owed is heard by an administrative law Judge at one of two dozen Workers’ Compensation Appeals Boards (i.e., court) throughout the state of California.
Injured workers are entitled to have an attorney assist them with their claim, guiding them through the system and advocating on their behalf. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against workers for claiming an injury and/or hiring an attorney to assist them.
Given the complexity of the present law, we have found that, in many cases, having a skilled Workers’ Compensation attorney is more important now than ever to ensure that proper benefits are received. The doctor(s) from whom you can receive medical care and the final outcome of your case in regards to your right to future medical care and monetary compensation depend on an understanding of the complexities of the present law. It is important to recognize that the law is continuing to develop in response to the significant changes in the 2004 Workers’ Compensation “reform,” which was intended to limit medical treatment and reduce benefits.
These and other important issues can greatly affect the benefits received after a workplace injury. In most cases, the insurance company is not going to volunteer changes in the law that might result in increased benefits to the injured worker.
Attorney’s fees are written in the law, and usually are approximately 15 percent of the permanent disability benefits received. No up-front money is allowed, and if no benefits are recovered, there is no fee.
If you have a question about a work injury or any other legal matter, feel free to make an appointment for a free, confidential consultation. For more information on workers’ compensation and personal injury law, go to www.geklaw.com
Pursuant to Labor Code Section 5432(a), making a false or fraudulent workers' compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in prison or a fine of up to $50,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.
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