In California, the state Legislature passed workers’ compensation law more than 100 years ago, which guarantees prompt, automatic benefits to workers injured on the job. Before workers’ compensation, injured workers had to appeal their employers to recover medical costs and lost wages. Juries and judges had to decide who was at fault and how much, if anything, would be paid. Too often, the injured worker got nothing. It was costly, time consuming and unfair. The Lawsuits took months and sometimes years.
Any injury or illness caused by your job is covered – everything from first-aid type injuries to serious accidents. Job-related illnesses are covered to some extent. For example, common colds and flu are not covered, but if you catch tuberculosis while working at a TB hospital, that is covered. Workers’ compensation may even cover psychiatric injuries that may arise if you are the victim of a crime at your workplace.
It is not necessary to hire an attorney to file a workers’ compensation claim and in many cases, an attorney is never hired. For minor claims such as strains, sprains, cuts and bruises, there is often no need for legal representation. Even if it is determined that you have permanent disability, many cases run smoothly with no complications and can be handled without the use of an attorney.
The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board has a special department to assist applicants with general information on claims. This assistance is free. A Sacramento workers’ compensation attorney is only paid based on the level of permanent disability found in a claim and therefore, an attorney will likely only consider taking on a case if it is clear that there will be significant permanent disability expected.
Other complex issues may also trigger the need for an attorney, including disagreement on the level of permanent disability, apportionment of disability to pre-existing or underlying conditions, vocational rehabilitation issues, disagreement as to how the injury occurred and whether or not it is an industrial injury, and complications with authorization of medical treatment or payment off benefits.