Thousands of California workers are severely injured each year at work and in job-related accidents. An injury at work may be catastrophic, and severe on-the-job injuries may have lasting and painful psychological effects along with physical effects.
How do injured workers in California prove that they are qualified to receive workers’ compensation payments? Can employed Californians receive benefits for work-related psychological injuries like depression, anxiety, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)?
Every person who works in California needs answers to these questions, so keep reading. Our San Rafael workers’ compensation attorneys will inform you about workers’ compensation and your rights after an on-the-job accident in this state.
HOW DOES WORKERS’ COMPENSATION WORK?
Workers’ comp is the insurance system for employed persons that has been set up through the state. Employers purchase workers’ comp insurance for their workers. If a worker sustains an injury in a job-related accident, that person is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
The law requires virtually all California employers to purchase workers’ comp insurance for their workers. Workers’ comp pays an injured worker’s accident-related medical bills, and it partially compensates workers for their lost wages. (with “temporary disability” payments).
If you temporarily can’t work, California workers’ compensation replaces lost wages with either:
- temporary total disability benefits if you cannot work while recovering
- temporary partial disability payments if you work part-time or light duty while recovering
HOW MUCH IS THE WAGE REPLACEMENT BENEFIT?
For most injured workers in California, temporary disability payments will equal two-thirds of the gross wages (pre-tax wages) that you lose when you are healing from a job-related injury – up to a maximum payment cap – $1,251.38 a week as of 2019 – that is adjusted annually.
Your wages include all of the income you acquire from your job: wages, tips, commissions, overtime, and bonuses. Wages also include what you may be earning at a second job at the time you’re injured.
WHEN DO THE WAGE REPLACEMENT PAYMENTS START AND STOP?
Temporary disability payments start when a doctor says that you can’t work for more than three days or that you must be admitted to the hospital. California workers’ compensation payments are bi-weekly. Temporary disability payments stop when:
- You return to work.
- The doctor says you may return to work.
- Your healing has reached maximum improvement plateau.
In most cases, temporary disability payments are limited to two years (or 104 weeks within a five-year period). In some cases, however, the most catastrophic injuries may qualify the recipient for as much as 240 weeks of benefits in a five-year period.
HOW CAN A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWYER HELP INJURED WORKERS?
If you suffer any kind of injury at work or any physical or mental illness that is work-related, an experienced San Rafael workers’ compensation attorney can explain exactly what benefits you are entitled to under California law, and that attorney will help you acquire those benefits.
Workers’ compensation benefits are also paid for psychological or mental injuries suffered at work or caused by a job-related accident or condition. The challenge for the victims of mental or psychological injuries is to prove that their psychological or mental injury is genuine.
WHO SUFFERS PSYCHOLOGICALLY AFTER A WORKPLACE INJURY?
Researchers are telling us that workplace injury victims are much more prone to depression than victims of injuries that are not work-related. Moreover, psychological and mental injuries may pose a formidable obstacle to an injured worker’s complete recovery.
Researchers studied 248 workplace injury victims. Eighteen percent were diagnosed with depression less than a year after a job-related injury. Other participants reported sleep disorders, anxiety, and mood swings. The research was published in the journal Psychological Medicine.
Other researchers – who published their findings in BMC Public Health – found that employees who are injured at the workplace are at twice the risk for depression as their uninjured colleagues.
HOW CAN A PSYCHOLOGICAL INJURY IMPACT YOUR LIFE?
Job-related mental and psychological injuries may emerge abruptly and unexpectedly. Those who deal with these injuries may experience sleeping and/or eating disorders and sudden weight gains or losses. Some simply lose all vitality and enjoyment of life.
If you submit a claim for workers’ comp benefits based on a job-related psychological or mental injury, you’ll need help demonstrating that your injury is real. You must seek the advice and guidance of an experienced San Rafael workers’ compensation attorney.
If you feel depression, anxiety, or guilt after a job-related accident, you must arrange to meet with a counselor – or your workers’ comp attorney can refer you to a counselor. You must seek some type of treatment or counseling, or there will be no evidence to support your injury claim.
WHAT WILL A WORKERS’ COMP ATTORNEY DO ON YOUR BEHALF?
However, even with a diagnosis for depression, anxiety, or PTSD, your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company will closely scrutinize any claim that you make for a mental or psychological injury.
If the insurance company decides to reject your workers’ comp claim, it may look into your criminal history, credit record, and any history of mental illness. They may question your co-workers, your bosses at work, or even some of your neighbors.
WHAT IF YOUR CLAIM IS REJECTED?
If your claim for workers’ comp benefits is rejected, your attorney can appeal the denial before a California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board judge. Counselors’ statements and treatment reports – evidence of a mental injury – can be offered at that hearing.
At an appeal hearing, a judge will decide if the insurance company must accept your workers’ comp claim. If you’ve already taken this step, and if the judge didn’t rule in your favor, you can make a second appeal to the seven-member Workers’ Comp Appeals Board in San Francisco.
You should have the help of an experienced California workers’ compensation lawyer from the very beginning – as soon as you been examined by a healthcare professional after a workplace injury.
Your lawyer can help you complete your initial workers’ comp claim to ensure that no misunderstandings or mistakes delay your benefit payments, and your lawyer will handle any necessary appeals or any complications that might emerge related to your claim.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE TO OBTAIN BENEFITS?
If you suffer a psychological or mental injury because of an accident at work, workers’ comp should pay for your treatment, counseling, and prescription drug costs. If you have to have benefits to pay these costs due to a mental or psychological injury:
- Follow the doctor’s orders. Do not miss any appointments.
- Speak to a counselor – someone you’re comfortable with.
- Be active, exercise, and eat a reasonable, balanced diet.
- When you are injured at the job, contact a reliable workers’ comp attorney promptly.
An attorney with workers’ compensation experience knows how to demonstrate that you’re eligible for workers’ comp benefits. Don’t be intimidated just because you think that your psychological injury may be complicated to prove.
WHO HAS TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP?
Some California workers aren’t even sure if they’re eligible for workers’ comp benefits. Others need help filing a claim. An injured California worker must be advised – and if necessary, represented – by an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
The right lawyer will help you file your claim, beat any deadlines, and handle the necessary appeals if your workers’ compensation claim is denied. Your lawyer will also consult with your healthcare providers and counselors to collect the evidence that’s necessary to prove your claim.
When you suffer a job-related psychological or mental injury in this state, you have the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits – and a reliable lawyer’s help – but you must take the first step and contact a workers’ comp attorney after any workplace injury. That is your right.