Workers’ compensation is regulated by the state and paid for by employers. If an employee is injured on the job, he or she may file a claim for benefits, but in many cases, to receive those benefits, an injured worker will need help from a San Rafael workers’ compensation attorney.
Determining what benefits any particular California worker is entitled to can be exceedingly complicated. Many employees are uncertain if they qualify and unsure about how to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Are undocumented workers in California covered by workers’ compensation? How can they obtain benefits if they are injured on the job? What if an undocumented worker’s injury claim is disputed by his or her employer or by that employer’s workers’ comp insurance provider?
Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions – and to learn more about workers’ compensation benefits in our state.
What Are the Rights of Injured Workers in California?
Every employee who is injured on the job in California, including every undocumented worker, is eligible for workers’ compensation payments to cover the costs of medical treatment. In some cases, workers’ comp partially reimburses injured employees for their lost wages.
But that’s not the full answer. An undocumented worker in California may not receive:
1. temporary disability payments if modified (“light duty”) work is available
2. a supplemental job displacement (vocational retraining) voucher
Employers in California that cannot offer light duty work or permanent employment based on an injured worker’s medical status must pay workers’ compensation benefits to that injured employee.
How Does Federal Law Apply to Workers’ Compensation Claims?
However, if an employer learns that a worker is undocumented after that worker is injured, no workers’ comp benefits will be paid. That’s because federal law prevents employers from hiring someone when the employer knows that person does not have a legal right to work in the U.S.
Employers are required by federal law to confirm the identity and work eligibility of every new employee, but if the person being hired has used false documents, the employer may not know that the information is fabricated.
When an employer learns that an employee is undocumented or has falsified his or her documentation, the employer must terminate any worker who is not legally authorized to work in the United States.
Employers can be criminally prosecuted and fined for violating federal work eligibility regulations, and undocumented workers who use false documentation to obtain employment are also subject to prosecution.
What Does California Law Say About Work-Related Injuries?
Nevertheless, under California law, any person who has been employed in the state and injured on the job may claim workers’ compensation benefits, and a worker’s immigration status has no bearing on the matter of fault or liability for work-related injuries.
No federal immigration statutes address workers’ compensation eligibility. Federal law only prohibits employers from hiring persons who are not authorized to work in the U.S., so an undocumented employee’s other workers’ compensation rights and benefits are not affected.
Falsely claiming authorization to work in the United States is not workers’ compensation fraud. Workers’ comp fraud happens when employees fabricate or exaggerate injuries (or when doctors over-treat a patient or seek to be paid for healthcare that was never delivered.)
An undocumented employee who is injured in California qualifies to receive all workers’ comp benefits including temporary disability payments. An undocumented status only affects benefits related to an employer’s inability to rehire the worker.
How Does the Law Keep Employers from Exploiting Workers?
Temporary disability benefits are based on an employee’s injury and on his or her ability to work, not on legal eligibility to work in the United States.
California lawmakers have determined that the denial of workers’ compensation benefits to undocumented workers would tempt unethical employers to hire undocumented workers in order to avoid purchasing workers’ comp insurance or paying workers’ comp benefits.
But even if you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, a legitimate claim may be denied, and you may need an attorney to help you acquire the benefits that you are entitled to by law.
How Do You Obtain Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
If you are injured while working, report the injury at once to your employer. California employers are required to have workers’ comp application forms in both English and Spanish.
If you need workers’ comp benefits, your claim may be challenged by your employer or by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company if you fail to report an injury – immediately and in writing – even though state law gives you thirty days to make that report.
Why is a Medical Examination So Essential After an Injury?
Have a medical examination as quickly as possible – certainly within twenty-four hours. Again, your employer or your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company may dispute your claim if you do not seek to be examined and treated at once.
You also need to consult promptly with a good workers’ comp lawyer. If there’s a dispute, problem, or misunderstanding regarding your claim, the right San Rafael workers’ compensation attorney will work to resolve the issue so that you can start receiving benefits as soon as possible.
What Benefits Are Provided Through Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ comp temporary disability benefits are paid at a rate of two-thirds of the injured workers’ average weekly wage, up to a maximum amount that is recalculated each year. In 2020, that maximum amount is $1,299.43 per week.
Temporary disability benefits may be paid only after a doctor has confirmed that an injured employee cannot work due to a work-related injury.
Temporary disability benefits are paid for up to 104 weeks, until the worker is cleared by a doctor to return to work, or until the employee’s condition has reached the “maximum medical improvement” level, when a worker’s condition is stable and not expected to improve or decline.
An injured employee in California is also entitled to the medical care and treatment that is reasonable and necessary for a work-related injury. Workers’ compensation covers that medical care and treatment.
If You Are Permanently Disabled
Permanent partial disability benefits are available – after a worker reaches the maximum medical improvement level – if a doctor determines that the work-related injury has caused a permanent impairment or a permanent disability.
Workers’ comp is exceedingly complicated and confusing, so if you suffer a serious work-related injury, you’ll need an attorney who can give you personalized advice, understands the system, routinely represents injured workers, and knows how to acquire the benefits you need.