Agricultural workers are some of the most essential for the country, but the harsh and often dangerous nature of the job comes at a price. The CDC estimates that an average of 100 farm workers gets injured on the job every day, and tractor-related accidents rank at the top of the most common severe or fatal injuries. Yet, surprisingly, not every state in the nation requires farms to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their workers. This is where a workers’ compensation law firm can help.
California stands out as one of 13 states that require agricultural employers to offer workers’ comp benefits. Yet many employers choose not to cover their workers, leaving them to fend for themselves when they are injured on the job. If you are an agricultural worker in California, it is important for you to understand your rights and know what steps to take when you are injured on the job.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Simply put, in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, you must be an employee who has sustained a work-related injury. Additionally, your employer must carry workers’ comp coverage, and you must follow the proper procedure for reporting your injuries or illness and observe the correct deadline for doing so.
It is important for you to check if you are in fact an employee, or if you have been hired as an independent contractor. This is because independent contractors do not typically qualify to receive workers’ comp benefits. In some cases, employers choose to misclassify employees as independent contractors in an effort to save money, since independent contractors are not eligible for any type of benefits.
If you believe you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, your first recommended step is to speak to a California workers’ compensation attorney to learn your options to receive coverage after a work-related injury, including seeking compensation through the Uninsured Employers Trust Fund when applicable.
What Is Covered Under Workers’ Comp in California?
California workers’ comp covers all injuries and illnesses resulting from job-related activities. Eligible workers can receive immediate medical care for pain, sprains, slip-and-fall accidents, injuries resulting from strenuous or repetitive activities, other job-related conditions caused by repeated exposure to loud noises or hazardous materials, as well as disabilities resulting from a work accident. In summary, if you were hurt or became sick at work, your employer must pay for your treatment.
Besides covering for medical care, workers’ comp also includes temporary disability benefits, which enables you to receive a portion of your wages while you are temporarily unable to work or working with significant restrictions. Workers’ comp also provides payments for employees who will not completely recover from their accident or illness and have become permanently disabled.
In some cases, workers’ comp can assist with retraining and skill enhancement if you are unable to return to work for your employer. If an employee died as a result of a work-related condition or accident, workers’ comp will pay death benefits to the deceased employee’s immediate family.
Are Undocumented Immigrants Covered By Workers’ Comp?
Yes, undocumented immigrants employed in California are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits when injured at work. However, there are some important observations to be made. Every undocumented worker is entitled to receive medical treatment and temporary disability benefits, but because federal laws make it illegal for an employer to hire any individuals not authorized to work in the United States, the undocumented employee will likely not be rehired by their employer.
This makes it more complicated for workers who may qualify for temporary disability benefits when modified work is available, or supplemental job displacement benefits allowing the employee to be retrained and placed in a permanent position, as employers may argue they are exempt from receiving benefits because the worker is undocumented and thus ineligible to return to work. This is where California laws collide with federal laws, often leading to contests and some complications.
If you are an undocumented worker and are unsure about what steps to take in order to receive workers’ comp benefits after an injury, your best move is to contact a California workers’ comp attorney who can help you get the benefits you need without running into issues with federal law.
What Should I Do If I Am an Agricultural Worker Injured on the Job?
If you have been hurt or became ill, seek medical care and notify your employer as soon as possible. Your employer should provide you with a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (DWC1) within one working day following the date when you first reported your injury. This form allows you to describe your injury and provide your information. This is an important step, so it is a good idea to give as much detail as possible about your injury.
Once completed, the form can be mailed or handed directly to your employer. Make sure to send it via certified mail or through another mailing method that requires your employer to acknowledge receiving the document.
Next, your employer will fill out the rest of the form within one working day and provide you with a copy. Keep this copy for your records. The next step is to wait for a decision from the claims administrator that will either accept your claim or deny it.
If your claim has been denied, you have the right to challenge that decision and initiate a case by filing an application for adjudication of your claim with your local DWC office. If you are uncomfortable with going through the process of filing a workers’ comp claim or challenging a denied claim, our California workers’ comp law firm can help you with every aspect of your claim.