In California, an employee who suffered an injury while on the job and while performing job duties is eligible for benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Program. Workers’ Compensation is usually the only avenue for financial assistance after an injury, because employees generally cannot sue an employer in civil court for injuries suffered on the job unless the employer does not have Workers’ Compensation Insurance.
Every California employer using employee labor, including family members, must purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance. An employee is defined as someone an employer engages or permits to work. If an employer fails to have Workers’ Compensation Insurance for employees, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) is required to issue and serve a stop order prohibiting further use of employee labor until Workers’ Compensation Insurance is purchased.
In addition, a penalty could be assessed for failure to have Workers’ Compensation Insurance. The penalty is $1,500 per employee. There are certain exceptions for partnerships, where Workers’ Compensation provisions apply only is the partners agreed that they do.
Through the Workers’ Compensation system, an injured or disabled worker could be eligible for reasonable medical benefits, temporary and permanent disability payments, death benefits, a life pension, and vocational rehabilitation, depending on the nature of the injury and other factors.
Benefits can be decreased if the employee was injured in an accident caused by his own serious and willful misconduct. Benefits can be increased by fifty percent if an employer knowingly put an employee in an unsafe situation that led to the injury. If an employer fails to pay Workers’ Compensation benefits, an employee might be entitled to penalty payments as well.
To apply for workers’ compensation benefits, an employee must notify his employer in writing no later than 30 days after the injury. If an employer denies liability, the case could go to trial before a Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board judge.