We represent injured workers in all phases of workers compensation cases in California. We make sure that our clients receive the best possible medical care, receive the highest possible
temporary and permanent disability payments, benefit from available retraining opportunities, are treated fairly when returning to work for their employers, and get the highest possible settlements. When our clients are potentially eligible for benefits other than workers compensation, we take care to ensure that they are able to maximize the amount they receive from all available sources.
Benefits in the Workers’ Compensation System in California
If you are unfortunate enough to sustain a serious injury on the job, you need to know what rights you have and what benefits you can expect to receive. There are four main benefits in California’s workers’ compensation system:
1. Medical Care:
Your employer or their insurance company is required to provide you with whatever medical treatment is reasonable and necessary to cure or relieve from the effects of your injury. For the first thirty days after you report your injury, your employer is generally allowed to tell you what doctor must see. After those thirty days, you can pick your own doctor. Most employers and insurance companies now have Medical Provider Networks (MPN’s). If they have established an MPN, you will probably have to pick a doctor from within that network. But, the good news is that there are generally good doctors to choose from on those lists. They will continue to be responsible to pay for your treatment for your injury for as long as you need it, even the rest of your life.
2. Temporary Disability:
If you have to miss work because of your injury, you are probably entitled to Temporary Disability (TD) benefits. In most cases, you will be paid 2/3 of your usual wages, tax free. TD is paid every two weeks, and can go on for as long as 104 weeks within the first five years after your injury. It stops before that if you are able to go back to work, or your doctor says that your condition has reached a point of “maximum medical improvement,” or has become “permanent and stationary.” There is a ceiling on how much you can receive per week in TD payments, the exact amount of which generally changes each year. The current rate for 2013 injuries is $1,066.72 per week.
3. Permanent Disability:
Once you reach a point of maximum medical improvement, if you still have problems that affect the way you are able to live your life, you are probably entitled to Permanent Disability (PD) benefits. In most cases, PD benefits are payable at a weekly rate ranging from $230 to $290 per week, depending on the percentage of the disability. To determine the percentage of disability, California uses a complicated rating system involving various charts and tables from a book published by the American Medical Association. How many weeks of payments you get depends on what your percentage of disability is determined to be. The higher the percentage of disability, the more weeks of payments per percentage of disability you will receive. Once that number of weeks of payments have been paid out, PD benefits stop. Unless you are over 70% disabled, you will not receive any additional money. If you are between 70% and 99% disabled, once the PD benefits have all been paid out, you will receive additional weekly payments at what is generally a lower rate, for the rest of your life. If you are unfortunate enough to be 100% disabled, you are entitled to Permanent Total Disability payments. Those are payable at the Temporary Disability Rate that was in effect at the time of your injury, and are paid for the rest of your life.
4. Job Retraining:
If your injury occurred between 2004 and 2012, and your employer does not offer to take you back to work, you are probably entitled to a voucher to help pay for you to retrain at a school of your choice. The amount that you are entitled to depends on the percentage of disability, and ranges from $4,000 to $10,000. If your injury occurred after 2012, your voucher will be for $6,000, regardless of your percentage of disability.
Useful Links for More Workers’ Compensation Information
- An Overview of the California Workers Compensation system is published by the State of California Division of Industrial Relations. It can be accessed at: http://www.dir.ca.gov/InjuredWorkerGuidebook/InjuredWorkerGuidebook.html
- The current Permanent Disability Rating Schedule is available online at: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/PDR.pdf
- The 1997 Permanent Disability Rating Schedule can be found at: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/PDR1997.pdf
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for injured workers are available at: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/WCFaqIW.html
- A form to pre-designate your doctor to be your primary treating physician for an injury on the job, can be found here: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/FORMS/DWCForm_9783.pdf
- To file a claim for State Disability benefits, go to: http://www.edd.ca.gov/Disability/
- The home page for the Workers Compensation Appeals Board can be accessed at: http://www.dir.ca.gov/wcab/wcab.htm
- To register to vote in California elections, go to: http://registertovote.ca.gov/
- Extensive news, information and important links to other sites with resources for people with workers compensation claims in California, can be found at the California Applicants Attorneys website, located at: https://www.caaa.org/index.cfm
- A chart showing the dollar value of each percentage of permanent disability applicable in most situations, is at: http://www.getmedlegal.com/SB899_Cust/PD%20Chart%202011.pdf
- Information on how workers compensation benefits can affect Social Security Disability benefits, can be found at: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10018.pdf
- Voters Injured At Work, the organization for California workers who are concerned about the problems with our workers compensation system, is located at: www.VIAW.org
- Applying for the additional funds available through the State of California’s Return to Work program: http://www.dir.ca.gov/RTWSP/RTWSP.html