What is Worker’s Compensation?
Worker’s Compensation (or workman’s comp) is a crucial part of the stability of our modern day workplace. In California, without a good compensation program in place, worker’s could be left out in the cold after an injury incident.
Workplace Injury in California
If you are on the job 8 hours-a-day 5 days-a-week, there is a definite risk of getting hurt. After all, your job takes up the bulk of your day! Worker’s compensation is an overarching program that gives employees the right to covered medical care or financial relief.
A stronger definition: “Worker’s Comp is a form of insurance that provides compensation medical care for employees who are injured in the course of employment, in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence. While plans differ between jurisdictions, especially in California, provision can be made for weekly payments in place of wages (functioning in this case as a form of disability insurance), compensation for economic loss (past and future), reimbursement or payment of medical and like expenses (functioning in this case as a form of health insurance), and benefits payable to the dependents of workers killed during employment. General damages for pain and suffering, and punitive damages for employer negligence, are generally not available in worker compensation plans.” – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers_compensation
For worker’s compensation to take effect, an injury or illness has to occur during the course of standard employment.
The Catch with Workman’s Comp
As you may have noticed in the above definition, employees are often waved of their right to sue for negligence when participating in a worker’s compensation program. This allows companies to protect themselves from larger more detrimental settlements.
Punitive damages, or those incidences caused by neglect and negligence of an employer, are generally not a part of worker’s compensation cases.
The Importance of State
When it comes to workman’s comp, every state has its own set of rules and statutes.
One of the first things you have to do when considering workman’s comp is recognizing which state you are legally working in. From their, it is critical to acquire a skilled personal injury lawyer familiar with your state’s system.
As with any form of insurance, companies will often try to find any and every reason not to pay you. Sometimes they may be correct under the letter of the law, but to get your fair chance at financial or medical relief you need to come prepared with a competent attorney. At the very least, have one look over the details of your case. Most good attorney’s will provide you with a free legal consultation.
The ABC's of Workman's Compensation
Yesterday a patient came in to the clinic to receive treatment for such severe pain that made it difficult for him to walk, work or sleep. He had just been to see yet another worker's comp attorney, who had informed him that the likelihood of him receiving permanent disability was next to nothing to the chagrin of the patient who was a personal comp lawyer himself.
He had fallen on a patch of ice on his way to defend a client who had fallen from a pole while fixing electric wires for the DWP. He was able to crawl to a bench and call an ambulance. At the hospital the doctors iced the injury, gave him some anti-inflammatory medication and sent him home. Over the next few months his pain proceeded to get worse, running throughout his spine and down his legs. His pain medication was increased. In order for him to endure a day up and about he needed to take so much medication that he could not function. The doctors suggested that he had perhaps impacted the spine in such a way that the nerves were being compressed. However, none of this was clearly showing on the X-rays and MRI's.
It was suggested by a friend that he see a chiropractor. The chiropractor began adjusting him every week which allowed him more leg mobility and less numbness, but the pain was still excruciating and at times led to collapse. By the time he began receiving Acupuncture, his right leg had withered. He had burning pain down both sides of his spine and legs. He had not worked in over a year and was living at home with his mother. He was on every kind of pain medication and would drink a lot of alcohol in order to sleep.
The clinic was able to diminish his pain for short periods of time, and stop the spasms, but they could do nothing to alleviate his fury at a government system that would not give him the help he needed unless he was practically bedridden. If he tried to work from home the courts said that he was able to work, therefore he was ineligible for permanent disability under the personal comp system in place. If his pain receded or he began to show signs of improvement, he was frightened that it would injure his case.
He knew how it all worked. Though he had worked as an attorney in this field for years, he had not understood until now the frustration clients were experiencing. He had not understood how difficult it was to fight for what was necessary when you were in mental and physical pain. After jumping through hoop after hoop and seeing lawyer after lawyer he finally quit fighting. Two years had gone by without any substantial relief from symptoms or signs of progress in his legal battles.
Because he was a committed patient the clinic kept seeing him for free. After giving up, his symptoms improved dramatically. He had pain free weeks. The burning subsided. He was able to sleep and drink less. He eventually was able to reduce his pain medication to be able to work again. He became an expert in personal comp law, with a gift for helping those in pain to understand the blessings of fighting as well as surrender.
Accidents at Work
Every day, all over the UK people are injured in work related accidents. According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2008 180 workers were killed at work, a rate of 0.6 per 100,000 workers. 131,895 other injuries to employees were reported by RIDDOR: Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, with the Labour Force Survey announcing 246,000 reportable injuries.
The HSE report identified that the most commonly occurring accidents are musculoskeletal disorders (mainly bad backs and damage to upper limbs and the neck) and stress. Stress alone accounted for 57% of total working days lost.
As well as accidents many people have suffered from the consequences of long term industrial illnesses such as vibration white finger, mesothelioma (2156 people died of mesothelioma in 2007), asbestosis, pneumoconiosis and silicosis, repetitive strain injury, hearing and eyesight problems. The report suggested that thousands more died from other occupational cancers and lung diseases.
Public administration, transport and health and safety work recorded the largest proportions of workplace illness whilst agriculture, transport and construction were shown to have the greatest number of accidents.
In 2008/09, a total of 329 offences (breaches) were heard, resulting in 309 convictions, a rate of 94%. Organisations found guilty of health and safety breaches received fines totalling £1.73 million, giving average penalties on conviction of £5,607 per breach, which relates to £12 466 per case.
In addition to fines levied for safety breaches, an estimated £10 billion a year is being paid out in compensation. If you have suffered a work related accident or injury through no fault of your own, you may well be entitled to claim compensation. There are no set figures for workplace claims as no two cases are the same. The amount you may be entitled to will of course relate to the nature of accident and its impact on your life and livelihood.
The guidelines in place split the compensation into two amounts. The first, called General Damages takes into account your pain, the suffering you have endured (or are enduring) and what's called the loss of amenity. Perhaps you have lost hearing or the vision from an eye. The amount of General Damages that you are entitled to essentially boils down to three essential factors:
The severity of your injuries.
How much your injuries have prevented you from carrying out your normal activities.
Ongoing pain and suffering.
The second part of the compensation equation is called Special Damages. This relates to:
Lost earnings. The cost of private medical treatment.
Travel and prescription expenses.
Any other relevant expenses.
By way of compensation guidelines and examples, you could expect the following levels of compensation award:
£1500 - £7000 for a minor head injury. £155,000 - £255,000 for brain damage. £8,000 to £15,000 for a permanently damaged shoulder. Up to £6,000 for a minor ankle injury. £35,000 for a severely damaged ankle. £110,000 or more for mesothelioma.
It's vital to take expert advice from a specialist work injury claims solicitor. Your solicitor will help prepare the case to support your claim for general and special damages and work to ensure that you are properly compensated.
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