Legal Options for Injured Workers
After several years of decline, the number of work-related injuries increased substantially in 2022. A sharp increase in the number of occupational diseases, such as hearing loss, mostly fueled the higher numbers. At the same time, another trend, the declining amount of money in the workers’ compensation system, shrunk, mostly because California lawmakers, once again, lowered insurance premiums.
The increasing number of serious work-related injuries, along with the decline in workers’ compensation benefits, often makes a civil claim an attractive option in these cases. Although California, like most other states, has a very broad exclusive remedy law that preempts most civil cases, some exceptions apply. If an exception applies, and a Carlsbad personal injury lawyer proves fault, substantial compensation is available.
The exclusive remedy law includes an insurance mandate. All employers, regardless of the number of employees, must buy workers’ compensation insurance that covers all their employees, at least in most cases. However, as we all know, not everyone plays by the rules all the time.
Some employers lie to their insurance companies about employee risk, payroll size, or other material facts, in order to reduce their premiums. For example, companies often misclassify high-risk workers, such as roofers, as low-risk workers, such as secretaries. Other companies misclassify employees as independent contractors.
When insurance companies uncover these false statements, usually after they file a claim, the insurance company usually denies coverage.
Other employers ignore the mandatory purchase requirement. They calculate that the risk of getting caught is so low, and the possible penalties are so light, that the substantial cost savings justifies the risk.
In these cases, a Carlsbad personal injury lawyer can usually file a civil claim, since workers’ compensation is unavailable. Uninsured employers usually cannot use comparative fault and other common defenses in court. So, it’s easier to prove negligence, or a lack of care, in these cases.
Workers’ compensation benefits replace lost wages and pay reasonably necessary medical bills. These benefits help workers with temporary disabilities, or partial permanent disabilities, return to work faster.
If the job injury victim dies, some survivors pursue workers’ compensation claims, even though workers’ comp isn’t really designed to be a wrongful death remedy. In other cases, a civil claim might be an option, if the employer:
- Willfully assaulted the victim, proximately causing the victim’s death,
- Fraudulently concealed the victim’s injury and its connection to the employer, contributing to the victim’s death, or
- Used a defective product that substantially caused the victim’s death.
That last bullet point opens up the dual capacity doctrine (suing an employer and a manufacturer of a defective product), which is otherwise unavailable in the Golden State.
An employer’s knowing removal of, or failure to provide a guard on, a power press constitutes another exception to California’s rule that worker’s compensation is the exclusive remedy for claims against the employer. An employer who designs, manufactures, and installs its own power presses for employee use is subject to potential liability as a third-party tortfeasor.
The additional compensation in a civil claim usually includes money for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Reach Out to a Hard-Working San Diego County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Oceanside, contact the Pursley Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.