The Reasons You Should Contact An Attorney If You’ve Been Injured On The Job

June 23, 2021 | 6:00 am


You get hurt on the job: What should you do, and when should you contact an attorney?

Chain | Cohn | Stiles work injury attorney Jim Yoro explains in a new video (below) four reasons when it’s important to contact a lawyer after you’ve been injured at work. We also share some bonus reasons you may want to contact a workers’ compensation attorney after being injured on the job.

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Hiring an attorney to handle your work injury claim costs nothing up front, and it gives you the best chance to receive a fair settlement or award for your injuries. But how do you know you actually need an attorney? Here are four reasons when it’s important to contact a lawyer after you’ve been injured at work:

1) If you think your employer has not filed a claim with their insurance company, you should contact a work injury lawyer. The worker’s compensation system in California has specific requirements that California employers and insurance companies must comply with when providing benefits to injured workers, and your employer is required to report your injury to its workers’ compensation insurance company. The employer must also give the injured employee a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (DWC-1) to complete. If your employer refuses to report an injury, that is a red flag. They may be worried about safety violations, not having the right insurance, or a other potential issues.

2) If you expect to be out of work due to your injury, you should contact a work injury attorney. If you suffer permanent disability, either partial or total, that will prevent you from ever fully returning to work, insurance companies are more likely to contest such claims because they are the most expensive. Furthermore, if you have been released to work, but you can only do modified or alternative work, and your employer does not provide you a position that meets your restrictions, you may be entitled to additional benefits to help you get back to work. These benefits are called “supplemental job displacement benefits.” They are designed to help you get some training so you can go into a different line of work. If your employer cannot permanently accommodate your new restrictions, then you may be entitled to receive a retraining voucher. If your employers insurance company is refusing to provide you this voucher or has provided work that does not meet your restrictions or seems unreasonable, it is time to call in a workers’ compensation lawyer.

3) If you’re going to need medical treatment, you should contact an attorney. Your medical issues can prevent you from returning to your job, limit what you can do at work, or keep you from performing any work at all. If you’ve suffered permanent disability — whether partial or total — you may be entitled to payments to make up for your lost wages. These cases can be very expensive for insurance companies, and they’ll often stop at nothing to avoid paying you what you deserve. A knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney is essential in cases involving permanent injuries or illness.

4) If your employer or their insurance company seems unwilling to help you after an accident or injury at work, you should contact a work accident lawyer. You are entitled to medical care, lost wages, job training, and other benefits under California law if you are hurt on the job. It is supposed to be that straightforward. The most common reason employers deny a claim for benefits is because they do not think an employee was actually hurt at work or that an injury was not caused by something work-related. Employers and workers’ comp insurers also routinely reject legit claims, confident that many workers will fail to appeal.

 

On the other end, you may NOT need to contact a work injury lawyer if your employer and their insurance company if after you report your injury, the insurance company promptly contact you and starts providing you with benefits you’re entitled to receive under California law.

“If at any point, things start looking different, such as the insurance company is not paying you on time, you’re not getting the medical treatment requested, or there is a problem with getting a release to go back to work, that’s when would be a good idea to contact a lawyer,” says Yoro.

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Besides the above, here are a few other reasons you may want to contact an attorney after being injured on the job:

  • You were injured because of a third party‘s actions or your employer’s serious negligence. The workers’ comp system was designed to prevent civil lawsuits for work-related injuries. However, you are permitted to sue outside workers’ comp in certain situations, including when someone other than your employer contributed to your injury (such as a negligent driver who hit you while you were driving for work), your employer doesn’t have workers’ comp insurance, or your employer intentionally caused your injury. An experienced lawyer will be able to explain how the law applies to your situation.
  • If you plan to apply for Social Security Disability benefits, and if your settlement isn’t structured properly, your workers’ comp benefits could significantly lower Social Security disability payments. An experienced attorney will understand how to draft your settlement agreement to minimize or eliminate this offset.
  • If you are injured at work or while doing any activity that benefits your employer, and you are considered an employee under California law, then you should be getting workers’ compensation benefits.
  • If your boss retaliates against you for filing a workers’ comp claim, including firing you, demoting you, cutting your hours, reducing your pay, or discriminating, contact an attorney immediately to protect your legal rights. You should never be terminated by your employer just because you were injured on the job or because you have requested workers’ compensation benefits.
  • If you are having trouble communicating with the employer’s doctor, or the doctor does not seem to care about your well-being as much as your family physician might. If you want to make a change in your medical care, a workers’ compensation lawyer can be a great asset. He or she can provide helpful information about who would be the best person to use for your unique health situation and type of injury.
  • If you have permanent disability because of your work injury, your employer or their insurance company may offer to settle your claim. However, this settlement may not account for the full value of your disability. An attorney will be able to tell you about what the average workers’ compensation settlement might be for a case like yours.
  • Your employer’s settlement offer doesn’t cover all your lost wages or medical bills. If you’re not sure a settlement offer is good enough, don’t rely on the workers’ compensation judge to make sure that you’re getting a fair deal. Although workers’ comp settlements must have judicial approval, judges will usually sign off on any agreement as long as it’s not grossly unfair. If you really want someone to get you the best settlement possible, call an attorney.

In all, the average injured worker does not understand the workers’ compensation system. That means that you might not know how much money you are supposed to get after a work injury. Some people may not realize that they are supposed to get benefits at all. Many workers put a lot of trust in their employer or its insurance company and count on them to tell the worker what they should and should not do and how much money they should get. This trust is often misplaced, however.

The accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is home to two lawyers who are state certified as specialists in workers’ compensation law, awarded to legal professionals who have gone beyond the standard licensing requirements. In fact, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is the only plaintiff’s law firm in Kern County that has two attorneys who are state certified as specialists in workers’ compensation. Learn more about Jim Yoro and Beatriz Trejo at chainlaw.com.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Employers: Avoid potential wrongful termination lawsuits by following these tips

February 10, 2016 | 9:00 am


NOTE: The article below, written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles wrongful termination attorney Matthew Clark, appeared in the February/March issue of the Kern Business Journal. The bi-monthly publication by The Bakersfield Californian showcases business and industry developments across Kern County.

To see the entire publication online, click here. To see the article in the Kern Business Journal, click here

* Please note: Chain | Cohn | Stiles is no longer accepting wrongful termination cases *

Neither I nor my firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles handle cases for employers. In fact, we do quite the opposite. We represent employees who have been wrongfully terminated. With this in mind, I offer you some suggestions on what I look for in a wrongful termination case, or, as an employer, some things you should avoid.

When evaluating a claim for wrongful termination, I first look to see if the employee was subject to an employment contract. We see these most often with employees who are members of a union. The union typically negotiates a collective bargaining agreement, and that agreement often times controls the termination of the employment agreement. For example, an employment contract may require that the employer terminate an employee for cause. In most cases I see, the employee is “at-will,” meaning there is no employment contract.

Second, I look to see if my potential client’s employer violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA strives to prevent discrimination in the workplace. If an employee is terminated for a discriminatory purpose, that employee likely has a claim under FEHA. FEHA prevents discrimination based on age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and disability, among other things. In Kern County, we primarily see cases involving age discrimination.

Age discrimination falls under the regulatory authority of both FEHA and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a Federal act.

At first blush, age discrimination is simple. If an employer fires and employee over 40 years of age, and then replaces them with someone substantially younger, that fired employee has established a “prima facie” case for age discrimination. Once the fired employee establishes a prima facie case for age discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to prove that the termination was not discriminatory; hence, the employer must prove that the employee was terminated for a legitimate, non-discriminatory, business purpose. If the employer is successful, the employee may claim that the non-discriminatory purpose was simply a pre-text, and that in actuality the termination was discriminatory – and so the circle of allegations goes.

Oftentimes, the motivation for terminating an employee is mixed. For example, an employer may have acted with discrimination, by firing an employee in their 60s while replacing that employee with someone in their 20s, but the employer may also have evidence that the older employee was failing to satisfactorily perform their job duties. These “mixed-motive” terminations were recently addressed by the California Supreme Court in Harris v. Santa Monica. Harris requires, amongst other things, that the terminated employee show that unlawful discrimination was a substantial motivating factor in the termination. If the employer can show that the termination would have happened anyway, without discrimination, the damages the employee may be entitled to are greatly reduced.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to address the complex issues surrounding wrongful termination cases in this short article. Accordingly, I advise any employers with questions to seek out qualified human resources professionals.

For more information related to wrongful termination cases and employment law, visit chainlaw.com.

— Matthew Clark is a senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles where he focuses on wrongful death, wrongful termination and motor vehicle accident cases, among other injury cases for people of Kern County.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

10 things every employer should know about workers’ compensation

March 25, 2015 | 9:37 am


Note: The following article was published in the April/May edition of the Kern Business Journal, which you can view by clicking here. The Kern Business Journal is a bi-monthly publication of the The Bakersfield Californian, showcasing business and industry developments across Kern County.

By James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo

Responsible employers and responsible employees want the same thing: to work in a safe and healthy environment. But despite the best efforts of all involved, accidents can and do happen, and a work injury is an unfortunate incident for all parties involved.

The workers’ compensation* system is based on a trade-off between employees and employers – employees are supposed to promptly receive the benefits for on-the-job injuries, and in return, the workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for injured employees against their employer.

An employer should respond quickly and appropriately to an employee’s work injury claim so as not to unnecessarily delay the provision of the needed benefits.

But the process can be more complicated than that. Here are five things employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries:

1) The employer has a duty investigate.

The law requires that when an employer has been made aware of any facts which would lead to a conclusion that an injury has occurred on the job, the employer must investigate the incident. Being made aware of the incident can be any reporting or complaint made to a supervisor, foreman, manager, administrator or any person of authority.

2) Provide a “claim form” to the employee.

Unless the injury resulted in first aid only, within one day of having knowledge of the injury, the employer must provide a “claim form” to the injured worker. Once an injured employee completes and returns the claim form to his or her employer, workers’ compensation benefits should start flowing quickly if the injury is industrial.

3)  Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.

An injured worker will be entitled to workers’ compensation for injuries arising out of, and in the course of, employment. The injured worker does not need to prove that anyone was at fault for the accident.

4) Workers’ compensation is a benefit delivery system.

There are five types of benefits to which the injured worker may be entitled: temporary disability, permanent disability, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation services, and death benefits.

5) There are two ways to settle a workers’ compensation case.

Once the case is ripe for settlement, the case may be settled by way of “Stipulation with Request for Award,” where the employee is paid a small weekly benefit ($230 to $270) for the percentage of permanent disability that a doctor has assigned to the injured worker, and is also entitled to any continuing reasonable and necessary medical treatment. However, the medical treatment is still under the control of the employer’s insurance company. The other type of settlement is called a “Compromise and Release.” In this case, the employer through its insurance carrier negotiates to buy-out the insurance carrier’s obligation to the injured worker for benefits and future medical care for a lump sum settlement paid to the employee.

As a bonus, here are five more general tips employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries.

1) No employee wants to get hurt on the job.

If you have good employees then give them the benefit of the doubt when handling their claim.

2) Employees don’t plan on getting hurt on the job.

Just because there are no witnesses to the employees accident or injury doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The vast majority of on-the-job injuries are not witnessed by anyone. In addition, most employees are reluctant to report injuries unless they are serious or until they become so.

Consider the following scenario:

A warehouse worker who is required to unload trucks has a particularly busy shift on a Friday when he suddenly tweaks his back lifting a load in the afternoon. Rather than stopping work and reporting it at that time, he decides to try and finish out his shift and see if he can rest it over the weekend in the hopes of alleviating his pain. However, despite resting his back over the weekend, it does not get better and when he reports for work on Monday morning, he is unable to do his regular duties and then reports his injury to his foreman.

Once again, if this person is a good employee, then give him or her the benefit of the doubt and process the claim.

3) Injured employees do not get rich off of workers’ compensation benefits.

If an injured worker is placed on temporary total disability by the company doctor, the benefit is paid at two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage. This benefit is only available for a total of 104 weeks. This means that if an employee has a serious injury that requires hospitalization or multiple surgeries, they may run out of benefits before they have had a chance to recover. Thereafter, the maximum benefit the employee would be entitled to receive is $230 to $270 per week for a limited period of time. In addition, all medical treatment that the injured worker receives is controlled by the insurance company. Injured workers are not entitled to receive any monetary benefit for pain and suffering, lost wages and future earnings.

4) Do not discriminate against the injured worker.

Labor Code section 132a makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge, threaten to discharge, or in any manner discriminate against an employee because that employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim, or has made known his or her intention to file such a claim or has received a disability rating, award or settlement. Whenever possible, the employer should make good-faith efforts to determine whether or not the employee can be returned to work with reasonable accommodations.

5) Treat the injured worker the way you would want to be treated if you suffered an on-the-job injury.

Employers should try and follow the Golden Rule whenever an employee suffers an on-the-job injury.

– James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney in the workers’ compensation department at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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For more information and tips on workers’ compensation, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

And if you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles on The Groove: How to know if you have a case against your employer

October 2, 2014 | 4:00 am


* Update: Chain | Cohn | Stiles is no longer accepting wrongful termination and sexual harassment cases *

Losing a job when you didn’t deserve to lose it, or dealing with a hostile work environment can be traumatic. Unfortunately, these situations happen all too often.

The reality is that employment law tends to be very favorable for employers, making it that much more important to contact an attorney who handles employment law cases right away, if you think you’ve been wrongfully terminated, sexually harassed in the workplace, or are dealing with an employment-related injury. Having an attorney will keep you from making mistakes, or agreeing to things that may negatively impact your ability to pursue a case. Secondly, an attorney will be able to inform you of the necessary steps you must take before taking any action against your employer.

These are just some of the tips provided by the Bakersfield wrongful termination and employment law attorney Neil Gehlawat of Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently while on the air with Sheri Ortiz on The Groove 99.3.

He also discussed how to know if you have a case, the necessary steps to take if you think you have a case, and other tips for employment cases.

You can listen to the two short segments here:

Employment law cases are essentially divided into two types, shared Gehlawat:

  • Wrongful termination
  • Hostile work environment/sexual harassment

The agency in California that oversees employment-related matters is the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The law in California requires employees to “exhaust their administrative remedies” before pursuing legal action against their employer. That means that employees in most cases need to obtain a “Right to Sue” letter from department before they can sue their employer in court. Directions for doing this can be found on the department website (www.dfeh.ca.gov), but it is highly recommended that you contact an attorney before filling out any forms with department.

Provided that you are an at-will employee, in California, the law permits employers to hire and fire employees at will, provided that the hiring or firing decisions are not discriminatory in nature, or do not violate public policy.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees, or subjecting them to a hostile work environment, because they are members of a protected class.  “Protected class” means (and is not limited to) age, religion, national origin, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and others. In other words, an employer cannot fire you because you are African American, or because you are a senior citizen and replace you with someone much younger, or because you are Jewish, for example. If you believe that being part of a protected class is the reason for retaliatory action taken against you, you should consider speaking with an attorney.

There are some other instances where you may have a case, but those instances are limited. For example, if you are a whistle blower, meaning you report the wrongful or illegal activity of your employer to a higher-up and you are then fired or disciplined for it, you may have a case. Or if you’re injured on the job, and file a workers’ compensation* claim, your employer cannot fire you. In the last case, they must also make an effort to engage in a good faith interactive process to see if they can reasonably accommodate you, even with injuries you have sustained on the job.

Finally, Gehlawat shared some tips.

It is important for employees to always put things in writing. Employment cases always turn into “he-said, she-said” cases, and putting things on writing can go a long way to help your case. If you’re having an issue at work, send an email or write a letter, and notify your supervisor or human resources representative. Keep records of everything you put in writing so that it is documented and it does not get lost. Second, if you’re being harassed or subjected to a hostile work environment, you need to report it in writing. You need to give your employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the problem, and if you do not, it may negatively affect your case.

Gehlawat said if you take just two things away from this blog post and the radio spot, it’s this:

  • Talk to an attorney early.
  • Document everything in writing.

* Editor’s Note: Neil Gehlawat is no longer an attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles *

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.