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Call For A Free Consultation: (530) 287-6674
  • By: Benjamin Helfman, Esq.
  • Published: April 16, 2024
The image shows an employee falling from a broken chair and getting injured. - Leep Tescher Helfman and Zanze

Workers’ compensation is an important but field of law that enables injured employees to obtain financial compensation for the harm they have suffered as part of their work. But these cases are rarely cut and dry; this article dives deeper into California’s workers’ compensation system, explaining:

  • What happens when you are partially at fault for the injury you incurred in the workplace?
  • Why you might not need to have been physically at your workplace when you are injured.
  • What should you do if you believe you have a valid workers’ compensation claim?

What Happens If I Am Partially At Fault For The Incident That Caused My Injury?

Accidents and injuries tend to be complicated and messy. The circumstances leading to them are not always clear, and sometimes, an employee may be partially to blame for their own injury, even in the workplace.

In most instances, however, this will have no impact on your claim for compensation. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means that even if you are at fault for the injury, there is no change in the amount or character of your benefits, even if your fault is negligence or gross negligence. At least most of the time.

What Happens When There Is Serious Or Deliberate Misconduct?

The exception to this no-fault rule is when conduct constitutes serious and willful misconduct. In fact, either serious or willful misconduct by the employer OR the employee can impact the workers’ compensation claim. In that case, then the benefits are either increased or decreased by 50%.

If your employer engaged in deliberate or serious misconduct, then the amount of compensation you receive will be increased by 50%. On the other hand, if the misconduct was yours, the compensation you receive will be cut in half.

There is also an additional one-year statute of limitations (deadline) for bringing a serious and willful misconduct complaint. Simply filing an application for the underlying benefits is not enough; you also have to claim the serious and willful misconduct. So would your employer. Some exceptionally dangerous actions can even result in additional claim options.

For example, if someone loses their hand when it is cut off in a punch press, but the employer has removed the guard. This not only might be serious and woeful misconduct, but it may also qualify for a civil lawsuit under a specific “punch press exception.” While there are plenty of debates about what is considered a punch press if you do have the option of filing a civil lawsuit, such as a personal injury claim, that can often be a more effective and lucrative path to compensation than workers’ compensation.

Do I Have To Physically Be At Work To Qualify For Workers’ Compensation?

While work injuries usually occur at the workplace, this is not always the case. Some might happen while you are traveling for work and qualify for the commercial traveler rule.

Others might happen when you have been sent to go pick something up or if you drive a truck for work. As long as the activity is directly connected to your work and your responsibilities as an employee, you should be eligible for compensation.

Unfortunately, this does not extend to injuries that occur while commuting.

What Is The Coming And Going Rule Of Workers’ Compensation?

If you are injured while commuting to or from work and your shift hasn’t started yet, unfortunately, you are unlikely to qualify for workers’ compensation. This is because of the “coming and going” rule in California law.

There are, however, many exceptions to this rule. If you are in such an accident, it is vital you call a lawyer to find out if you might be covered.

For example, the so-called “danger zone” is one exception to the coming and going rule that says if you are injured close enough to work or in a zone the workplace is directly responsible for, you can still file for workers’ compensation.

Sometimes, the employer themselves may argue that it should be a workers’ compensation injury, especially if they are otherwise negligent. For example, if the employer is responsible for maintaining the road you were injured on, they might prefer you file for workers’ compensation rather than hold them liable with a personal injury claim.

In other words, an employer would much rather pay a worker’s compensation claim in some instances than be sued in civil court because the recovery can be larger in civil court.

What Should I Do If I Believe I Have A Valid Workers’ Compensation Claim In California?

If you have been injured at work, been injured in a workplace accident, or are suffering from work-related injuries or exposure, here is how to go about ensuring you have the best possible chance at compensation.

  • Step 1: File a claim form right away. People often make the mistake of not reporting the injury and not asking for a claim form.
  • Step 2: See a doctor immediately. To ensure your injuries are properly treated and their causal connection to the accident or incident is clear, it is vital to see a doctor as soon as possible.

It is vital to do both to establish causality between the incident at work and the injury. If you arrive to work healthy, and something happens in front of everyone, and you go to the doctor right away, it will be very hard for the insurance company to argue you were injured somewhere else.

But if you throw out your back alone in the store room when no one is watching, there are no cameras, and you do not complain or tell anyone about it, it will be much tougher. Especially if you do not go to the doctor but go home instead and just take an ibuprofen or put ice on it without even a spouse to testify that you came home with a bad back.

If days, weeks, months, or even years later, your injury gets worse and worse, and you go to your employer to report the injury, you might eventually be able to prove that the injury was on the job and find compensation. But if you had immediately gone to your employer, reported the injury, asked for a claim form, and requested to be sent to a doctor, you would be far more likely to have an easily admitted and paid claim.

  • Step 3: Contact a workers’ compensation attorney. Regardless of how straightforward your case seems to be, you should always get a skilled and experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help.

For more information on Valid Worker’s Compensation Claim In CA, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (530) 287-6674 today.


link to first article

Attorney Benjamin Helfman is a dedicated California workers’ compensation attorney serving injured workers and employees in Shasta County and beyond. Attorney Helfman brings a wide breadth of experience and deep knowledge to the field of workers’ compensation, aiming to demystify its complex legal procedures to help the injured and disabled understand their rights and secure the financial compensation they deserve.

Connect with the law firm of Leep, Tescher, Helfman and Zanze to stay up to date on workers’ compensation laws and practices in California.

Call For A Free Consultation: - (530) 287-6674.

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