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Santa Clara County workers' compensation lawyerAn employee who suffers a work-related injury or illnesses is likely to be entitled to financial compensation through their employer's workers' compensation insurer. The injured person may be eligible for benefits to cover medical expenses such as hospital care and medication, as well as part of their lost income and other considerations.

Unfortunately, recovering compensation through workers' compensation is not always straightforward. Many different issues may complicate the process. Employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies may attempt to reduce or eliminate the employee's workers' compensation benefits. Sometimes, insurance companies even conduct surveillance on injured employees, ostensibly hoping to prove that the employee is not as injured as they claim to be.

Workers' Compensation Surveillance Tactics

Insurance companies seek to minimize payouts to injured employees whenever possible. One way insurance companies may try to get out of paying workers' compensation benefits is to challenge the validity or extent of the employee's injuries. The insurer may conduct surveillance of the injured person in an effort to "catch" the employee acting in ways that suggest their injuries are fabricated or exaggerated.

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Gilroy, CA workers' compensation lawyerIn an average year, some two-and-a-half million American workers suffer a work-related injury or illness. Many are fortunate to sustain relatively minor injuries and can go back to work quickly. Others, however, suffer much more serious injuries, including spine and head injuries, which cause them to miss work for long periods of time. In the most severe cases, the injuries can be catastrophic, leading to permanent disability or even death. Regardless of the severity of the injury, all injured workers need to know how to ensure their rights are protected as they seek compensation for their injuries—especially if they are seeking benefits under the California workers’ compensation system.

Report Your Injury Quickly

When you suffer an injury at work, you should report the injury to your employer right away or as soon as reasonably possible. You must report your injury within 30 days, or you risk losing your eligibility for work compensation benefits. Your injury must be reported so that your employer can conduct a proper investigation into the circumstances. Do not risk losing your benefits. Report your injury to your employer immediately.

Keep a Copy of All Your Records

Nobody likes extra paperwork, but the documentation showing the nature, extent, and treatment of your injury will be critical in getting you the benefits you deserve. Get and keep a copy of your initial injury report as well as any records that are available from your treating doctors and facilities. These records are especially important if you are seeking disability benefits or if your employer is disputing your claim in any way. By having your own copies of your records, you ensure that you and your lawyer have access to everything you need to pursue compensation.

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Santa Clara County workers' compensation lawyerIn today’s world, we are more aware of mental health concerns than perhaps ever before. As a result, we have learned a great deal about a variety of conditions that were previously considered to be “no big deal,” but that can be downright debilitating in many situations. A good example of this can be found with post-traumatic stress syndrome, commonly abbreviated as PTSD. What was once thought of as “battle fatigue” or “shell shock” and associated mainly with military members who saw combat is now known to be a danger for nearly anyone who has gone through or witnessed an especially scary, dangerous, or shocking experience.

Post-traumatic stress syndrome can become a major concern for those who have been in car crashes, those who were assaulted or raped, and even those who suffered or witnessed a tragic event on the job. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with PTSD due to an incident that occurred at work, workers’ compensation benefits may be available.

Common PTSD Symptoms

It is nearly impossible to know for certain how many Americans deal with PTSD in their lives because many are hesitant to come forward and seek treatment. In fact, many do not even realize the extent of their problems. Federal estimates suggest that as many as 12 million people in the United States have PTSD in a typical year, with millions more experiencing trauma that could cause the condition to develop.

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Gilroy, CA workers' compensation lawyerOver the last few years, more and more employers have embraced the idea of allowing their employees to work from home. What started as a necessity during the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdowns has become a new normal for many companies in California and around the country.

But what happens when an employee who works from home gets injured while on the clock? Is that person still eligible to collect workers' compensation benefits? If it is possible to get benefits, will being a work-from-home employee complicate the case? The answers to these questions, as with most legal concerns, depend on the specifics of the situation.

Working From Home Makes Your Home Your Workplace

The first thing to understand is that, if you are injured while working from home, your home is considered your workplace. That means that the same rules and regulations that apply to traditional workplaces also apply to work-from-home setups.

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Gilroy, CA workers' compensation lawyerEvery year, thousands of workers are killed on the job in the United States. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable if the right safety precautions are taken. Today, we will discuss the "Fatal Four" workplace dangers that account for the largest percentage of worker fatalities each year. If you want to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, it is important to be aware of these dangers and take steps to protect yourself from them.

The Fatal Four

The construction industry is among the most dangerous industries for workers, accounting for about 1,000 workplace fatalities per year in this country. On average, about 60% of these fatalities are attributed to just four specific dangers that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has labeled as the “Fatal Four.” The Fatal Four include the following:

Fatal Four Danger #1: Falls From Heights

The first of the Fatal Four is falls. Falls from heights are one of the most common causes of workplace fatalities, accounting for over 350 deaths each year. If you work in a job that involves any kind of height, it is important to wear the proper safety equipment and to follow all safety procedures. Even if you simply use a ladder occasionally in the course of your job, you should be aware of the potential for falls at your workplace and take the appropriate precautions.

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Gilroy, CA workers' compensation lawyerMany people are under the false impression that they cannot collect workers' compensation benefits if they had a pre-existing condition before being injured at work. The good news is that this is not entirely true. If you have been injured at work, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, regardless of whether you had a pre-existing condition. In fact, if you aggravated a previous injury while on the job, a qualified workers’ compensation attorney can help you get the benefits to which you are likely entitled under the law.

What is a Pre-Existing Condition?

For the purposes of this discussion on workers’ compensation, a pre-existing condition is a medical condition that you had before you were injured at work. It is important to note that a pre-existing condition does not have to be permanently disabling in order to be covered by workers' compensation. Even if your pre-existing condition was only temporary or minor, you may still be able to collect benefits if your workplace injury aggravated or worsened the condition.

How Does This Work?

Consider a scenario, for example, in which you sprained your ankle at work. You may have had a previous ankle injury that had healed before you started your current job. Your prior injury might have required physical therapy or even surgery to address. However, because of the new injury, the old injury was aggravated, and you are now unable to walk without pain. In a case like this, you would likely be eligible for workers' compensation benefits even though you had a pre-existing condition.

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Santa Clara County workers' compensation lawyerWorkers' compensation is a program that provides benefits to workers who are injured or who contract an illness at work. In California, the workers' compensation program is administered by the Department of Industrial Relations. Workers' compensation insurance is mandatory for all employers in California with one or more employees. This includes part-time, seasonal, and migrant workers. Employees who are injured on the job may be entitled to receive medical treatment, disability benefits, and other types of benefits. On-the-job injuries include injuries that are caused by a singular event, as well as those that develop over time—more commonly known as “repetitive stress,” “repetitive strain,” or “repetitive motion” injuries.

Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are a type of injury that can occur when a person performs the same motion over and over again. RSIs can happen at work if a person is required to perform the same task repeatedly over the course of weeks, months, or even years. Some examples of jobs that may put workers at risk for RSIs include assembly line work, data entry, office work, and factory work.

Common RSIs and Their Symptoms

There are many different types of repetitive stress injuries, and you are probably familiar with at least some of them. The most common RSIs that can occur on the job include:

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Gilroy, CA workers compensation lawyerIf you were hurt in a car crash while you were driving for your job, you may have questions about who will pay for your injuries, especially if you have to miss work for any length of time. In most cases, you will probably qualify for workers' compensation benefits, which can help cover your medical costs and a percentage of your lost wages. The good news is that you might have other options for collecting additional compensation.

Steps to Take

The first thing you should do after a car accident is to seek medical attention, even if you do not think you were seriously hurt. After all, some injuries, such as whiplash, may not be immediately apparent. Once you have been seen by a doctor and have a diagnosis of your injuries, you can start the process of filing a workers' compensation claim.

To begin your claim, you will also need to report the accident and your injuries to your employer. If your employer carries workers' compensation insurance, then you should be covered for your medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages. All employers in California are required by law to have this type of coverage, so if yours does not, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit directly against the company for whom you work.

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Gilroy, CA workers' compensation lawyerIn the state of California, workers’ compensation benefits are intended to help workers who have been hurt on the job get their medical bills paid and receive payment for lost wages. The workers’ compensation system is not based on fault. You can often get workers’ compensation benefits even if your own negligence led to your injuries. You are not able to sue your employer for work injuries in most cases. 

Before you can receive workers’ compensation benefits, you will need to prove you are a covered employee under California law and that you were injured in the course of your job. You will also need to demonstrate the extent of your injuries.

Are You Covered?

The law, in most cases, will assume that you are covered by the workers’ compensation system. Workers’ compensation generally only applies to employees. If your employer believes you are an independent contractor instead of an employee, your employer will need to prove that you are not an employee. In such a case, you may need to show why you believe you are an employee.

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California workers' compensation lawyerRadiation is a form of energy that travels through space in waves. The sun, for example, produces massive amounts of radiation in the form of heat and light upon which we rely for our very existence. Similarly, a microwave oven uses radiation to agitate water molecules in food, which, in turn, heats the food, leaving it perfectly safe to eat. Even the music you hear coming from the speakers in your car is being transmitted to your ear as radio waves—yet another form of radiation. Some kinds of radiation, however, are not quite so benign, and they have the power to cause injury and even death.

Every day, thousands of workers in hundreds of different jobs are exposed to various types of radiation in the course of their work. If you have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation and you have suffered illness or injury as a result, you may be entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits.

Recognizing Harmful Forms of Radiation

When most people think of harmful radiation, they tend to think of “ionizing” radiation. Ionizing radiation is a type of radiation that carries enough energy to ionize atoms, which can destabilize molecules within the body’s cells and cause tissue damage. Beta particle radiation, x-rays, and gamma rays are particularly dangerous types of ionizing radiation.

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Gilroy workers' compensation lawyerIt almost goes without saying that workplace injuries can happen in any industry. However, some professionals are more likely to experience an injury than others. For example, the construction industry is well known for its high rate of work injuries and fatalities. There is also another high-risk industry – the healthcare field—but it does not receive the same amount of attention as it should. Perhaps this is due, in part, to the reduced risk of immediate fatality from an injury. Whatever the reason for the lack of discussion may be, injuries in the healthcare field deserve to be talked about.

Nurses Are Especially Prone to Back Injuries

On any given day, a nurse can cumulatively lift thousands of pounds. They must move patients and may even be required to help a person up that has passed out or fallen. Rarely is there equipment nearby to help – and even when there is, the situation may be too emergent to wait for the machinery to do its job. So, nurses lift. They bend. They lift and bend, all at the same time. Good body mechanics can help, but it is far from fail-proof.

Long-term work as a nurse, and years of lifting and transferring patients, can take a toll on the muscles and structures of the back. A sudden slip of a patient while transferring can suddenly pull a nurse in the wrong direction. Add all of that to several hours (often 12 or more) of walking and standing, and it is no wonder that back injuries are among the most common injuries for nurses.

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Gilroy workers' compensation lawyerEvery year, nearly three million American workers are hurt on the job. These injuries cost U.S. companies tens of billions of dollars in reduced productivity, to say nothing of the costs related to treating the injured workers and helping them recover. With this in mind, the workers’ compensation system was developed to help ensure that injured employees receive financial benefits to cover their medical expenses, the costs associated with retraining for new jobs, and a percentage of their lost wages. While workers’ compensation benefits are available and suitable for most work injury cases, you might be wondering if you have the ability to sue your employer for additional compensation.

Fault Is Not a Consideration

In California, as in other states, the workers’ compensation program is set up as a no-fault system that affords certain protections for employees in the event that they get hurt at work. As a no-fault system, workers’ compensation benefits are meant to be available without regard to whether an injury is caused by the negligence or actions of the injured employee or the employer. If an injured employee had to prove negligence on the part of the employer in order to collect benefits, far fewer workers’ compensation claims would ever be paid, and thousands of injured employees would be left without much hope of collecting anything. 

Consider this example: Your job requires you to reach an item on a high shelf, so you find a ladder that is well-maintained and in good condition. While you are on the ladder, you twist your body to reach the item. You fall off the ladder and are injured. Your employer did not do anything or allow anything to happen that would be considered negligent. But under the California workers’ compensation system, fault is not a factor, so you could still file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

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Santa Clara County workers compensation attorneyWhen you think of Workers’ Compensation, you are likely to picture people who work on construction sites or in the oil fields, not at a desk. Certainly, those who are working around dangerous machinery, heavy equipment, or dangerous chemicals are more likely to get hurt on the job. However, it is not just blue-collar tradesmen and manual laborers who sustain workplace injuries. Office employees can also be injured at work, and they just as eligible for Workers’ Compensation as any other type of worker. 

While you may be statistically much safer sitting behind a desk in an office, white-collar professionals can and do get injured at work. If you have been injured while working in an office building, you may want to speak to a lawyer for help with the process of getting Workers’ Compensation. 

Injuries Office Workers Are at Risk For

While the types of accidents that happen on riskier job sites can vary dramatically in nature, the types of accidents that happen in offices often fall into one of just a few simple categories. Office workers may be injured at work in accidents like: 

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California workers comp lawyerEvidence is everything in a Workers’ Compensation claim. In order to prove your case, you will need to show not only that your injury is genuine, but that it is work-related and prevents you from performing your job duties. One way that some employers will try to wriggle out of paying Workers’ Compensation is by arguing that an employee’s injury could have happened elsewhere or been caused by something other than your work. Gathering the right evidence, and quickly, can make or break a Workers’ Compensation case. It is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after getting hurt on the job so that they can advise you on what type of proof to gather, both right away, and while you are away from work recovering. 

Types of Evidence You May Need for Workers’ Compensation

The path to getting compensation for a routine work injury is meant to be a bit more streamlined than the path to getting compensation for say, a car accident or a slip-and-fall. However, this is not always the case. Some employers are quite cooperative and will readily help an injured worker recover these payments. Others will fight back and try anything to get out of paying. 

Whether you think your employer will be fairly cooperative or more inclined to resist, you should gather proof like: 

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California workers' comp attorneyOne of the more common reasons that injured workers may avoid filing a Workers’ Compensation claim is a fear of retaliation. Especially in difficult economic circumstances, employees may be very fearful of losing a good job. It may seem preferable to deal with a worksite injury alone, through your own medical insurance rather than risking job loss during the next round of layoffs. However, in California, it is illegal for an employer to fire someone for filing a claim with Workers’ Compensation. Doing so would be a form of wrongful termination, and you could have legal recourse. If a fear of retaliation is keeping you from filing for Workers’ Compensation, our attorneys may be able to help set your mind at ease and get you the funding you need. 

What California Law Says About Retaliation and Workers’ Compensation

Under California state law, your employer cannot fire you - or even threaten to fire you - because you filed a Workers’ Compensation claim or plan to do so. If you make your intention to file a claim known and are threatened with the possibility of losing your job, your employer is breaking the law and could actually be guilty of a criminal misdemeanor. The same is true if your employer actually goes through with firing you. 

Employers will sometimes make up excuses to fire employees who have filed for Workers’ Compensation. For example, they may terminate your employment the second you file a claim and then try to say you were actually fired for being 45 seconds late that one time. This approach is rarely effective - courts are smart enough to see right through the ruse. 

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California workers' compensation lawyerAs if getting hurt at work is not bad enough, finding out that your rightful claim for Workers’ Compensation has been denied can make your life that much harder. Claims can be denied for any number of reasons, reasonable or otherwise. It could be that you are having a hard time proving that a repetitive stress injury was caused by your work, or that someone is under the false impression that you are exaggerating the extent of your injury.

Whatever reason you were given for having your claim denied, there may be steps an attorney can take to appeal the board’s decision and hopefully get you the compensation you need to get better. Cramer + Martinez knows how a denied claim can affect the financial health of your whole family, and we will fight to make it right. 

Appealing a Denied Workers’ Compensation Claim in California

If your initial claim was denied, do not panic. You have the right to appeal the decision, and it is best that you do so with assistance from a trained attorney. The first order of business will be to figure out why your claim was denied. Reasons your claim might have been denied include: 

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Santa Clara County Workers' Compensation LawyersLosing a limb is among the most dreaded types of permanently disabling injuries that one can suffer in the workplace. When you have lost an arm or a leg, or even a finger, it can take a long time for you to get back to a point where you can perform your normal activities of daily living. You will likely need extensive physical therapy, with or without a prosthesis, before you can do things like dressing yourself or cleaning your home. Having a limb severed also tends to come with a lot of pain - the pain alone associated with this injury can keep you from returning to work. While you may eventually be able to adjust to a new way of doing things, you may never be able to return to the type of work you were doing before the injury. Because this is such a major type of Workers’ Compensation claim, it is best to have an attorney handle your case. 

What You Should Know About Workers’ Compensation After Losing a Limb

While some people do very well with a prosthetic limb, others do not. At no point should you feel any obligation to be “inspiring.” Physical and mental recovery after the loss of a limb is an intensely personal affair. You deserve to receive compensation so that your injury does not come with a big financial hit. This is what Workers’ Compensation is for. 

Here are few considerations you should keep in mind as you explore your available options:

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California work comp lawyerBrushing off a “minor” injury in the workplace can come back to bite you. Some injuries or accidents may seem like no big deal in the moment, only to become a very big deal later on. If you report the injury right away and have the accident thoroughly documented, then you will have solid evidence that you got hurt at work should you need to pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim later on. However, if you fail to report what happened, it might be more difficult to establish that your injury is a workplace injury.

There are a number of reasons that people do not report workplace accidents, ranging from embarrassment to a belief that the injury will quickly heal on its own. Reporting the injury anyway can preserve your claim just in case. 

Why You Should Report Every Injury, Every Time

“Minor” injuries can turn out to be a much bigger deal than you may have anticipated. Reasons that you should always report every workplace accident or injury include: 

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Gilroy workers compensation lawyersSome workplace injuries are much more serious than others. After a simple injury like a sprained ankle, you may need a few weeks off to recover before returning to work. In that case, your claim would be fairly straightforward - you recover lost wages and medical expenses, and you are back at work like nothing happened. However, some workplace injuries can be much more serious. A serious accident that causes a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury can leave you permanently unable to return to work. You may have to change career paths, which often involves taking a serious pay cut. Or, you may never be able to work again in any capacity. In these instances, you may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. If you are in this type of situation, it is crucial that you reach out to an attorney for help applying for Workers’ Compensation

When Am I Eligible for Permanent Disability Benefits?

Applying for permanent benefits can be trickier than applying for temporary benefits. You will need some patience, as you cannot apply immediately. It is impossible to prove permanent disability until a doctor has determined that your injury is no longer improving and is unlikely to improve in the future. Depending on the injury, this could take months. A worker with a traumatic brain injury may spend up to a year in a rehabilitation facility while slowly improving as time goes on. Of course, in other cases, it is fairly clear that improvement is unlikely to occur. For example, if an accident leaves you paralyzed or missing a limb, your condition is not likely to get better. 

If your doctor determines that your condition is as good as it is likely to get, but you are still not able to return to work, you might be eligible for permanent disability payments. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_private-investigator-work-comp.jpgIn our last blog post, we discussed the role of a Workers’ Compensation investigator. These private investigators are assigned to Workers’ Compensation recipients who have been out of work. Their job is to verify that the recipient appears to have the injury they claim and the physical limitations they claim. Just because one of these investigators has been assigned to your case does not mean that anyone necessarily thinks that you are faking. That said, if you suspect that a Workers’ Compensation investigator is following you, there are a few steps that you can take to protect yourself. One of the first steps you should take is to contact an attorney who can offer you more specific advice that pertains to your individual situation. 

Know the Signs of Being Under Surveillance

You may notice signs if a Workers’ Compensation investigator is watching you. Look for vehicles you do not recognize sitting parked on your home street near your house, especially if the vehicle is occupied. If you notice the same vehicle while you are out and about, it is likely that you are being watched. While driving, try making three right or three left turns. If the same car is still behind you, you are very likely being followed. 

Also, try to pay closer attention to the strangers you see out in public. If you see the same individual repeatedly in multiple locations while you are out of work on Workers’ Compensation, it could be an investigator. 

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