Hand injuries are among the most common injuries that workers suffer in California. These injuries account for more than 10% of the total visits to Emergency Departments that deal with accidents. Hand injuries vary in degree from mild bruises to severe fractures, concussions, and lacerations. Different types of accidents are also responsible for the injuries. If your employer is liable for your injuries in Orange County, you can contact The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Orange County to help you in filing a hand injury compensation claim. We also deal with compensation for other types of injuries such as head, knee, ankle, and back injuries among many other injuries you can suffer in the workplace.
Types of Hand Injuries
California personal injury law recognizes three types of hand injuries for which you can claim compensation.
Fractured/Crushed Hand Bones
The hand is composed of many bones. These bones work together to function properly. In the event of any of the bones in the hand gets fractured, the hand won’t function properly. Not only will you experience excruciating pain on the affected part but also you will not be able to execute any manual duty until you have the part treated. As a result, fractured bones will force you to miss your job and at the same time, hire somebody to perform chores that you would have done.
Our fingertips and hands are composed of a network of fibers and nerves. These nerve fibers enable as to detect or sense touch, pain or any other contact. If your hand is damaged and in the process, the nerves are affected, performing tasks even the simplest ones would be difficult. In some serious cases, the affected nerves can even result in you getting burnt or injured because your senses are not able to detect any pain. Your injured nerves will not only affect your quality of life but also result in a substantial financial loss most of which is incurred in medical expenses. Your affected nerves would also make you lose your job because you won’t be able to work normally.
These are minor injuries associated with hands. However, they can be severe, especially if the sensitive parts like the ligaments, tendons and the hand muscles are involved. If you suffer from such injuries, your ability to grasp objects may be jeopardized. Like any other hand injuries, the tears and sprains also may prevent you from attending to your daily activities and eventually affecting your income.
Steps to Take After a Hand Injury
Seek medical attention
An injury is an emergency, and therefore, you may not be able to plan for a specific place to seek medication. If you injure your hand, you can go to any health facility. If you are within the place of work, you can go to the health facility in the place, especially if your employer provides medical services. While undergoing the treatment, ensure that you let the physician know that your injuries are related to your job and record it. This would be useful in the future when you are claiming compensation.
Report the injury to the employer
Upon treatment, you must report the incident (injury) to your employer. The law requires that you notify your employer within 30 days from the day of the injury. If you fail to do so, you may miss the chance for compensation. An exception, however, is given where the accident occurs in the presence of the employer or if it was beyond any reasonable doubt that he or she is aware of the injury. Labor code sections 5400 and 5402 (a) insists that the earlier you report your hand injury related to your job, the better your chances during the compensation process.
File the worker compensation claim form
You should undertake this step within one working day from the time you reported the incident to your employer. Your employer has a responsibility of giving you the claim form. Among the vital information contained in the form are:
Rights concerning compensation;
Steps to acquire the benefits you are eligible for.
Sometimes, the employer may fail to give you the form. In this case, you get the form by downloading it from the Worker Compensation Website of California.
While filling the form, ensure that you indicate the part of your hand that was injured and any other information concerning the accident. After filing, hand it to the employer. You can do this personally or through the mail services. Upon receiving the form, the employer will fill his or her part and pass it to the insurance, which may then organizes for the compensation.
How Much Is The Compensation Claims For A Hand Injury?
There is no fixed amount of compensation that you can claim following your hand injury. In most occasions, the amount you will claim depend on the severity and nature of the hand injury you suffer from. For you to succeed in the claim, you are supposed to have some supporting documents like the medical report from a recognized medical specialty. The report often gives information regarding the level of the hand injuries you suffered, the extent of medication required, and if the injury caused temporary or permanent damage to your hand.
While calculating the amount of claim payable for the hand injuries, the court will consider the following factors:
The pain or suffering caused by the injury;
The total medication and treatment expenses. Including all the costs incurred in surgery (if there was any), drugs prescription, consultation, and diagnostic tests.
Rehabilitation cost, for example, the physiotherapeutic exercise cost;
Other cost associated with the treatment of the injuries such as travel cost to and from hospital;
The income losses and any benefit related to the work that was lost during the seek leave period;
The lost quality of life. For example, upon suffering the injury, you were no longer able to enjoy your hobbies as usual.
Liability for Workers Compensation Claims
The liability of your hand's related injury depends entirely on where your injuries occurred. Consequently, if you are a worker and the accident that resulted in your hand injury occurred in the workplace, your employer will be responsible for the compensation. Examples of conditions that can result in hand accidents at the workplace include slippery/cluttered surface, unmaintained working equipment, lack of warnings on dangerous equipment/places and even old or wrecked structures,
For your hand compensation claim to suffice and be compensated, it must be backed with evidence which shows that indeed the accident was a result of another person’s negligence, mistake or carelessness, for instance, accidents due to insufficient instructions, lack of safety or protective clothing, or faulty working tools. It can also be supported by the proof that the accident resulted from the carelessness on the side of your work colleague, supervisor or the employer.
Can I Make Hand Injury Claims on My Own In California?
Definitely, you can make or file your claim alone but this is not the best way. The laws related to personal injuries are complex and, thus, require an individual with vast knowledge in the field. Rather than initiating a claim and end up losing, consulting a competent workers compensation attorney would be vital. The benefits of having a good attorney in Orange County is that they will initiate the claim process, and go through it to the end without asking you for any money. The attorney assigned to you will only ask for some fee after succeeding or winning in your case or claim. Also, the chances of losing in your claims are minimal when you have a legal representative.
Exclusive Remedy Rule under the California Compensation Law
The exclusive remedy rule dictates that you should never sue your employer so long as you are receiving benefits from workers’ compensation. The workers’ compensation rule was adopted to act as a fairground between the employers and the workers. That is, the rule acted to compromise between the two players. In these cases, the employees upon getting involved in accidents are compensated by the employer. On the other hand, the employer benefits by avoiding the lawsuits that the employees could have filed against them had they not compensated them.
There are some exceptions that allow the workers to go against the exclusive remedy rule. As such, it allows the employees to go further and sue their employers in the civil court despite compensation.
Some of these exceptions include:
Dual capacity rule admits that employers have multiple duties towards their employees. Thus, accidents that workers meet may be directly or indirectly related to employment. As explained earlier above, workers compensation generally give benefits to injured workers if only their injuries relate directly to employment and never indirectly. As such, if a worker suffers injuries that are related indirectly to employment, he or she may not be compensated. Therefore, dual capacity as an exception can permit you to take a civil lawsuit against the employer if the accident relates to the employment indirectly.
Here is a scenario that dual capacity rule is demonstrated:
An employer processes or manufactures fake or a defective product. The product is then sold or leased to an independent third party. In one way or the other, the third party provided the defective tool to an employee in the company. The employee while using the tool injures his/her hand. The compensation law may not recognize the injury but the civil law will recognize it. This is possible because the law will try to establish the actual manufacturer of the tool which happens to be the victim’s employer.
Some employers, especially those new in California may avoid taking insurance coverage for its employees. If you suffer a hand injury in such a company, the employer may not be able to compensate you even according to the worker's compensation law. You, therefore, have a right to seek a civil lawsuit against the company, demanding your compensation.
The worker's compensation law has a basic demand to the employer, either taking the compensation cover from a recognized insurance company or if that is not possible, obtain a self-insured certificate from the state. There are situations in which you are employed by two employers; that is, ‘dual employment’. In such a case, one of the co-employees requests the partner to take the compensation coverage. If you are involved in an accident, the covered employer will compensate you.
Power press/guard removal/failure to install
Technically, power press is any machine which utilizes a die to either press, punch or impact on the material being processed. A guard is any material or apparatus that is designed in a way that keeps away or ensures that the worker's hands are barred from the operation area. As such, the material prevents possible hand-related injuries. There are situations in which greedy or unscrupulous employees remove the guards, power them off or fail to install such materials citing saving of power or increasing efficiency. If such is the case with your injury and you know that the employer was aware, then you are allowed to file a civil lawsuit.
This exception applies if the employer conceals the facts related to your hand injury and how it is connected to the employment. In the process, the concealment led to your injuries getting worst. Three vital elements exist that necessitate civil lawsuit. That is:
Your employer concealed your hand injury;
The employer concealed the connection or relationship between the injury you suffered and the employment;
The concealment resulted in the aggravation of your injuries.
Fraudulent concealment in many ways applies to such accidents resulting from exposure to harmful situations like radio frequencies, asbestos, molds or other lethal substances. It is considered true if the employer knew of the harmful situation but never notified you as the employee and you were never aware of the situation.Employer Ratification/Assault
The law exempts an employer from being liable to your hand injuries that resulted from assaults from your co-employee. However, if your employer directly or indirectly (through your fellow employee) assaulted you causing hand injury, you should take up a civil lawsuit. Willful assault or inciting of co-employee to assault you is not a natural risk. Thus, you may not be covered by the workers’ insurance cover. Consequently, you may not be compensated. If that is your case, you should file a civil lawsuit against the employer.
There are a lot of benefits that you may get if you establish lawsuits at the court of law that you may not have gotten by relying on the worker's compensation alone. For instance, the benefits you will get are expanded to include the lost earnings or earning capacity in the future and the past, the medical/ treatment expenses, damages related to pain, sufferings, and even the loss of life enjoyment. In addition, civil law will consider the sufferings that the injured workers family faced. All these benefits would never be available on the worker's compensation system.
The statute of Limitation for Hand and Related Injuries in California
The statute of limitation refers to the time frame within which you are supposed to present a lawsuit against those whom you think are responsible for your hand injury. Under California code of civil procedures on section 335.1, you are given two years from the time your hand was injured to present a lawsuit in the court against your employer. If you fail to present yourself in the court within the stipulated two years’ time, the court will hesitate in scheduling hearing of your case. Consequently, you will miss compensation altogether.
If you are presenting a claim against a government entity, the statute of limitation is six months. Some of such entities include state, city or county agencies. You will also be required to follow strict legal procedures that are presented under California code section 911.2. Like lawsuit against a typical employer, failure to present your lawsuit in the court will bar your issues from being heard and possibly miss compensation.
Partial/Shared Fault Laws
In some personal injuries in California including hand injury, your employer may argue that you are to be blamed for the accident that injured your hand. That is to say, you are partially responsible for causing the accident that forms the foundation of your claims. As such, an investigation will be done to find out the truth about the claim. If it is established that indeed your recklessness or failed to adhere to work stations rules resulting in your harm, you will share faults with the employer. Consequently, the compensation you will receive from your employer or the business in question will greatly reduce.
Specifically, California follows a rule dubbed ‘pure comparative negligence’. Under this rule, your percentage of fault or negligence is established. Then the amount of compensation you will receive is reduced by that percentage. For example, an employer failed to install guards and on the working station is a notice that warns you from being careless; if you ended up injuring your hand, you will be partially responsible for the accident. Specifically, if the amount of your ignorance is established to be 10%, and you were to receive 10000 dollars, you will end up receiving 9000 dollars.
Limits to Hand Injury Compensations in California
There are some laws that limit the amount of damages you recover or the benefits you will receive following your personal injuries. An example is when you are an uninsured company driver. If you get involved in an accident, you will not be allowed to recover benefits termed as non-economic damages even if it was not your fault! Non-economic damages include inconveniences resulting from the accident, the disfigurement (appearance with amputated hand) or even physical impairment. There is only one exception under which you can receive non-economic benefits even if you are an uninsured driver. That is if the other driver you were involved in an accident with was driving under influence and indeed, the law convicted him or her with DUI.
Penalties for Delayed Workers Compensation in California
If an insurance company fails to reimburse you the damages you suffered for your hand injury, they will be penalized. Most often, the delayed or late payment are charged between 10 and 25 percent. The amount of penalty depends on the amount of the benefits and the reason behind each delay.
Labor code section 4650 applies penalties on the late payments related to temporary and permanent disability benefits. If your hand was permanently amputated, this law will cater for you. The section considers payment to have delayed if:
They are not made within fourteen days from the beginning of the payment period;
The company does not reimburse subsequent payments every two weeks.
Labor code section 5814 penalizes disability benefits that are paid late without any sound reason. As a consequence, the law demands that the amount delayed is increased by 25 percent. A pardon is given if the insurance company realizes the late payment before the claimant realizes it. In this case, it will be required to pay the delayed amount within ninety days, and instead of the 25 percent penalty, it will be required to pay 10 percent only.
There are two major reasons why penalties are imposed on the insurance company or those who are supposed to pay for injuries suffered by workers. They include:
To make it costly for the insurance to meet delayed payments, making them pay on time;
To protect you as the injured worker from economic hardship you are likely to suffer from in case of delayed payments.
Hand injuries vary in severity. Others may bring permanent disabilities while others are temporary. You deserve compensation, but the process could be challenging, in need for a workers’ compensation attorney. If you are in Orange County, you can contact The Workers Compensation Attorney at 562-485-9694 to help us evaluate the severity of your hand injury and the type of compensation you deserve.