Workplace and work-related injuries are common in California. You can easily get involved in a car accident while running errands related to your job. In accidents, you may sustain injuries requiring medical care and sometimes, time off work. Workers compensation insures you for accidents on the job and saves you from shouldering the financial burden created by medical bills. In addition, you are compensated for lost wages and disabilities (permanent and temporary) arising from on-the-job vehicle accidents. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group (Orange County) specializes in fighting for employees’ rights by ensuring you get the best compensation package from your employer.
The Scope of On-The-Job Vehicle Accidents
On-the-job vehicle accidents are accidents that occur during regular work hours, and you are running official business. Where your job involves driving a company car, an accident occurring during the driving qualifies as an on-the-job vehicle accident. In general, on-the-job vehicle accidents happen when you are performing tasks that are within the scope of your employment. Activities that fall within the scope of employment include:
- Running errands for your employer
- Making deliveries
- Transporting another employee for business purposes
- You are employed as a driver
- Your work calls for a lot of traveling. This condition applies to employees who have no fixed office such as salespeople and those who earn a living from driving such as taxi drivers
- Your employer pays you for travel time to and from work
- Your employer provides transportation to and from work in a company vehicle
- You were traveling from one worksite to another
Workers’ compensation is an insurance the employer provides to his or her employees to cater for medical expenses and job losses in the event of an injury. Workers’ compensation relinquishes the right of the employee to sue their employer when they sustain an injury. Workers’ compensation provides a financial support system for employees and in some cases, their families and dependents by catering for medical bills, lost income, and death benefits to surviving family and dependents in case the employer dies from the injury. Workers compensation laws protect both the employer and the employee from facing litigation in case of an injury. These laws also protect employers from paying too much in the form of damages by placing a maximum cap on the total damages awarded.
The Principle of Vicarious Responsibility in Workers’ Compensation
Compensation for vehicle accidents follows the principle of vicarious responsibility. Vicarious responsibility implies that the employers or supervisors are responsible for the actions of their employees during work hours and actions safety performed within the scope of employment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have put forth standards with which employers must comply. The standards call for care and responsibility while hiring, assigning and supervising employees. They require the employers run a background check on all its potential employees to determine their skill and professionalism in driving work vehicles.
In the course of the job, the employer should provide additional training where relevant the training is provided in compliance with the recruitment for providing employees with a safe working environment. Employees should regularly supervise their employees who drive any work vehicles to ensure they are following all the safety regulations and requirements.
Where an employer fails to conform to the safety standards set by OSHA and NHTSA, then they are responsible for injuries caused by the employee.
On the Job Vehicle Accidents Due To the Employer’s Negligence
An employer is responsible or any accident caused by an employee on the job, where the employer acted with the negligence. Employer behavior that could be considered negligent include:
- Failure to conduct regular maintenance of work vehicles
- Hiring drivers without a commercial driving license
- Assigning heavy-duty vehicles without an engineer operator title or another relevant title
- Failure to supervise its drivers to ascertain they meet safety standards
- Failure to replace, retrain or take other measures to correct negligent drivers.
- Insistence upon regular communication by employees regardless of what they are driving (results in distracted driving)
On-The-Job Vehicle Accidents Due To Employee Negligence
Under California law, on-the-job accidents are considered no-fault accidents, which means, regardless of the employee’s role in the accident, the employer is required to pay workers’ compensation benefits for the injuries sustained. The idea behind these cases is that the employee would not have been on the road at that particular time, were it not for the work-related activity.
On-The-Job Vehicle Accidents Not Covered By Worker’s Compensation
The on-the-job vehicle accidents that are not compensated for by your employer include:
- Accidents that occur when traveling to or from where your employer does not pay you for travel time. These accidents are outside the scope of employment. Exceptions to this apply when the employer requests you to handle official tasks such as delivering items on your way to or from work
- The accident occurred during a break that relieves you from work-related tasks, e.g., lunchtime
- You were using a company vehicle to run personal errands
Accidents Due To a Third-Party Negligence
Certain on-the-job vehicle accidents occur due to the negligence of another person or entity. For instance, another driver may be at fault. In other cases, the accident could have happened due to the manufacturer's negligence. In negligence cases, the employee may file a lawsuit against the third parties, which increases the amount of compensation.
Types of Worker’s Compensation Benefits
There are benefits you can receive after an on-the-job vehicle accident. The benefits you receive depend on the type and the extent of the injury. Common benefits include:
- Temporary Disability Benefits
Temporary disability benefits are those offered by your employer as you recover from the accident. They are given when the injury temporarily prevents you from doing some or all the work for which you are paid. Where you cannot work at all as you recover, you are given temporarily partial disability benefits. you can also receive partial temporary partial benefits where your employer reduces your work schedule, but the pay is less than your regular wage
Temporarily benefits are awarded as two-thirds of the gross wages you lose while on recovery. The law has a set minimum and maximum limit for weekly temporary disability payments. Your employer must comply with these limits when awarding benefits. You start receiving temporary disability benefits within fourteen days of your employer learning that:
- You had sustained injuries from an on-the-job vehicle accident, the doctor treating you says your injury prevents you from performing work duties.
After the first payment, you receive these benefits every two weeks until you recover. Along with the benefits, your claims administrator provides information on how the benefits were calculated.
Sometimes, your claims administrator may delay in sending payment as he/she investigates for eligibility for your compensation. In case of delays, you receive a delay letter explaining the cause of the delay, request for information and information on when he/she will make the decision. After 90 days, the claim is considered to have been accepted. If you had filed a claim more than 14 days before the payment due date, yet the payment was delayed, you are eligible for an additional 10% of the amount.
Temporary disability payments end when:
- Your employer offers alternate work at your regular wages
- Your doctor says it is okay to go back to your job
- Your condition is neither improving nor deteriorating
The claims administrator will send you a letter notifying you of the end of your disability benefits. The letter, usually sent within 14 days of the last payment lists all the payments made and the reason for the end of your benefits.
In certain cases, the doctor may indicate that you will never recover fully. Therefore, you may be eligible for other benefits.
- Permanent Disability Benefits
When the accident causes permanent disabilities or limits the work you can do, you may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. Under California law, you are eligible for permanent disability benefits when:
- You cannot fully recover from your injury
- The injury limits the amount of work you can do
Permanent disability compensates you for loss of future earning capacity. The amount of reimbursement you collect depends on your ability to compete in the open labor market (rated as a percentage between 0-100%)
Where your disability rating is below 100%, you receive payment partial disability benefits. High disability rankings increase the amount you receive and the number of weeks you will be paid. You collect weekly payments for permanent partial disability. Where your disability rating is 100%, you receive permanent total disability. Permanent total disability is calculated at your rate of temporary disability. Payments are made every week for the rest of your life.
When your permanent disability rating is between 70% and 90%, you receive a life pension which is the additional amount paid after your permanent disabilities.
You need to go through a medical evaluation to determine your disability rating. The doctor follows a number of guidelines in evaluating every part of your body for impairment. The doctor then uses this information to come up with the whole body impairment rating.
The medical evaluation determines the level of physical Impairment and the impact it has on the ability to care for yourself.
According to the schedule for ranking permanent disabilities the whole body impairment rating is adjusted to account for:
- Reduced earning capacity
- Your age at the time of injury
- The type of injury
- The date of injury
After determining your permanent disability rating, your claims administrator will convert the rating into a dollar value. The rate of permanent disability is calculated as two-thirds of your average weekly wage. The permanent disability rate is usually lower than the temporary disability rate. The maximum permanent disability rate in California is $290 per week.
If you were receiving temporary disability, the first permanent disability is paid within two weeks of the last temporary disability payment. The two cannot be paid simultaneously. Permanent disability can also be paid when you reach the maximum medical improvement point. When your condition can no longer be improved by medication, the process to determine your disability begins. Delays in payment of permanent disability attract an additional 10% interest.
Your claim administrator will send you regular updates informing you about:
- The factors used in determining your disability ratings and payment
- The day you will receive the payments
- Reasons for delay or non-payment
- Changes in benefits and the reasons for the said changes
- End of permanent disability benefits
- Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits
Supplemental job displacement benefits are those that cater to training and skill enhancement. The benefits provide for examination; professional certification and licensing fees, fees for retraining purchasing of books, computer equipment, and other miscellaneous expenses. The supplemental job displacement benefit voucher can be redeemed up to $6000.
You are eligible for supplemental job displacement where:
- Your injury results in permanent disability
- Your employer doesn’t have permanent work for you
You can use the voucher before its expiry date. The vouchers expire:
- After two years from the vouchers date and
- Five years from the time of injury
Your eligibility for supplemental job displacement voucher ends when your employer offers you regular, modified or alternative work lasting for at least 12 months. In case the salary you can get for an alternate or modified job is less than 85% of your pre-injury wage, you are entitled to the voucher.
California laws allow injured workers to receive multiple vouchers where you obtain more than one compensation for an on-job-vehicle accident.
The process of obtaining a voucher depends on:
- The medical opinion of the doctor. The doctor treating you provides a written report which determines your ability to work, restrictions and any other relevant information.
- Your employer’s decision to offer you work. Once your employer receives your medical report, they have 60 days within which to make an offer. If they make no offer, you should get the voucher in 20 days
- Your decision to accept the work offer. If your employer offers you a job, the law allows you 30 days within which to accept or reject the offer. Upon declining the offer, you are automatically disqualified from receiving a voucher.
The return to work supplement also provides a one-time additional payment of $5000 for employees injured since January 1, 2013. To be eligible for the following program:
- You must have sustained the injury
- You must have received the supplemental job displacement benefit voucher
- You must submit your application by the deadline
- Death benefits
An on-the-job vehicle accident could result in the death of your loved one. Their employer must compensate the spouse, children or other dependents where the employee dies from the accident or a related injury. Death benefits are given to relatives such as:
- Parents and siblings
- Total dependents of the employee
Total dependents of the employee include:
- Minors (under the age of 18)
- Adult children who cannot earn a living due to physical and mental disability
- A spouse who made less than $30,000 in the 12 months preceding the employee’s death
Death benefits provide support for the family of the deceased employee immediately after the death until the minor children can earn a living or for life in the case of the children or the dependents with physical or mental disabilities.
Basic death benefits for total dependents are awarded as: $250,000 awarded for one total dependent, $290,000 awarded for two total dependents, three or more dependents receive $320,000.
The death benefits are equally divided where there are two or more dependents.
For partial dependents, they receive four times their usual annual support. The yearly death benefits for partial dependents doesn’t exceed $290,000.
Total dependent children continue receiving payments at the temporary disability rate even when after the maximum death benefits. The payments are made in installments until the youngest child turns 18 or until the death of the incapacitated child.
After the death of your loved one from an on-the-job vehicle accident, you must file a claim for death benefits. The deadline for application is one year after the death of your loved one and up to 240 weeks after the injury
In addition to the death benefits an additional amount, not exceeding$10,000 is paid to cover burial expenses. The money is paid for the injuries sustained after 2012.
- Medical Care Benefits
In most instances of workers’ compensation after an on-the-job vehicle accident, the financial benefits obtained are often for covering medical costs. Some costs covered include:
- Visits to the doctor
- Equipment needed to cope with the injury such as wheelchairs
- Pain therapy
Medical benefits for special care such as medical and therapeutic care help you to deal with the injury as you recover of the practices involved in treatment for work-related injuries include providing advice to guide injured worker on what to do during the recovery [period. They will also provide information on the restrictions and the changes to your work schedule during and after recovery.
Except for emergencies, the claim administrator must authorize treatment of up to $10,000 as he/she investigates your claim. The claim administrator is supposed to approve treatment within one working day of receiving your claim.
Where your claim is not authorized, you can consult your supervisor while using your health insurance. Your health insurance provider will seek reimbursement from your claims administrator.
When injured in an on-job vehicle accident, get medical treatment as soon as possible. Prompt medical is crucial in identifying injuries sustained from the accident and play a significant role in maximizing your medical care compensation benefits. When you delay in getting treatment for injuries, you give room to your employer or insurance provider to dispute your claim. In some cases, you are allowed to receive treatment from your doctor of choice. Conditions that let you chose your doctor include:
- Where your employer has not posted information on your worker’s compensation rights and offers no treatment after injury
- Where the treatment your employer sends you to is inadequate or refuses to provide medical care
- Where you have health coverage for medical treatment
- You provided your employer with a written notice of your doctor of choice before the injury
- Your doctor agrees to treat your work-related injuries in advance
Getting Legal Help
The process of filing for a worker’s compensation after an on-job vehicle accident could result in a serious legal battle. You may also need the guidance of a skilled workers’ compensation attorney who will help in negotiating the highest possible compensation for the injuries you sustain during the accident. Circumstances that could require the help of a workers’ compensation attorney include:
- Your employer denies your claim
- Your employer fails to make prompt payments on benefits
- The settlement offer from your employer does not cover all medical costs and lost wages
- The injuries you sustain on the job led to temporary or permanent disability
- Your employer hits back against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim (employers should not discriminate against employees who apply for workers’ compensation benefits)
- Your injury resulted from your employer’s negligence or misconduct
Note that getting legal help is also crucial in your representation in court since a workers’ compensation attorney understands all the processes involved in seeking compensation. Also, the process must adhere to the statute of limitations so your claim is not denied. If you are not sure how to proceed after getting an accident, find a workers’ compensation attorney near you, who will analyze your situation and advise on the way forward.
Find A Workers Compensation Attorney Near Me
The process of getting workers’ compensation benefits can be a complicated activity, especially where your employer or their insurance provider wants to under compensate you. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Orange County is dedicated to helping you with your compensation claims after an on-the-job vehicle accident. Contact our workers compensation lawyer today at 562-485-9694 so we can evaluate and help you with your claim.