Workers Compensation cases can be complex. However by avoiding these mistakes, an injured worker can increase their chance for a successful outcome. While the following list is not exhaustive, it does serve to highlight the most common pitfalls.
1. Understanding the nature of a Workers Compensation case.
Workers Compensation is a claim for injuries at work. Under California law, a Workers Compensation case, with few exceptions, is the exclusive remedy for work injuries.
It is not a wrongful termination case or a discrimination case. It is in no way designed to punish and employer for “unfair treatment”. The goal of workers Compensation in California is straightforward; treating injured workers for their injuries and getting them back to work.
2. Not obtaining prompt medical treatment.
In many cases a workers has suffered a work related injury, either due to an accident or on a continuous trauma basis. Common reasons for not getting medical treatment include not having health insurance, no time, or no money.
Not seeing a doctor at the earliest opportunity can give the insurance companies a reason to deny, or otherwise fight a claim. To avoid this problem an injured worker should make an effort to go to a medical clinic and report their injuries. (The medical clinic will not automatically report your injuries to your employer.) Once you have established a work related injury with a medical clinic or doctor a subsequent Workers Compensation claim will have credibility.
3. Not attending medical treatment on a consistent basis.
Unfortunately many injured workers do not take their medical treatment seriously. By not attending treatment on a regular basis the defense will doubt the authenticity of the claimed injury and not take the claim seriously.
It is therefore important to attend all medical appointments in order to establish a consistent record to support a work related injury.
4. Unrealistic case valuation.
Ultimately most cases will arrive at a point in time when settlement is appropriate. Frequently an injured worker will have unrealistic expectations regarding the value of their case.
In California Workers Compensation cases the primary case value components consist of Permanent Disability and Future Medical Treatment. Retroactive Temporary Disability and a Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit voucher are potential benefits due an injured worker.
The Permanent Disability reflects the extent to which an inured worker can no longer perform their usual and customary tasks. In this respect it is a loss of future earning valuation.
Many times an injured worker will seek recovery based on factors not provided for by Workers Compensation. In the workers' compensation system, injured workers are not entitled to the full range of benefits available in the civil court system. Workers' compensation does not compensate an employee for pain and suffering or award punitive damages.
It is therefore important that an injured worker understands the limitations of a Workers Compensation case and have a realistic understanding of its value.
Frequently an injured worker will also make an unrealistically high settlement demand. In many cases they will price themselves out of meaningful settlement negotiations and set themselves up for disappointment.