Sep 10, 2020
Many workers have suffered dual effects from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the form of physical ailments related to the virus and subsequent financial hardship from loss of work. As the number of COVID-19 cases has grown in California, Dordulian Law Group has received many inquiries regarding what is specifically covered under workers’ compensation insurance, and whether or not COVID-19 injuries are included. As a result, we’ve compiled the following information to help answer some of your questions and better inform you of how workers’ compensation benefits are paid.
Workers’ compensation insurance is a no-fault system in which benefits are paid regardless of fault. In California, all employers are required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance under California Labor Code Section 3700. This insurance must be provided if a business employs one or more employees. Workers’ compensation insurance begins on your first day of employment and is meant to provide prompt and reasonable income and medical benefits to workers for injuries sustained on the job, regardless of who is ultimately at fault for said injuries. COVID-19 is no exception. If you contracted COVID-19 at work, you can file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer. Insurance will provide compensation for medical expenses and cover lost time that may be required to quarantine with a positive COVID-19 test or medical diagnosis. Some common examples of employees who are more likely to contract COVID-19 at work include:
In California, neither the industry you work in, nor your immigration status, can affect your eligibility to recover workers’ compensation benefits (i.e. all workers in all industries are covered). If you are hurt on the job or contract COVID-19 while working, you are automatically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, provided you follow all necessary and required procedures. Even if your employer declared bankruptcy, it will not affect whether or not you are able to receive benefits. All employers are required to carry workers’ comp insurance, but if for some reason it is found that your employer did not meet this requirement, you can still apply for benefits from the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund (UEBTF).
Do not make the mistake of believing your employer, your employer’s insurance provider, or even a workers’ compensation judge will look out for your best interests. You and your workers’ compensation lawyer must take action, advocating on your behalf and placing your interests first. The Glendale, CA, workers’ compensation lawyers at Dordulian Law Group are extremely knowledgeable in state, federal, and immigration laws, and will use their skills and experience to negotiate successfully for you. We have continued to closely monitor Governor Newsom’s executive orders and legislative actions, and have a complete understanding of how they affect California workers. We aggressively fight for maximum compensation and advocate for our clients’ rights in workers’ compensation claims arising from injuries on the job, injuries working at home during stay-at-home orders, or COVID-19 illnesses. As part of our contingency fee arrangement, we do not charge any legal fees unless we recover money for you. If you do not win, you do not pay – it’s that simple.
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensely disrupted businesses and industries, raising debates over how the government should respond, how much assistance is too much, and how much aid is not enough. The Emergency Services Act gives the governor broad authority in an emergency, particularly in regard to setting policies and distributing resources. Since signing a state of emergency in California on March 4th, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed more than thirty executive orders related to COVID-19. Said orders exercise broad authority in many different areas including moratoriums on evictions, stay at home orders, and school closures. Although executive orders signed by a governor during a state of emergency are temporary, below are some of the most significant 2020 government and insurance commissioner orders and advisories impacting workers:
N-62-20 expired on July 5th, 2020. Senate Bill 1159, which passed last month and awaits Governor Newsom’s signature, codified the rebuttable presumption, effectively extending it. Presuming the bill will be signed into law, it will apply retroactively to COVID-19 workplace injury cases. For this reason, employees should continue to report COVID-19 diagnosed during 2020 by filling out the DWC-1 Form. DLG is closely monitoring development in proposed legislation and statutory guidance related to injuries and COVID-19 exposures sustained by workers. Contact us with any questions related to your specific situation or claim.
California does not have specific statutes governing telecommuting, but private employers are urged to have telecommuting or “work from home” employees sign safety self-certifications. Under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, the employer is responsible for providing a safe workplace, even if the environment is in the employee’s home. If you are an employee and are hurt while working at home, you may be compensated under workers’ compensation insurance, just as you would have been had the injury occurred in an office or on a job site.
A verbal report is not sufficient to initiate a workers’ compensation claim. The Workers’ Compensation Claim Form DWC 1 can be accessed on the State of California Department of Industrial Relations website. If you request this document from your employer, they must provide it to you within one working day after learning about your illness. You do not have to test positive for COVID-19 before filing a claim. Fill out the employee section of the form and return to your supervisor as soon as possible. Ask your employer to return the form to you with the employer section completed. They are required to do so within one working day.
Workers’ compensation settlements are voluntary. You do not have to agree to an offer, just as your employers’ workers’ compensation insurance company does not have to agree to settle your claim. If you do not accept a settlement, your case may go to trial. If you have questions about whether a settlement is fair, it’s best to speak with a knowledgeable DLG attorney. Contact our experienced and dedicated workers’ compensation lawyers today at 800-880-7777.
A California workers’ compensation trial does not occur in a traditional courtroom. Rather, hearings take place at a designated government building, often in a small room that functions as a courtroom. The parties will typically include: the judge, the insurance company representative, the injured worker, the worker’s attorney, and a court reporter. No jury will be present. Witnesses may be called, including investigators or co-workers who were present at the time of the incident. The judge will clarify which issues are already agreed upon (stipulations). The trial will be narrowed to only matters that are contested. The judge will likely not issue a decision on the day of trial. Instead, you can expect the decision to be mailed to you sometime between 30 days and six months after the trial. If the trial is not completed, it will be continued to another date, potentially several months later (this is a general estimate, and may in fact be much longer given the backlog of cases due to COVID-19). If money is awarded, interest begins at the time of the decision, at the same rate as civil cases.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that the judge will be fair or look out for your best interests. A workers’ compensation judge is not in the best position to tell you if a settlement is too low, or if you should try for a better offer. If you do not agree with the decision or award made by the judge, you can file an appeal with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) in San Francisco, which consists of seven members (including five attorneys).
There are two types of payments: lump-sum and structured settlements. A lump-sum settlement is exactly what it sounds like – a single, one-time payment. A structured settlement may be paid out over a set period of time – commonly a range between one and ten years.
If your COVID-19 workers’ comp claim is denied, your illness may still be covered. Moreover, it’s important to keep in mind that the denial by your employer (or their insurance company) could have been based on the presumption that you will not pursue an appeal. Some of the primary reasons workers’ compensation insurance claims are denied include:
You have a right to challenge a denial and have your case heard by a workers’ compensation administrative law judge. If your claim was denied, you still have options. Contact a DLG workers’ compensation attorney today to start the process of successfully appealing your claim and securing the benefits you deserve.
If you’re looking for help with a workers’ compensation claim, see our recent blog post: How Do I Find the Best California Lawyer to Win My Workers’ Compensation Case?, which outlines some qualifications you will want to consider when searching for the most experienced lawyer to handle your case. Many clients contact DLG after being unsuccessful with another attorney, and we are able to help them successfully secure the benefits to which they are entitled. DLG’s Workers’ Compensation Division is managed by attorney Charles Rondeau, a certified workers’ compensation specialist with over 25 years of experience fighting for injured workers. Whatever your workers’ compensation claim entails, we have successfully handled a similar type of case at one time or another. We will fight to secure nothing short of the maximum available compensation.
Contacting a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately following an injury, or as soon as COVID-19 is suspected, will put you in the best position to recover maximum compensation for your injuries or illness. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if your injuries are minor or your suspected COVID symptoms are mild. You should not continue to work while risking further injury or worsening of symptoms. California has strict time periods governing when you must notify your employer, receive medical treatment, and file a claim. Contacting a lawyer as soon as possible can ensure all mandatory procedures are followed.
At DLG, our attorneys provide specialized legal representation in workers’ compensation cases. We have been handling COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims since the onset of the pandemic. As such, we are extremely familiar with the standard workers’ compensation laws and temporary rules resulting from Governor Newsom’s executive orders, including the order eliminating the normal waiting period before temporary disability benefits begin for COVID-19 illnesses. No matter how challenging your claim may be, we are here to provide strategic solutions. Our goal will be to get you the most money possible for your claim. We have recovered more than $100 million for our clients, and our results and testimonials are a testament to how we go above and beyond for our clients.
If you are a California employee that has been impacted by COVID-19, contact DLG today for a free consultation with one of our experienced and dedicated workers’ compensation attorneys. You have a legal right to compensation if you contracted COVID-19 on the job, but you must follow specific procedures. We understand these cases can be complicated, confusing, and frustrating. We aim to simplify the process and maximize compensation. We have an experienced workers’ compensation team ready to help you, led by a certified workers’ compensation specialist attorney with 25 years of experience. We are here to answer your questions and help you better understand the benefits claim process. Call us at 800-880-7777 or contact us online for a free consultation today. Phone and video conferences are available, and we are happy to accommodate your schedule and preferences.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.