Workers’ comp benefits are available to construction workers in California if the worker is an employee, not an independent contractor. To receive such benefits, you will have to follow these steps:
- Report your injury to your employer
- See a doctor from the medical provider network or, if necessary, emergency services
- Wait for your employer to file a claim with their insurer, or file a claim yourself
- Wait for the insurer to approve your claim
- File an objection with the California Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) if you disagree with the insurer’s conclusion
Employees Versus Contractors in California
Workers’ compensation in California covers many types of acute and repetitive stress injuries, as well as certain workplace illnesses and psychiatric injuries. However, these benefits are generally only available to employees.How can you tell if a worker is an employee or a contractor? According to LAB § 2750.3, if all three of the following statements are true, then the worker is a contractor and not an employee:
- The worker is not under the “control and direction of the hiring entity.”
- The worker does tasks that have nothing to do with the “hiring entity’s” line of business.
- The worker works for themselves or runs their own business.
In short, while workers’ comp benefits are available to construction workers in California, the worker must not fall into the above categories to receive them. Some employers will falsely claim an employee is a contractor in order to reduce their insurance costs. A workers’ compensation lawyer could help you determine your status and, if you qualify for benefits, fight for them on your behalf.
What Workers’ Comp Benefits Can Construction Workers Get?
The benefits you receive could vary depending on:
- If you file on time: You must report your injury to your employer within 30 days and ensure your employer files a claim with their insurer (or file a claim yourself) within one year.
- How much time off you need: The longer you have to stay home and miss work, the longer you can continue to receive a check for a portion of your normal weekly wages.
- If your injuries are permanent: Workers’ comp should cover all necessary medical treatments, no matter how extensive. Also, if your injuries are permanent, you could receive long-term disability payments.
- If you need to change jobs: Do your permanent injuries make it impossible for you to return to your old job? You can seek reimbursement for any training required to prepare you for a new, disability-friendly job.
Insurance Companies May Not Pay You All You Are Owed
The insurance company will certainly evaluate your case to determine how much they feel your case is worth. However, they often want to spend as little as possible, so they may end up offering you less than you truly deserve.You can find out the true worth of your case by hiring a workers’ comp attorney. Your legal representative is on your side, not the insurance company’s. They can work hard to calculate how much you deserve for:
- Medical treatment and related expenses
- Disability/lost income
- Retraining expenses
Someone May Dispute Your Workers’ Comp Benefits
Either your employer or their insurance company—or both—may deny your claim. For example, they could say:
- You are an independent contractor who is not entitled to benefits
- You caused the injury by disobeying company rules
- Your injury or illness is not connected to your job
- Contacting the employer or their insurer to make sure the denial is not the result of a misunderstanding or error
- Filing an objection and all other necessary paperwork to get a hearing in front of a workers’ compensation administrative law judge (ALJ)
- Attending mediation with the other party to see if there is any way to resolve the issue without a hearing
- Attending the hearing and explaining to the ALJ why you qualify for the compensation you are seeking, despite the insurer’s arguments to the contrary
How Construction Workers Can Help Their Workers’ Comp Cases
You can protect yourself and your right to compensation with these few tips.
See a Doctor
If you suffer an acute or life-threatening injury (e.g., you lost consciousness or cannot feel a part of your body), get help immediately. This could mean calling 911 or visiting your employer’s on-site medical team.If your injuries do not pose an immediate danger, you can wait until after the next step to seek medical attention within the insurer’s medical provider network. Either way, make sure to tell the doctor that the injury was work-related: this can serve as crucial evidence when the insurance company investigates your claim.
It may be tempting to exaggerate your construction injury or not mention a previous injury in the hopes that the insurer will take your claim more seriously. This could have the opposite effect: when they discover the truth, the insurer will be more likely to reject your claim, and it will be easier for them to cast doubt on your entire testimony.
On the flip side, do not leave out important information. If you are experiencing mild pain in your knee and severe pain in your back, make sure to report both injuries rather than focusing solely on the one that feels worse.
Consult an Attorney
Seeking compensation as a construction worker can be more complicated than it has to be, especially if there is any doubt or confusion as to your employee status.A workers’ compensation lawyer can inform you of your rights and responsibilities as you seek the benefits you deserve. They can also fight for you, giving you more time and well-deserved peace of mind to concentrate on your physical and emotional recovery.
We Represent California Construction Workers
KJT Law Group wants you to know that workers’ comp benefits are available to construction workers in California—and we can help you fight for them. Dial (818) 507-8525 to get in touch with us today. We are eager to hear from you and to learn more about your situation.