What to Do When Injured at Work
Workers’ compensation benefits are designed to provide you with the medical treatment you need to recover from your work-related injury or illness, partially replace the wages you lose while you are recovering, and help you return to work. Workers’ compensation benefits do not include damages for pain and suffering or punitive damages.
Below are some steps anyone should take if injured on the job.
Report the injury or illness to your employer
Make sure your supervisor is notified of your injury as soon as possible. If your injury or illness developed gradually, report it as soon as you learn or believe it was caused by your job. Reporting promptly helps avoid problems and delays in receiving benefits, including medical care. If you don’t report your injury within 30 days, you could lose your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Get emergency treatment if needed
If it’s an emergency, call 911 or go to an emergency room right away. Tell the medical staff that your injury or illness is job-related. If you can safely do so, contact your employer for further instructions. If you don’t need emergency treatment, make sure you get first aid and see a doctor if necessary.
Once you file a claim, your employer is required to provide you with medical care.
Did you know?
• You can attend a free seminar on workers’ compensation or contact the Information and Assistance Unit if you have questions. You can also call 1-800-736-7401 for recorded information.
• Medical care must be paid for by your employer if you get hurt on the job whether or not you miss time from work.
• You may be eligible to receive benefits even if you are a temporary or part-time worker.
• You don’t have to be a legal resident of the United States to receive most workers’ compensation benefits.
• It’s illegal for your employer to punish or fire you for having a job injury or for requesting workers’ compensation benefits when you believe your injury was caused by your job.
• You can find the definitions of common terms and abbreviations in the glossary for injured workers.
• Fact sheets and claim forms are available in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese from dir.ca.gov/dwc.
Questions injured workers often have
Q: How can I avoid getting hurt on the job?
=Employers in California are required to have an injury and illness prevention program. The program must include worker training, workplace inspections, and procedures for correcting unsafe conditions promptly. Learn about and participate in your employer’s program and report unsafe conditions to your employer. If they don’t respond, call Cal/OSHA, the state agency that enforces health and safety laws.
Q: Do I need to fill out the claim form my employer gave me?
Yes. Giving the completed form to your employer opens your workers’ compensation case. It starts the process for finding all benefits you may qualify for under state law. Those benefits include, but are not limited to:
• A presumption that your injury or illness was caused by work if your claim is not accepted or denied within 90 days of giving the completed claim form to your employer
• Up to $10,000 in treatment under medical treatment guidelines while the claims administrator considers your claim
• An increase in your disability payments if they’re late
• A way to resolve any disagreements between you and the claims administrator over whether your injury or illness happened on the job, the medical treatment you receive and whether you will receive permanent disability benefits
Q: How can I find out who provides workers’ compensation coverage for my employer or another business in California?
In California, all employers are required to either purchase a workers’ compensation insurance policy from a licensed insurer authorized to write policies in California or become self-insured.
The DWC does not provide workers’ compensation insurance for employers and does not maintain information about employers and their respective insurers.
Q: I know that independent contractors aren’t covered under workers’ compensation. How do I know if I really am an independent contractor?
There is no set definition of this term. Labor law enforcement agencies and the courts look at several factors when deciding if someone is an employee or an independent contractor. Some employers misclassify employees as an independent contractor to avoid workers’ compensation and other payroll responsibilities. Just because an employer says you are an independent contractor and doesn’t need to cover you under a workers’ compensation policy doesn’t make it true. A true independent contractor has control over how their work is done.
The DWC Information and Assistance Unit provides information and assistance to employees, employers, labor unions, insurance carriers, physicians, attorneys and other interested parties concerning rights, benefits and obligations under California’s workers’ compensation laws. The unit plays a major role in reducing litigation before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) and is often the first DWC contact for injured workers.
Information for this article was provided by the California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Workers’ Compensation. Learn more at dir.ca.gov/dwc.