A workers comp attorney in Bakersfield can help you if you got injured at work. You don't have to pursue workers compensation in Bakersfield CA by yourself. You aren't the only one who has been in this situation before either. Over 680,000 California employees reported injuries in 2019. To make this process easier for you, Accident.com has compiled this guide of what you need to do to pursue a workers comp claim in Bakersfield.
Workers Compensation in Bakersfield CA
After a work injury, the first thing you should do is get the medical care you need. Above all else, your health and safety is your priority. Even in cases where you don't think your accident caused any serious damage, you should still get checked out.
For example, with a broken bone, you would feel the pain and know you need help. However, if you slipped and hit your head, you may just feel a slight bruise, but you may have a concussion or worse. Thus, it's crucial to see a doctor even if you feel slim-to-none injuries. The doctor can make sure you don't have any hidden problems.
When getting care, be sure to tell your doctor your injury was from work. California law requires doctors who are the first to treat an injured employee to file a Doctor’s First Report of Occupational Injury or Illness (DFR). Make sure the doctor then submits the form to the employer's workers compensation insurance carrier or the insured employer within 5 days of your exam. If this doesn't happen, contact a workers comp attorney in Bakersfield right away.
Upon receiving the medical help you need, you can turn your attention to filing a claim with your employer.
Make an Initial Report of Injury
Make sure your employer knows about your injury as soon as possible. If you don't report your injury within 30 days, you may lose your right to benefits. Reporting it right away also decreases the chance that your employer doubts the injury happened at work. If you need help formally reporting your injury or filing any other aspect of your claim, a workers comp attorney in Bakersfield can help.
File Your Compensation Claim
Besides informing your employer of your injury, you also need to make sure your workers comp claim is actually filed. California law requires your employer to give or mail to you a California Workers' Compensation Claim Form DWC-1 within one day of learning about your injury. Be sure to watch for this form, as this matter is time-sensitive. If you don't get it from your employer, find it online.
Fill out and sign the form, and return it to your employer so they can notify the workers comp insurance company. Don't forget to keep a copy of the form for your records too. This form is what actually submits your claim for benefits. So, it's always a good idea to keep a backup version in the event the original gets lost or your employer never files it.
Find an MPN Doctor
There are certain doctors who are “in-network” for workers comp. In California, this is the medical provider network (MPN). You can choose your MPN doctor after your first visit. You can get a second or third opinion from different MPN doctors if you don't like the opinion of your first one. Worse comes to worst and you disagree with multiple doctors' diagnoses, you can request a medical review.
An important takeaway: Some medical examiners who employers or workers comp insurance companies choose can be biased. Getting a different doctor’s opinion makes it harder for one doctor to destroy your case.
So, if you don't like your first few doctors' opinions, talk with a Bakersfield workers comp attorney right away. Visit Accident.com and fill out our intake form. We'll match you with a workers comp attorney in Bakersfield who can explain the situation and fight for your rights.
Know What's Covered
Workers comp is state-required insurance benefits for employees injured while working. In California, every employer (even those with only one employee) must have workers comp insurance. Also, out-of-state employers who hire in-state employees must provide this insurance.
The most common benefits are:
- Medical expenses.
- Temporary disability.
- Permanent disability.
- Retraining or supplemental job displacement services.
- Death benefits.
To qualify, you must have gotten hurt or sick at work. Many injuries can be clearly connected to the workplace. For example, if an employee cut their finger off in facility machinery or if an employee sprained his ankle while lifting work equipment, those injuries are obviously a result of the work environment.
Other Conditions a Workers Comp Attorney in Bakersfield May Help With
Other injuries may be harder to tie to your work, such as:
- Cumulative injuries or illnesses.
- Mental health conditions.
- Injuries to employees who had prior disabilities or impairments.
Indeed, some illnesses take time to appear. some jobs involve working around poison and chemical substances. Exposure to these skin irritants could lead to diseases or conditions like eczema, contact dermatitis, friction blisters and more. Workers comp covers these conditions.
Additionally, California workers comp insurance covers mental health conditions like:
- Mental health problems related to physical injuries or sudden, extraordinary events.
- Mental health problems from regular and routine employment events that are unrelated to any physical injuries.
Important: Mental health problems from regular employment events without any physical injuries aren't covered unless the employee has worked at the company for at least six months. A personal injury attorney in Bakersfield California can help you navigate mental health injuries and workers comp.
Workers comp coverage doesn't stop there though. Even if you had an impairment or disability before your work injury, you can still get compensation. Indeed, the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF) encourages employers to hire individuals with prior disabilities or impairments.
An employer doesn't have to avoid hiring disabled people out of fear that a small injury could lead to a huge claim and an increase in insurance rates. The SIBTF pays benefits if the original and new disabilities together lead to a permanent disability of more than 70%.
The bottom line: Workers comp covers work injuries, big or small, even if they take a while to appear and even if they're cumulative. Reach out to a workers comp attorney in Bakersfield for help gathering the proper documentation and pursuing your claim.
Who to Contact for Workers Compensation in Bakersfield CA
The California Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), Bakersfield office oversees the program. The district office handles general information and contains the specialty Assistance Unit and Disability Evaluation Unit. You can contact the office directly by phone at 661-395-2723 or visit them at:
1800 30th St
Bakersfield, CA 93301-1929
Common Bakersfield DWC Forms
Workers comp has a lot of paperwork. Some of the main forms you may encounter early on include:
- Doctor’s First Report of Occupational Injury or Illness (DFR). As mentioned above, the first doctor to treat you will file this form. You must tell your doctor that your injury is from work so they know to fill out the right paperwork.
- California Workers' Compensation Claim Form DWC-1. Also mentioned above, your employer must give you this form to fill out within one day of your injury report. If your employer doesn't submit this form, your claim for workers compensation cannot move forward. This form is also available in the following languages: Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
- Medical Mileage Expense Form. Use this form to record and submit your mileage for treatment-related travel. You're entitled to a re-payment of your travel costs if the medical care is for your work injury. This includes reimbursement per mile, parking fees, bridge tolls and public transportation costs.
- Request for Authorization. Use this form to receive pre-authorization for particular medical treatment from the workers comp insurance company.
As you continue navigating this process, remember that you don't have to face a workplace injury alone. Accident.com can connect you with a workers comp attorney in Bakersfield to help you through the forms, hearings, pre-authorizations and general confusion of the workers comp process.
Bakersfield Employee Injuries by the Industry
Bakersfield, California was once known primarily for oil and agriculture, but other industries are growing, including arts, culture, sports and natural attractions. In 2019, there were about 20,700 reported workplace injuries in the California natural resources and mining industries alone. Common injuries include lacerations, sprains and twists, with the most-affected body parts including back, hands/fingers and joints.
Many jobs in Bakersfield may sound more dangerous — such as working with oil rigs. However, many employees who file workers comp claims have jobs that don't sound dangerous right away. For example, the arts, entertainment and recreation industries had another 8,400 workers comp claims, with the hotel and foodservice industries generating another 49,000 claims in California. Combined, these two industries made almost 12% of California’s workers comp claims in 2019.
Common injuries in these industries include slips and falls, repetitive motion injuries and chemical exposure. The most common body parts injured correspond with these injury types - back, hands and joints, and lungs (from chemicals inhalation).
Workers comp claims cover injuries that happened at work, big or small. You don't need to prove that your job was unusually dangerous. The 100-year old program pays for these work-injury benefits, and you've been paying for the insurance through your paycheck withholdings. Talk to a workers comp attorney in Bakersfield today to pursue the benefits you paid for.
Disability Insurance Versus Workers Compensation
In California, you could get other insurance benefits such as:
- California State Disability Insurance (SDI).
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
- Personal injury claim against a third party.
SDI gives employees temporary wage replacement if they can't work due to illness, injury or pregnancy. It's deducted from employees’ wages and usually appears as “CASDI” on a paystub. You may be able to receive SDI benefits through the state if your workers comp claim is delayed or denied.
Most people can't receive both SDI and workers comp benefits simultaneously. However, if the total SDI benefit is bigger than your workers comp benefit, you may be able to receive the difference in total, plus your workers comp benefit.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) may also be an option for you. To be eligible, you must have:
- Worked long enough to qualify for Social Security.
- Paid Social Security taxes.
Remember: Like SDI, you cannot “stack” workers comp benefits on top of SSDI benefits.
If a third party (someone who doesn't work with your employer) caused your injury, you also may have a personal injury claim. Most often, this case appears when employees get in a car accident while driving for work. For example, if you're a truck driver or pizza delivery person, your job requires driving. If you get in an accident during your time on the job, you would have a claim against the other driver who caused the crash. Because your accident was related to work, you also have a claim for workers comp benefits. However, you cannot get a “double recovery” for certain items.
It may be difficult to know what path you should take with your situation. A workers comp attorney in Bakersfield can help you navigate the different disability benefits and a personal injury claim.
What If My Employer Makes It Worse? Bakersfield Law Firms Can Help
If you're injured at work, you should focus on getting the medical care you need. However, in the back of your mind, you may also be concerned about filing a claim with your employer.
What If My Employer Doesn't Have Workers Comp Insurance?
Remember, in Bakersfield, California, every company has to have workers compensation insurance for their employees. However, required to have and actually have are two different things. So, what if your employer didn't purchase the insurance?
The Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund (UEBTF) is built for this situation. It's a special program that helps injured Bakersfield residents who were supposed to have workers comp insurance, but whose employers illegally don't have it.
Speak with a personal injury lawyer in Bakersfield if your employer doesn't have workers comp insurance for you. A workers comp attorney in Bakersfield can help you verify the situation, take the appropriate legal steps and file a claim with the UEBTF.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Filing a Workers Comp Claim?
No. In California, it's illegal for an employer to fire, threaten or discriminate against an employee for filing a workers comp claim. It's also illegal for an employer to fire, threaten or discriminate against an employee who is talking about filing a claim or any employee who's going to testify in a different employee's workers comp case.
On the back end, insurance companies sometimes increase rates for claim submissions - even valid claims! In response, employers may pressure their injured employees to not file a workers comp claim because the employer fears an increase in insurance rates. This is also illegal in California.
If your employer or the insurance company tries to stop you from filing your claim, you can sue whoever broke the law. For example, if your employer fires you for filing a workers comp claim, you can sue them and recover lost wages. In the event you do want to sue, there are a few items to remember.
Workers Comp Versus Employment Law Claims
These types of claims are employment law claims and are separate from workers comp. Employment lawsuits go to regular state courts, which are what most people think of when they think of a judge and a court. The judges are part of the judicial branch of state government, and they hear all sorts of legal disputes (criminal cases, traffic tickets, property disputes, etc.).
Workers comp uses a lot of the same language as the judicial system, and lawyers are involved. However, the workers comp system is within the executive branch of the California state government (the governor is the head person of this branch).
The executive branch makes sure the laws are properly executed. The workers comp system is set up to process workers comp insurance claims. This type of judge and court is called an "administrative law judge."
The important takeaway: Your workers comp claim is separate from an employment discrimination claim, even if the discrimination was related to you filing a workers comp claim. Workers comp insurance protects your work injury, and a workers comp attorney in Bakersfield will bring your claim for benefits through that system. If your employer discriminates against you because you filed the workers comp insurance claim, you can bring an employment discrimination claim to regular court.
If you believe your employer discriminated against you because of your workers comp claim, tell your attorney right away. Your workers comp attorney in Bakersfield may be able to help you find an employment lawyer in Bakersfield too.
Both of these claims have strict deadlines for filing. If you don't follow the deadlines, you may not be able to pursue either claim. Fill out the form at Accident.com to connect with a Bakersfield workers comp attorney today.
California Laws Are Changing
Laws are always changing, and workers comp is no different. Several laws related to COVID-19 became effective on January 1, 2021, and a workers comp attorney in Bakersfield can help you figure out which ones apply to your situation. Those that affect California include:
- SB 1159: This law presumes that an employee who gets COVID-19 got the illness at work. It applies to first responders, healthcare workers and anyone else with an outbreak of COVID-19 at work. This means many Bakersfield residents could get workers comp benefits for their time out with COVID-19.
- AB 1867: Private employers with more than 500 employees anywhere in the United States must provide their California-resident employees with additional sick leave for COVID-19 leave. In other words, California residents at large companies don't need to use their normal sick days off for COVID-19 absences.
- AB 685: This law increases employers’ obligations to notify employees about potential workplace exposures to COVID-19 and implement additional safety requirements. This helps slow the spread of COVID-19 and will also help employees prove their case of COVID-19 came from work, allowing workers comp benefits to cover the illness.
- AB 2043: Agricultural employers are required to inform employees of best practices, paid sick leave and workers comp related to COVID-19. This must be done in English and Spanish.
- AB 2537: Employers must provide additional personal protective equipment to employees.
- SB 275: This law requires the California Department of Health and the Office of Emergency Services to establish a stockpile of personal protective equipment.
Potential Future Changes
In March 2021, political leaders introduced a few other changes to California workers comp. One state Senator proposed changes to shorten the time employers have to object to an employee getting benefits — by cutting it in half from 90 to 45 days.
The Senator is also trying to significantly increase benefits that can be paid between filing an injury and processing the claim. Currently, workers comp is only responsible for $10,000 in medical care between the application date and the date of acceptance/rejection of the claim. However, the bill would increase the limit to $17,000. It's important to work with a Bakersfield attorney who specializes in workers comp and knows the details of current and changing California laws.
Hire a Certified Specialist Workers Comp Attorney in Bakersfield
In California, a personal injury lawyer in Bakersfield can be certified as a California workers compensation law specialist. The Board of Legal Specialization oversees the process. Attorneys must take a test, provide references and demonstrate a high level of experience in the specialty. At Accident.com, we can connect you with a specialist workers comp attorney in Bakersfield. Fill out our quick online form, and if one of the Bakersfield law firms accepts your case, a personal injury attorney in Bakersfield California will provide a free consultation and be your advocate.
Remember, you don't have to navigate this process by yourself. Accident.com and experienced workers compensation lawyers in Bakersfield CA are ready to help you.