When your work involves using a vehicle, you risk being involved in a car accident that could result in injuries. When this happens to you, you are entitled to workers’ compensation, which reimburses you for medical costs, lost wages, disability, among others. Your employer is likely to come up with an initial offer or none at all when the injury occurs. Should this happen, you may need the help of a lawyer to negotiate a fair amount for compensation. At The Workers’ Compensation Attorney Group in Long Beach, we are dedicated to representing you and ensuring you get the best compensation. We will evaluate your case and your employer’s compensation policy to help in valuing your claim.
Workers’ Compensation for On-The-Job Vehicle Accidents
California labor laws require that all employers have workers' compensation insurance coverage in place. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance, which employers have in place to cover their employees in case of injuries sustained when at work.
Workers compensation is a form of liability insurance, which means that your employer is responsible for the injuries you sustain when carrying out tasks that are within the scope of your employment. Workers’ compensation for on-the-job vehicle accident cover injuries sustained when conducting any work-related business. These work-related tasks include driving a co-worker to a work-related event, where your work involves driving and when running errands for your employer.
When you get involved in an on-the-job vehicle accident, your employer takes responsibility for the accident regardless of whether you were at fault or not. The rationale behind this form of compensation is that the injuries sustained are as a direct result of handling the tasks assigned by the employer. It also protects employers from being sued by their employees.
After a vehicle accident while on the job, the compensation plan will cover your medical bills and lost wages, among other benefits. The actual value of the amount you receive depends on the seriousness of your injuries, how long you take to recover and whether the disabilities allow you to work.
Am I Covered by my Employer’s Workers’ Compensation?
Worker’s compensation insures employees from the financial burden of medical costs and lost wages after they are injured on the job. Workers’ compensation covers employees only. California’s workers’ compensation laws do not cover independent contractors and volunteers. California laws define an employee as:
- One who is required to work on specific days and for specific hours
- One who receives an hourly wage or a salary
- One whom the employer has the right to terminate
- One whose employer controls work details and manner of working
- One for whom the employer makes social security and unemployment deductions
- One for whom the employer provides the required tools and materials
An independent contractor is one who:
- Works from home or their premises
- Sets their price for the services they offer
- Set their working conditions
- Provide their services to different and multiple clients
Your employer may misclassify you as an independent contractor to evade their responsibility of providing you with workers’ compensation. You will need to speak with your workers’ compensation attorney to determine whether you are entitled to compensation benefits for a work-related vehicle accident.
Defining the Scope of Employment
Generally, workers’ compensation for on-the-job vehicle accidents depends on whether the employer was acting within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred. The scope of employment can be defined as acting within the responsibilities and duties assigned by the employer.
Your employer may require you to perform certain tasks that involve traveling in your vehicle or a company car. These errands include delivering or picking items on your way to or from work and driving your boss or another employee for work-related duties.
The scope of employment could as well mean that your duties and responsibilities revolve around driving. When you work as a taxi driver, a personal chauffeur, a delivery person or as a salesperson, then any accidents that occur when you are working are covered under workers’ compensation.
However, when an accident happens outside the scope of employment, then you cannot be compensated. This includes if you take a detour to handle personal business. Other employers also use the coming or going rule to exempt certain tasks as outside the scope of employment.
The Going and Coming Rule
The ‘going and coming’ rule exempts commutes to or from work from the scope of employment. This means that the employee is not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on their way to or from work. The going and coming rule may be hard to prove for an employer, especially when the employee insists the commuting was indeed job-related.
There exist exceptions to the going and coming rule such as:
- When you are commuting from one job site to another: the commute in between the two sites is work-related, therefore, if an accident happens, you are entitled to compensation by your employer.
- Your employer pays you for the time you spend commuting to or from work. When your employer compensates you for commuting, whether in a company car or by public or personal means, then your commute is within the scope of employment.
- When you are commuting in a company car: the argument behind commuting in a company car is that you are performing a work-related task. In this case, it may be argued that you are advertising the company as you commute. Therefore, it may be argued that the employer is benefiting from your commute.
- Where the employer requires you to use the company vehicle to and from the workplace, so that it is available to you for work-related tasks, then any accidents that occur are within the scope of employment.
- Employer control during the commute to and from work: where your employer requires you to fulfill conditions such as wearing a uniform to and from work, then you are considered to be in the scope of employment. Your employer may also have control over you if you are required to provide emergency assistance during the drive to or from work.
- You are a commercial traveler: any vehicle accidents that happen when you are on a business trip are considered work-related.
- Special mission from your employer: the coming and going rule does not apply where your employer sends you on errands when you are driving home. Any vehicle accidents that occur when handling these tasks are considered to be within the course and scope of employment.
What Am I Supposed To Do After An On-The-Job Vehicle Accident?
While on the job, employees are required to follow certain safety requirements to ensure that they are safe. When driving a car at the workplace or for work-related activities, you are supposed to adhere to traffic rules and your employer’s safety requirements.
Despite the regard for safety, you can still get involved in a car accident while on the job. When this happens, you are supposed to report the incident to your employer as soon as possible. Prompt reporting will help you when presenting your claim and allow you to receive benefits on time.
Late reporting could give the employer the chance to refute your claim on the basis that your injury was from another accident other than the current one. Also, you give your employer enough time to investigate the accident when you report early. Under California workers' compensation laws, you are supposed to report your injury within thirty days since it happens.
You are also supposed to fill out a claim form, which in most cases is provided by your employer. The form will contain a series of questions, which will help you provide the details of the accident and your injuries.
After the accident, ensure you get the right medical treatment right away. Depending on the nature of the injury, you may have to get emergency medical care. Ensure that you inform the doctor who treats you that it is a job-related injury. Tell the doctor any symptoms to have including those that you think are unimportant. You are also supposed to keep the receipts of your medical care costs to help in the calculation of your benefits.
What are my Employer’s Responsibilities after an On-The-Job Vehicle Accident?
The law requires employers to provide a safe working environment for all its employees. This means that they are supposed to take responsibility for your welfare before and after the injury. Before the injury, your employer should:
- Acquire workers’ compensation insurance. The employer may be self-insured meaning that they can pay for compensation themselves,
- Provide new employees with information on their rights and responsibilities with regard to workers' compensation, and
- Provide a workers’ compensation poster in a place where all employees can see it.
The responsibilities of your employer before an injury serve to provide relevant information to employees should an accident happen. If you are injured in a vehicle accident on the job, your employer should:
- Provide you with a workers’ compensation claim form within one working day after you report the injury
- Send the completed workers' compensation form with the report for the injury to the insurance claims adjuster. The form should be sent within one working day after your employer receives it
- Authorize a medical treatment of up to $10,000 within one working day after he or she receives your claim. The money should cater to your medical bills as your claim is being processed
- Provide alternate or modified work where applicable during or after recovery
- Report the accident to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board within 7 days of learning of the accident:
- You need treatment after the injury
- You will need time off work to recover from your injuries
- Help in investigating the accident. Here, the insurance carrier may require your employer to provide information about the accident, your personal files, and request witness statements from your coworkers. Your employer has the responsibility to cooperate with them as they investigate your claim
Types of Benefits You Receive After an On-The-Job Vehicle Accident
When you are involved in a vehicle accident while at work, you can claim for compensation for benefits including:
- Medical benefits, which pay for the past, present and future medical costs requires for the treatment and recovery from your injuries. The value of your medical benefits is calculated by adding up the past and present medical bills and the estimated future medical costs.
- Temporary disability benefits that are paid as you recover from injuries that impair your partial or total ability to handle the tasks of your regular job. These benefits are paid until you recover or your condition stagnates.
- Permanent disability benefits, which are paid when your injury causes permanent disability or your condition neither improves or deteriorates.
- Supplemental job displacement benefits which are paid for retraining or enhancing skills where you do not recover fully and your employer offers alternative employment.
- Death benefits: when the injuries you sustain lead to death, your surviving spouse, children, and other dependants are entitled to death benefits. These benefits cover burial and funeral expenses and financial support to both partial and total dependants.
You can also receive additional benefits such as the State Disability Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and unemployment insurance.
What Happens when my Compensation Claim is Denied?
Your employer may deny your compensation claim. This could be very devastating especially since you were injured on the job. Some of the reasons your claim may be denied include:
- You do not need medical treatment
- You can return to work
- The evidence for the injury is insufficient
- Your injury is not work-related or is due to another job
- You were committing a criminal activity such as driving under the influence
You can appeal the denial of the claim by filing an appeal to the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. Your lawyer will present the Declaration of Readiness to Proceed, to the board and to your employer. The WCAB judge will listen to your case to determine whether you deserve the compensation.
With the help of your lawyer, you should be able to present the relevant medical evidence that proves your injury is a result of the on-the-job vehicle accident. When approved, your employer will be required to pay your compensation benefits.
What to do if Your Employer is not Insured
California requires all employers with non-family employees to have workers’ compensation insurance. Failure to do so may result in felony charges. In most cases, employers will have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees.
However, in the rare case that your employer does not have a workers’ compensation insurance cover, you can still be compensated through the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund. To get the UEBTF, you need to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.
The process of applying for a compensation claim where your employer is uninsured can be long, complicated, and confusing. A workers’ compensation attorney will provide you with the necessary advice and help as you pursue your claim. Compensation Appeals Board, provide your identification of your employer and present them to your employer. You are then supposed to submit the claim to your employer.
If your employer fails to pay the required benefits, the UEBTF has the responsibility to pay you when your employer refuses to. The UEBTF may refuse to pay your claim even when you qualify for the benefits. At this point, it is important that you have a skilled workers’ compensation attorney who will help you pursue your claim.
On-The-Job Vehicle Accidents Involving Pedestrians
Vehicle accidents that happen on the job may also include pedestrians. When you hit a pedestrian, you may be wondering whether you are responsible for their injuries. In most cases, the principle of vicarious responsibility applies. Your employer will be responsible for compensating the injured pedestrian since the accident happened during the course of employment.
Cases involving pedestrians and employees are often complex. In most cases, when a pedestrian is involved, compensation for the injuries will depend on the at-fault party.
The employer may be at fault if the employee was acting within the scope of employment and was driving with reasonable regard to the safety of other road users. Where the employer fails to maintain the company vehicles, they are negligent and therefore, responsible for any accidents that occur.
Where the employee was outside the scope of employment, then their insurance company may pay for your injuries.
The vehicle may also have been manufactured with defects. If the defects cause the accident, then the manufacturer is at fault.
Returning to Work after an Injury
When you are injured in a car accident while on the job, you may return to work when the doctor and your employer give permission to proceed. You will most probably return to work when you are fully recovered from your injuries or are in a position to do modified or alternative work. Your doctor may also give you work restrictions as you recover.
Your employer can make accommodations for you to enable you to resume some of your regular duties. You may still receive certain benefits especially if your current wage is lower than what you received before the injury. Therefore, you can still apply for supplemental job displacement benefits and temporary and permanent disability benefits after returning to work.
In other cases, your employer will offer you regular, modified or alternative work. Regular work includes all the duties and responsibilities that you handled before the accident.
Modified work is your old job with certain changes made to it to accommodate your injuries and disabilities.
Alternative work includes new roles and responsibilities. Your employer can offer you modified work if you cannot return to your regular job.
The doctor plays a crucial role in the type of work your employer may offer you. Where you are in disagreement with the medical evaluation and work restrictions, you can dispute the doctor’s report. When you are in dispute with the doctor’s report about your ability to return to work, it is best that you contact your lawyer.
Your lawyer will state your disagreement after which you can get an evaluation from another doctor. You should state the disagreement within 20 days.
Employer Retaliation after a Workers’ Compensation Claim
The laws of California prohibit retaliation by your employer for filing a workers' compensation claim. Your employer should not discriminate, maltreat you, penalize you, or fire you for filing a workers' compensation claim, developing a disability, or missing work as you recover from your injury. Some of the acts of retaliation prohibited under California law include:
- Wrongful termination
- Creating intolerable working conditions for the employee
- Increased workload
- Assigning the employee less desirable shifts
- Disciplinary action with inadequate ground
- Denied access to training, workshops, and resources to maintain or advance a career
Employers may frown upon employees who apply for workers' compensation after a vehicular accident on the job. To discourage others from filing these claims, they may retaliate against you through discriminatory acts. However subtle, you are entitled to equal treatment and workers' compensation when you are injured on the job. You can use the help of your attorney to report an employer who retaliates against you for filing for compensation for your job-related injury. The law protects you so you should take the first step of seeking compensation by engaging a workers’ comp attorney.
Consult a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Near Me
Navigating the workers’ compensation system can be a complicated process. You will need the help of an attorney to guide you through the process and fight for your rights as you recover from your injuries. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Long Beach has helped clients obtain compensation for injuries from on-the-job vehicle accidents. If you or your loved one has been injured through an on-job vehicle accident, contact our Long Beach workers compensation lawyer at 714-716-5933. We will evaluate your case and provide you with the options you have, the value of your claim and represent you in fighting for your rightful compensation.