Stockton California Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Cal/OSHA begins investigation of fatal construction site accident

The California Department of Industrial Relations includes an important agency that is responsible for ensuring workplace safety. The formal name of agency is the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, but it is informally known as "Cal/OSHA" in a nod to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Cal/OSHA is responsible for many tasks, but none is more important than the investigation of workplace accidents and the enforcement of the state's workplace safety laws.

A recent accident in Kelseyville demonstrates how the agency works. On Tuesday, October 23, an apprentice carpenter working on a shop building at the Kelseyville High School was severely injured when he fell from a scissors lift. The man was flown to a nearby hospital, but he died from his injuries the next day. Personnel of the Kelseyville Fire Department responded to the emergency call from the site, but no further details of the accident have been released.

What are workers' compensation work restrictions?

After suffering a workplace injury, illness or condition in Stockton and throughout California, the workers' compensation benefits process can be both intimidating and confusing. There are various aspects that should be understood from the start. One is how restrictions factor in. Workers who can get back to work for their employer after the injury should be aware that there are certain requirements based on whether they are deemed able to work with or without restrictions.

For workers who can work with restrictions, this means the primary treating physician states that the person can continue to work or remain at work with certain limitations. The work the employer gives must fit into those restrictions. Examples of how the worker can be accommodated include changing tasks, giving the worker extra time to complete the tasks or giving the worker equipment that will assist in completing the tasks. If work that fits into the worker's abilities is not available, the worker is not required to work and will not lose workers' compensation eligibility.

Gathering evidence to appeal a workers' compensation denial

Getting hurt at work is no one's idea of a good time. It can mean that you have to deal with major medical bills, as well as the inconvenience of missing work. In some cases, the injury could cause a permanent disability that prevents someone from ever returning to their job.

That's why workers' compensation insurance exists. The idea is to limit the costs and financial impact related to a workplace injury or illness. Unfortunately, not everyone who applies for workers' compensation receives benefits right away. In some cases, due to a variety of issues, workers can find their initial claim denied.

VA disability benefits and SSDI

Receiving certain types of benefits, such as workers' compensation, can impact a person's eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance. But, veterans are entitled to specific relief because VA disability benefits may not affect their ability to receive SSDI under certain circumstances.

New definition of "independent contractor" affecting workers

One of the most important terms in California employment law is "independent contractor." Many laws that require employers to provide certain benefits frequently contain exceptions for workers who are "independent contractors." Hence, many businesses try to classify their workers as independent contractors to avoid the cost of mandatory benefits. Two of the most important benefits that can be avoided by calling a worker an independent contractor are workers' compensation coverage and mandatory overtime pay. Many Stockton businessmen operate on the mistaken assumption that they can avoid providing benefits by simply labelling an employee or group of employees as independent contractors. In April, the California Supreme Court issued an opinion that provides a clear definition of independent contractor, and the effects of this ruling are now hitting the marketplace.

The lawsuit that led to the ruling involved a messenger service that provided courier services for the Los Angeles Superior Court. In 2004, the company reclassified its drivers as independent contractors. The drivers were allowed to set their own schedules, but they were required to wear the employer's uniform. The Supreme Court prescribed a three-part test for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor: the worker must be free from control and direction from the hiring business; the worker must perform work that is outside of the hiring business' usual business; and the worker must operate an independent business involving the same nature of work.

Comparing workers' compensation benefits with SSDI benefits

Most workers in the Stockton area understand that they are entitled to workers' compensation benefits if they suffer an injury while working. Many also understand that they may be eligible for Social Security Disability Income benefits if they become permanently disabled. The exact relationship between the two disability programs is often complex and confusing, and an understanding of the basic elements of each program can be helpful in filing a claim for benefits.

Workers' compensation is a program of insurance enacted in California. Almost anyone who suffers an injury on the job is entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The amount of the benefit depends on the extent of the injury. Is the injury permanent? Did the injury cause a disability? The benefits for a disability depend on whether the disability was total or partial, and whether it was temporary or permanent. Workers' compensation generally pays medical expenses and benefits for lost wages and any disability.

Property owner liable for injuries suffered by tree trimmer

California employers are generally required to carry insurance that will pay any workers' compensation claims made by their employees, but what happens when a day worker is injured on the property of a person who does not carry such insurance? The California Court of Appeals answered that question in the case of a tree trimmer who was working for a contractor that did not have such insurance.

The facts of the case are simple. The claimant was worker for a woman who provided tree trimming services. When working on the property of a homeowner, the claimant fell from a ladder and suffered significant injuries. The tree trimming firm did not have a contractor's license and it did not carry workers' compensation insurance. Both the homeowner and the tree trimming firm contended that the claimant was an independent contractor and not able to claim workers' compensation benefits.

Worker's comp could affect Social Security Disability benefits

It is not uncommon for a Social Security Disability claim to spur from a workplace accident. However, many claimants do not realize that any worker's compensation funds received can reduce the amount of disability benefits to be received. The Social Security Administration offers a publication describing these rules in detail, which can be viewed here.

If a Social Security Disability claimant receives workers' compensation benefits from federal, state, or local government, federal or state workers' compensation agencies, or from an employer's insurance company, then that benefit, in addition to a disability benefit, cannot amount to more than 80% of the average amount earned before becoming disabled. Also included in this rule are public disability payments such as state or government retirement benefits due to disability, temporary disability benefits paid by the state, or any federal, state, or local government payment for a medical condition which rendered the claimant unable to work.

Trench collapse kills worker in Daly City

Working below ground is an unusually dangerous occupation. From miners to pipeline construction workers, the earth presents a constant hazard to anyone who descends below the surface. One of the biggest risks is the uncertain nature of the surrounding soil. Some soil deposits are naturally stable and present only a small risk to workers, while other types of soil are inherently unstable and threaten the worker with a high risk of collapse and injury or death.

Workers on a 24-inch storm drain pipeline in Daly City received a painful lesson in these risks on July 27 when the trench they were working in collapsed and caused a workplace fatality. The accident occurred at about 11:00 a.m. Two men were working in the trench when it apparently gave signs of collapsing. The workers attempted to escape but only one made it. The other worker was buried alive in the trench and presumed dead. As of 10:15 p.m. on the evening of the day of the accident, rescue workers still had not recovered his body. The trench was about 12 feet deep, but rescue workers did not know how deep the worker had been buried.

Factory work is safer than in the past but dangers still exist

Factory workers serve a very important purpose for our society, but this doesn't mean that these workers are always safe. Historically, factories have been full of hazards. Over the years, more oversight and improved safety regulations have helped to keep these hardworking individual safer. Thing still aren't perfect, despite these positive changes.

The exact dangers workers have to deal with vary based on the work conditions. Here are some of the most common hazards that factory employees face, whether they work on the line or not:

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Law Office of Ronald M. Stein, Attorney at Law
4521 Quail Lakes Drive
Stockton, CA 95207

Phone: 209-751-4370
Fax: 209-957-3005
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