Stockton California Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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:

Working on behalf of injured workers in California

If you are injured at your place of work in California, you will likely be required to seek reimbursement for any wages that are lost due to the injury or illness, along with payment for medical care, through state's workers' compensation system. At first blush, the idea of filing a claim for workers' compensation benefits may not seem all that onerous. However, the process can sometimes be anything but cut and dried.

When you file a workers' compensation claim, you are for all intents and purposes putting yourself at the mercy of an insurance carrier. That's right: Worker's comp is insurance that the State of California requires employers to purchase. In return for maintaining workers' compensation insurance, employers enjoy reduced liability for any injuries or illnesses that occur on the job. At the same time, you are guaranteed some compensation for getting hurt or becoming ill at work.

Few SSDI applications could mean shorter waits in California

Thanks to nearly two decades of rising claims for Social Security disability insurance in California and across the United States, claimants have been experiencing incredible wait times for benefits decisions and hearings - some have waited for as long as two years to see a hearing officer. Burgeoning claims, budgetary woes and understaffing have all contributed to the Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI program's struggle in delivering service and benefits to applicants and recipients.

Compounding matters, increased SSDI rolls have rapidly depleted the trust funds - funded by tax withholdings from U.S. workers - from which benefits are paid. However, the New York Times reports that there may be some good news on the horizon for SSDI claimants and beneficiaries. Over the last two years, according to the Social Security Administration's or SSA annual reports, applications for SSD benefits have dropped off considerably.

California workers deserve safer workplaces

An unfortunate fact is that workers are injured, become ill or killed every year while on the job in California. Although California has a relatively low rate of workplace fatalities, there is still much that can be done to improve workplace safety. Preventable injury is the purview of the employer, along with state and federal regulators. As for workers, those who have been injured or become ill on the job can file a claim for workers' compensation to receive financial or medical assistance.

In 2016, there were 376 workplace fatalities in California. More recent figures are not yet available. Although this is a huge number of deaths, given its large population, California had one of the lowest workplace fatality rates in the country in 2016. During that year, the national rate was 3.6 deaths for every 100,000 workers. California, on the other hand, had a workplace fatality rate of 2.2 deaths per 100,000 workers, giving it the third lowest workplace fatality rate among the fifty states; Connecticut had the lowest.

Social Security Disability Insurance by the numbers

The Social Security Disability program offers financial assistance to workers who have been injured or become ill and are unable to work for long periods of time. It is different from California's workers' compensation program, which only addresses injury and illness that occurs while on the job. Rather, Social Security Disability Insurance - or SSDI - is a federal program that is administered by the Social Security Administration or SSA.

Where employers fund workers' compensation, SSDI is funded through the federal withholding of workers' wages. Although SSD benefits are available, ostensibly, to any worker who suffers from a long-term disability or illness, most claimants do not actually qualify for benefits - in spite of having paid into the program's trust fund. This is because SSD benefits are limited to specific parameters that must be documented with medical evidence.

California among safest states for workers

Some workplaces pose more risks than others. Certain industries are inherently dangerous, meaning workers are aware that they could encounter various risks in the work environment. While safety precautions are taken, this does not always prevent injuries from happening.

During 2016, which represents the most recent workplace fatality data was available, 5,190 workers were killed on the job in the United States. Among these workplace deaths, 991 were working in the construction industry. More than 25 percent or 270 of the workers who died from construction-related workplace injuries were born in places other than the United States. California had the second highest number of foreign-born worker fatalities, totaling at 151, which is just behind Texas at 156 and ahead of Florida at 104.

Two California firms on annual 'Dirty Dozen' list

The last week of April, leading up to International Workers' Day, is known as Workers' Memorial Week. Worker's Memorial Week is an annual remembrance of individuals who were killed, hurt or suffered an illness while working at their jobs. Many such workers were injured while on the job in one of the industries that have infamous reputations for dangerous conditions. Nationwide, these types of work give rise to disproportionately large numbers of workers' compensation claims and job-related injuries.

However, not all of the most dangerous companies to work for fall into the categories of traditionally dangerous workplaces. During Workers' Memorial Week, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health or COSH releases an annual "Dirty Dozen" list. The "Dirty Dozen" calls out 12 companies whose safety records have been particularly egregious. What typically lands a firm on the list is a high number of preventable accidents or safety violations or especially hostile work environments.

Know what to expect from your workers’ compensation claim

When you suffer from a work-related injury, you usually have the right to file a workers' compensation claim to help you recover from the injury and make up for income lost during the recovery. However, if you do not know what to expect from such a claim, you may miss out on important benefits that you rightly deserve.

Unfortunately, the workers' compensation process is constructed in a way that often protects employers' and insurance providers' interests above workers' interests. In many cases, workers who do not know the benefits they should expect from a claim miss out on some form of compensation that they should receive. If you recently suffered an injury on the job, it is vital that you understand the benefits you should expect, to keep your rights and privileges protected from unfair business practices.

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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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