Stockton, California Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Can immigrants get workers' compensation in California?

Migrant and seasonal farmworkers are part of the backbone of California's economy -- and many of those workers are immigrants. While many states (about half) don't provide workers' compensation protection for seasonal agricultural workers, California does -- even to immigrants.

Here's what you need to know if you're an immigrant working in California:

Which jobs put you at the highest risk of spinal injuries?

Would it shock you to learn that back injuries are the second-leading cause of lost work days?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, back injuries affect more than one million people every year and account for 20% of on-the-job injuries. The only thing that costs more in lost work is the common cold.

Are undocumented immigrants eligible for workers’ comp?

Currently there are over 1.8 million undocumented workers in California. They make up 9 percent of the state’s total workforce. Many of them work in food service, in manufacturing, do construction or work on farms. These jobs all have inherent dangers, and many undocumented workers are uninsured.

In theory, immigrants without a working visa not supposed to seek employment at all. But this is far from our current reality. Many injured undocumented workers are fearful to file for workers’ compensation because they feel they may risk deportation. So, if an undocumented immigrant becomes injured at work, who’s on the hook?

Summer's coming: Protect yourself from heat injuries at work

After a long winter, everybody starts to look forward to the summer -- unless you have to work in the heat. Rising temperatures can prove a significant challenge for a lot of workers, especially those who have to work outside with little protection from the sun on road crews, building construction and similar jobs.

Exposure to excessive amounts of heat -- especially if your body hasn't had time to acclimate to it -- can quickly lead to problems like heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here are some of the most important things you and your employer can do to guard against these kinds of problems:

Tracking accidents and injury claims in the marijuana industry

Although the legal status of marijuana remains in flux throughout the country, it has become a lawful and booming industry here in California and certain other states. It may not seem obvious, but one of the benefits of legalization is tracking and ensuring worker safety.

The roughly 211,000 workers who make a living in the cannabis industry nationwide are now subject to the same OSHA regulations as other workers. And for perhaps the first time, we are seeing regular statistics of the most common accidents and injuries in the field of marijuana agriculture.

California's first responders seek compensation for mental trauma

Police officers, firefighters and other first responders are often confronted with terrifying situations and horrifying scenes involving injured people. Ultimately, exposure to that kind of trauma can have a negative psychological effect on first responders that leads to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental conditions like anxiety and depression.

Unfortunately, the current workers' compensation system in California doesn't treat work-related psychiatric injuries the same as it does physical injuries. First responders can only get workers' compensation for their psychological damage if they require medical treatment or become disabled as a result. Even then, they face a significant legal hurdle: They have to prove their job was a "substantial cause" of their mental condition.

Trench safety: What construction workers need to know

A trench collapse can end a construction worker's life very quickly. Cave-ins can happen without any warning -- and the dirt is often so heavy and deep that successful rescues are rare.

That's why it's so important for construction workers to know what safety measures are supposed to be taken on the job. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does require employers to take adequate safety measures to protect their workers, trench safety is everybody's concern.

Cal/OSHA fines contractors for serious safety violations

Underground construction requires workers to face dangerous working conditions on a daily basis. One of the dangers is the occasional failure of employers to require workers to follow safety regulations. A fatal construction accident in August of 2018 in the Twin Peaks Tunnel rehabilitation project demonstrates just how dangerous such work can be.

Two San Francisco construction companies formed a joint venture to undertake the Twin Peaks Rehabilitation and Rail Replacement Project. The project included refurbishing infrastructure, replacing rails and upgrading signals in a rail tunnel that is more than 100 years old. On August 10, 2018, workers were using a crane car to push two rail flatcars into the tunnel. The boom on the crane had not been lowered, and it was in a vertical orientation. The crane struck an overhead steel beam. The beam was dislodged and fell about 13 feet, striking and killing a worker walking nearby.

Determining "disability" in claims for SSDI benefits

Many people in Stockton and elsewhere in the Central Valley are aware of the federal benefit program known as Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but they are uncertain about how the Social Security Administration determines permanent disability. The definition is not complex, and an understanding of the term may assist people who are uncertain about whether they qualify for benefits.

The first question is whether an applicant is employed. If a person is employed and earning more than $1,220 per month, that person cannot be considered disabled. The next question is how the condition prevents the applicant from performing basic work tasks, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting and remembering. If the condition is not expected to last for at least 12 months, the application will be rejected.

BNSF worker wins $1.63 million for workplace injuries

Individuals who work in the presence of heavy machinery face an ongoing chance of suffering a serious injury. While employers have instituted numerous safety precautions and required employees to use various safety devices, the devices sometimes fail or are not used at all. A worker for the BNSF Railway Co. recently recovered a $1.63 million verdict from a Bakersfield jury based on the railroad's failure to follow standard workplace safety procedures.

The 45-year-old employee alleged that he was struck by an 83-pound rail rack when it slipped from the deck of a flatbed trailer where he was working. The worker testified that the rack had not been properly secured on the truck's deck by steel safety pins that are used across the industry to hold heavy equipment in place. Moreover, the railroad admitted during the trial that the grapple truck, a piece of equipment used to manipulate heavy loads, had not been properly secured. The railroad argued that the missing pins had nothing to do with the accident.

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