How much can an employer be sued for from an injury at work?
In California, workplace injury claims are handled exclusively through the workers’ compensation system, with a few limited exceptions (described below). The California workers’ compensation system provides benefits for employees who are injured or who develop an illness at work. Workers’ compensation is a type of no fault insurance that all employers in California are required to carry. Employees are not required to prove that their employers were to blame (“at fault”) in order to recover benefits.
If you have a work injury, you are entitled to receive medical treatment and temporary disability payments for when you are not able to work (equal to two-thirds of your weekly wage, up to a maximum of 104 weeks). If your work injury caused a permanent disability, then you may be eligible to receive permanent disability payments, which are calculated based on the Permanent Disability Rating Schedule . Injured workers who cannot return to regular or modified work due to their injury may be eligible for supplemental job displacement benefits, which is a voucher for job training classes. Workplace injuries that lead to death will entitle the deceased workers’ family to certain death benefits.
There are some situations where a workplace injury claim will be handled outside of the California workers’ compensation system. In the following cases, the employee can file a personal injury lawsuit:
- The injury is caused by an intentional act (such as an employer assaulting an employee);
- The injury is caused by an intentional fraudulent concealment (such as concealing that an employee is working with a hazardous chemical);
- In dual capacity situations (when an employee is injured by a defective product manufactured by the employer);
- When an employee is injured by a power press; or
- When the employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, in violation of California law.
If the case is handled outside of the workers’ compensation system, then the employer can be sued for the full amount of the employee’s damages, including medical treatment, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more.