Workers’ compensation is the oldest public benefits system in the United States. Under California law, all employers are required to carry insurance and/or are liable for injuries arising out of and during the course of work.
Types of Injuries
There are two different types of injuries under the California workers’ compensation system. The first type of injury is the specific injury. This type of injury is most associated with work-related injuries as it’s the easiest to understand. A specific injury is an injury occurring as a result of one incident or exposure which causes disability or need for medical treatment. The quintessential example is a factory worker who while at work, slips and falls on a puddle of water and injuries his back.
The second type of injury is known as a cumulative trauma. A cumulative trauma can be either a continuous trauma or an occupational disease. A continuous trauma is an injury occurring as repetitive mental or physical traumatic activities extending over a period of time, the combined effect of which causes disability and/or need for medical treatment. For example, a nurse has a stroke caused by underlying hypertension that was fully or partially caused by stress at work.
Benefits Under Workers’ Compensation
There are three basic types of benefits available under the workers compensation system: Temporary Disability, Permanent Disability, and Medical Treatment.
Temporary disability benefits are provided where an injured worker is either totally unable to work, or if s/he can work with restrictions, and the employer is unable to accommodate those restrictions. Temporary disability acts as a wage replacement during the period you are medically unable to work.
Permanent disability is a difficult concept to understand and it is often the most litigated benefit under the workers’ compensation system. Permanent disability is calculated based upon whole person impairment which takes into consideration your limitations on the activities of daily living. For most of us, when we were in our teenage years, there was nothing we felt we couldn’t do. Over time, our bodies and minds change to where we can no longer physically or mentally do the things we once could. Permanent disability benefits provide a monetary award for limitations of daily living that is attributable to work related events.
Medical treatment may include physician visits, prescription medication, physical therapy, chiropractic visits, surgery, and hospitalizations. In some cases, medical treatment may also include durable medical equipment, home healthcare, home modifications, gym memberships, and transportation.