California Workers’ Compensation Law
California workers’ compensation law is a no fault system which means that it doesn’t matter if the injury was your fault or the fault of the employer; benefits are to be provided regardless of the negligence of either the employer or the employee. Workers’ Compensation is the exclusive remedy for an injured worker against the employer except in very limited circumstances. If you are injured on the job you generally have no other remedy against the employer. Workers’ compensation law does not provide for pain and suffering or lost wages (except for temporary disability discussed below) as part of the damages that can be recovered.
California workers’ compensation law requires that the injured worker prove that the injury arose out of and occurred in the course and scope of employment. In the California Workers’ Compensation system, injuries can be either:
(1) A Specific injury. A specific injury occurs at a specific moment, such as a slip and fall.
(2) Cumulative injury. A cumulative trauma injury is one that occurs over a period of time. Some common examples would be repetitive keyboarding that leads to carpal tunnel, or prolonged lifting which leads to back problems, or prolonged kneeling which leads to knee injuries or continuous exposure to dust which leads to lung disease, or continuous stressful conditions which leads to heart problems. Cumulative injuries must be proved with medical evidence from a doctor.
(3) Psychiatric, mental or emotional injuries are also recognized under California Workers’ Compensation Law , but are extremely difficult to prove. The work stresses must be the predominant cause of the injured worker’s problem and the stress cannot arise out of a “good faith personnel action.” Claims for psychiatric injury are usually denied by employers and insurance companies and the courts consider almost anything an employer does a “good faith personnel action” unless it is outrageous or illegal conduct.
Psychiatric injuries can also result from a specific event such as a bank robbery or a physical assault on the job, or as a result of a specific injury that has resulted in very serious physical disabilities considered to be catastrophic. What is considered catastrophic has not yet been defined by the courts. In any case for psychiatric injury though, the injured worker must have been on the job for at least six months to bring a psychiatric claim at all.