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Workers' Compensation

Bakersfield Workers' Compensation Lawyers

The workplace can be dangerous, especially for people who work in dangerous jobs, like construction, industrial occupations and law enforcement. However, workplace injuries can happen in many industries, not just the ones we typically think of as dangerous. When people suffer an injury on the job, they may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits from their employer's workers' compensation insurance company. The Bakersfield workers' compensation lawyers at our firm can guide you through the process of applying for benefits, pursuing all the compensation you are entitled. We have more than 130 years of combined experience helping injured workers obtain the benefits they need and deserve. Senior Partner & Founder Wm. Todd Berry has been representing injured workers to the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board since 2007. Partner Timothy D. Bartell is the president of the California Applicants' Association, which advocates for injured workers.

Your consultation with our attorneys is free and comes with no obligation to pursue a claim. You pay no fees unless we recover the benefits you are entitled. There is no risk in contacting us to find out if we can help you.

Complete a Free Case Evaluation form or call us at 1-800-848-6288.

Types of Workplace Accidents

Our Bakersfield workers' compensation lawyers know there are many different types of accidents that happen in the workplace and cause workers to suffer injuries that make them eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Some common examples include:

  • Slip and fall accidents – These range from slipping on a wet or slippery surface to falling from high off the ground at a construction site or in a factory. These can also be caused by malfunctioning or defective machinery that knocks a worker to the ground. These accidents could result in head injuries, brain injuries and ligament damage. 
  • Electrocution accidents – Workers who are regularly near high voltage are at risk for electric shock that can cause severe or life-threatening injury. These accidents could be caused by exposed wiring, faulty safety equipment or failure of the employer to institute proper safety procedures. Electrocution can result in severe burns that cause damage to muscle and bone.
  • Fires and explosions – Workers who are exposed to flammable liquids and other materials capable of igniting are at risk of getting burned. Explosions often occur because of poor maintenance or failure to follow safety procedures. These could cause permanent injuries like blindness or third-degree burns.
  • Motor vehicle accidents – Workers who operate motor vehicles could be involved in motor vehicle accidents. Workers can also get hit or run over by motor vehicles, like dump trucks or other vehicles involved in construction.
  • Workplace violence – Police officers, corrections officers and others working in law enforcement have a high risk of being victims of violence on the job. Police officers could get seriously injured by a suspect and corrections officers could get injured by prisoners and others who are going through the criminal justice system. Injuries could range from bruises and lacerations to gunshot wounds and stabbing.
  • Hit-by/falling machinery accidents – These involve workers being struck by an object or pinned between objects or an object and a wall. These accidents can cause broken bones, lost limbs and other serious injuries.
  • Chemical spills/toxic chemical exposure – Poor safety procedures, lack of safety equipment or carelessness by other employees could expose workers to toxic substances. For example, you could get injured when a toxic substance splashes on you.

Some injuries are not caused by one incident; they are the result of years of exposure to dangers or repetitive activities. These are called occupational diseases and workers contract them as a consequence of their work.

For example, some workers suffer back problems because of repetitive activities, like standing, lifting, climbing or picking up heavy objects. Some workers develop long-term or life-threatening illnesses like cancer because they were exposed to toxic substances. Workers may be able to obtain compensation for carpal tunnel if they do a lot of typing that can damage ligaments. If the disease was caused by your job, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

If you were injured on the job, our Bakersfield workers' compensation attorneys may be able to help you obtain workers' compensation benefits.

Schedule a free consultation today to learn more. Call 1-800-848-6288.

Workers' Compensation Benefits

The purpose of workers' compensation is to cover your medical treatment and a portion of the wages you lose when you are unable to work because of your injury or disability.

If your claim is approved, you will be entitled to payment of all medical care that is reasonably required to cure or relieve your injury. Your employer's workers' compensation insurance company will use the medical treatment utilization schedule (MTUS) created by the Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC). This includes guidelines from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, along with others.

If your doctor wants to provide treatment not listed in the MTUS, the insurance company must still pay for it if it follows other scientifically-based guidelines recognized by the national medical community.

Covered medical care includes things like visits with a doctor, testing, stays in the hospital, prescriptions, medical equipment and the cost of travel if travel is reasonably necessary for the treatment of your injury. If you apply for reimbursement for travel, the mileage rate is $.545 per mile traveled. You can also be reimbursed for tolls and parking charges.

The workers' compensation lawyers in Bakersfield may be able to help you recover various other forms of compensation, including:

Temporary Disability Benefits

Your injury may prevent you from working – you may be completely unable to work or be able to do some amount of work that is less than what you did before the injury. If your workers' compensation claim is approved, you will be entitled to temporary disability (TD) benefits. The two types are temporary total disability, for those completely unable to work, and temporary partial disability for those who are able to do some work while they are recovering.

How Much Are Temporary Disability Benefits?

Generally, TD benefits are two-thirds of the pre-tax wages you earned before the injury. These benefits are not subject to federal, state or local income taxes. For example, if you were making $500 per week before your injury, you could receive $330 per week while you are completely unable to work.

If you are able to do some amount of work, you can receive two-thirds of the wages you are no longer earning. For example, if you are earning $100 less per week than you did before, you can receive $66 in temporary partial disability.

How Often Will I Receive These Benefits?

TD benefits must be made every two weeks and they stop when you are able to return to work or the doctor says you can work or your injury will not improve any more than it already has. In most cases, payments cannot last more than 104 weeks within a period of five years from the date of the injury. However, there are exceptions to this time limit for certain injuries, like severe burns or chronic lung disease.

The claims administrator must send a letter explaining why your payments are ending within 14 days of your final payment of benefits.

A Bakersfield workers' compensation lawyer from our firm can work to try to help ensure you receive all the temporary disability benefits you are entitled.   

Permanent Disability Benefits

Some injuries are so severe that the worker will never fully recover – some workers are left totally disabled while others have a permanent disability that still allows them to do some type of work. These workers may be entitled to permanent disability benefits – the two types of permanent benefits are permanent partial disability and permanent total disability.

The amount you receive is based on your disability rating, which is determined by the DWC's Disability Evaluation Unit. A rater from the unit will use the report from a qualified medical examiner to calculate your disability rating, which is put into a formula to determine the amount of benefits you receive. Another major factor in determining the amount of money you receive is your average weekly wages when you were injured.

These benefits are paid out when your doctor indicates you have permanent impairment from your injury. Benefits must start being paid within 14 days of when your temporary disability ends.

Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits

Workers who suffer a permanent partial disability may be entitled to supplemental job displacement benefits, which is a voucher to help pay for educational retraining or skill enhancement. The voucher can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, tools and other expenses related to skills training. You can also use the voucher for professional certification fees and related examination fees. Workers can use up to 10 percent of the money for the services of a vocational or return-to-work counselor who can help you develop your plan for returning to work.

Under state law, the claims administrator must send you a voucher within 25 days of a workers' compensation judge issuing an award for permanent disability.

The workers' compensation attorneys in Bakersfield at our firm can answer questions about workers' compensation benefits and guide you through the entire process.

Contact Berry, Smith & Bartell today at 1-800-848-6288 for a free, no obligation legal consultation.

Reporting a Workplace Injury

Our Bakersfield workers' compensation lawyers know that there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty after a workplace accident. Workers are often unsure of what to do and how to report the injury.

It is best to report what happened to your supervisor or someone else in a management position as soon as possible. If you have an occupational disease, report it as soon as you determine or have reason to believe it was caused by your job.

How Long Do I Have to Report an Injury?

You have up to 30 days to notify your employer that you were hurt at work, but it is best not to wait. If you wait, it will take longer to receive benefits and it might make your employer or its workers' compensation insurance company suspicious that you are just trying to get money. You could increase the likelihood your claim will be denied. If you do not notify your employer within 30 days of the injury, you may lose your right to benefits.

If the injury is an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room immediately. Tell the treating doctors that your injury is related to your job.

Filing a Claim

State law requires employers to give or mail you a Workers' Compensation Claim Form (DWC 1) within one working day of being notified of your injury. If you do not receive a form, you can contact Information & Assistance Services to find out how to obtain one. You can call the number for the officer at your district office.

Once you have the form, fill out the employee portion and be thorough. Describe your injury and all the ways it is affecting you. Make sure to file the form right away, waiting could cause problems later on in the process.

Once you file the form, your employer must fill out its portion of the form and send it to a claims administrator. State law requires the administrator to decide within a reasonable amount of time whether to accept or deny your claim. In most cases, if you do not hear anything after 90 days, your claim is considered to be accepted.

Medical Bills While Waiting on Your Claim

Within one working day after the employer receives the form, the employer or its workers' compensation insurance company must authorize up to $10,000 for treatment that is reasonable and necessary while the claims administrator is making a decision about your claim. The employer must pay your expenses, up to $10,000 until the date your claim is denied, if it is denied. If your claim is not denied, you will continue to receive compensation for medical expenses.

Contact a workers' compensation lawyer in Bakersfield for a free consultation.

Can I Receive Treatment from my Regular Doctor?

You can see your own doctor if you predesignate this physician with your employer before you suffer an injury. You can do this with a written statement or by using DWC Form 9783 or a form provided by your employer. You must include the following information:

  • Name of your employer
  • Statement that if you get hurt at work you are designating your personal physician to provide medical care
  • Name, address and phone number of the doctor
  • Your name
  • Your signature
  • Date

The doctor must be a general practitioner, internist, obstetrician-gynecologist or family practitioner who is also your primary care doctor. However, the doctor must agree in advance to be predesignated by you and treat you for job injuries.

If you do not predesignate a doctor, your employer will select the primary treating physician for the first 30 days. Workers' compensation insurance companies have a medical provider network of physicians who can treat injured workers. If your employer is in this network, your medical needs must be taken care of by doctors in this network.

If you have questions about the workers' compensation process, contact a Bakersfield workers' compensation attorney for a free legal consultation.

Complete a Free Case Evaluation form or call us at 1-800-848-6288.

Disputes Between Employees and Claims Administrators

Even if your claim is approved, you might be receiving less benefits than you feel you deserve. When this happens, you may be able to negotiate with the claims administrator and reach a settlement.

One of the advantages of working with a lawyer is that he or she can review your situation to determine what a fair settlement would look like. He or she can also represent you at settlement proceedings and advocate for all the benefits you deserve.

There are two types of workers' compensation settlements:

  • Stipulations with Request for Award – This occurs when the employee and employer agree on a weekly amount of benefits (temporary or permanent disability benefits). Claims administrators usually agree to pay for medical care if it is still necessary.
  • Compromise and Release – This is where an employer pays a lump sum settlement and there are no weekly benefits. The lump sum takes into account the estimated cost of future medical care. The employee will be financially responsible for his or her own medical treatment from that point forward.

Whatever the terms of the settlement, it must be approved by a workers' compensation judge.

Your Bakersfield workers' compensation attorney can help you determine the best option in your case.

Call our firm today for a free, no obligation legal consultation. 1-800-848-6288

What if We Cannot Reach a Settlement?

Sometimes workers are unable to reach a fair settlement with their claims administrator. When this happens, a workers' compensation judge will need to step in to resolve the dispute.

You need to file an application for adjudication with the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). You must do this within one year of either the date of the injury, date medical treatment ended or the last date you received benefits.

If the employer voluntarily provides medical treatment or temporary disability benefits, the one-year deadline will stop running. This is because the employee can reasonably assume his or her claim is not being disputed by the employer.

However, if the claim is denied or the employer notifies the employee that it is rejecting liability for the injury, the one-year deadline will continue running. This is because the employee should assume the claim is disputed.

After Application for Adjudication is Filed

Once the application is filed, the employer may file an answer within 10 days. After that, both parties engage in discovery to prepare for a hearing. When both sides are prepared for the hearing, they must file a Declaration of Readiness to proceed with the WCAB. However, both sides must attempt to settle before filing a Declaration of Readiness.

Once this form is filed, a mandatory settlement conference will be scheduled within 30 days. The judge or referee who presides over the conference has the authority to approve a settlement or issue a ruling and award.

Contested Hearing

However, if the case is not resolved, the judge will determine the issues that are in dispute to help ensure those settlements can be resolved in a contested hearing. The hearing must occur within 75 days of the declaration of readiness being filed. The hearing will include testimony from the injured worker and other witnesses and presentation of a variety of evidence, including hospital records and reports from physicians.

The judge will make a decision based on the evidence presented and the issues in dispute in your case. The decision must be issued within 30 days of the date the trial ends. The written decision will be mailed to you.

The Bakersfield workers' compensation lawyers at our firm can guide you through the process, advocating for your best interests every step of the way.

Contact our firm today by calling 1-800-848-6288.

Appealing the Judge's Decision

If you disagree with the judge's decision, you have just 20 days from the date you received it to file a Petition for Reconsideration with the WCAB. If the decision was mailed to you, you must file an appeal within 25 days of the date of the decision, which is written by the judge's signature.

When you fill out the petition, make sure to list all your reasons for the appeal and the issues you have with the decision. Be sure to include any new evidence that you could not have discovered before you filed your original claim. Explain why you disagree with the judge's decision.

This is one of the main areas where a Bakersfield workers' compensation lawyer can help. He or she can work to ensure your petition includes all relevant information for the appeals board to consider.

After receiving your petition, the appeals board has 60 days to accept or deny it. If the board does nothing within 60 days, you should consider the petition to be denied. If the petition is accepted, the board will decide whether to affirm or reject the appeal or amend the judge's decision.

If you present new evidence, the board will likely schedule a hearing to review it. After the hearing, you will receive a decision in the mail.

Writ of Review

If your appeal is unsuccessful, you can appeal to the state appellate court for a writ of review. However, all the appellate court can do is consider whether the appeals board decision was reasonable, based on the facts presented. You have 45 days from the decision on your petition to file for a writ of review. Unfortunately, appellate courts rarely overturn decisions by the appeals board.

Appealing to the Supreme Court

The next step is to appeal to the California Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the state supreme court often decides not to hear workers' compensation appeals.

Contact a trusted attorney today by calling 1-800-848-6288.

Contact a Bakersfield Workers' Compensation Lawyer

If you were injured at work, you might be able to obtain workers' compensation benefits to cover medical bills and lost wages caused by your injury. However, you could greatly benefit from having an attorney at your side throughout the process.

The Bakersfield workers' compensation attorneys at our firm can review your situation in a free legal consultation and determine how we can help you. We have assisted many injured workers with obtaining the fair compensation they deserve.

Your consultation comes with no obligation and you will not owe us legal fees unless we recover fair compensation for your claim.

For a free case evaluation with Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation call 1-800-848-6288 today!

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