What Is Workers' Compensation?
If you have a work-related injury or illness, your employer is required by law to pay for workers' compensation benefits. You could get hurt by:
One event at work, such as hurting your back in a fall, getting burned by a chemical that splashes on your skin or getting hurt in a car accident while making deliveries.
-- or --
Repeated exposures at work, such as hurting your wrist from doing the same motion over and over or losing your hearing because of constant loud noise.
How Can I Avoid Getting Hurt On The Job?
Employers in California are required to have an injury and illness prevention program. The program must include worker training, workplace inspections, and procedures for correcting unsafe conditions promptly. Learn about and participate in your employer's program and report unsafe conditions to your employer. If they don't respond, call Cal/OSHA, the state agency that enforces health and safety laws.
What Should I do If I Have A Job Injury?
Report the injury to your employer by telling your supervisor right away. If your injury or illness developed over time, report it as soon as you learn or believe it was caused by your job.
Reporting promptly helps prevent problems and delays in receiving benefits, including medical care you may need. If your employer does not learn about your injury within 30 days and this prevents your employer from fully investigating the injury and how you were injured, you could lose your right to receive workers' compensation benefits.
Get emergency treatment if you need it. Your employer may tell you where to go for treatment. Tell the health care provider who treats you that your injury or illness is job-related.
Fill out a claim form and give it to your employer. Your employer must give or mail you a claim form within one working day after learning about your injury or illness. If your employer doesn't give you the claim form you can download it from the forms page of the DWC website.
Do I Need To Fill Out The Claim Form (DWC 1) My Employer Gave Me?
Yes. Giving the completed form to your employer opens your workers' compensation case. It starts the process for finding all benefits you may qualify for under state law. Those benefits include, but are not limited to:
A presumption that your injury or illness was caused by work if your claim is not accepted or denied within 90 days of giving the completed claim form to your employer
Up to $10,000 in treatment under medical treatment guidelines while the claims administrator considers your claim
An increase in your disability payments if they're late
A way to resolve any disagreements between you and the claims administrator over whether your injury or illness happened on the job, the medical treatment you receive and whether you will receive permanent disability benefits.
What Benefits Am I Entitled To?
Workers' comp insurance provides five basic benefits:
Paid for by your employer to help you recover from an injury or illness caused by work
Payments if you lose wages because your injury prevents you from doing your usual job while recovering
Payments if you don't recover completely
Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits (if your date of injury is in 2004 or later)
Vouchers to help pay for retraining or skill enhancement if you don't recover completely and don't return to work for your employer
Payments to your spouse, children or other dependents if you die from a job injury or illness.
Attend a free seminar for injured workers at a local DWC office for a full explanation of workers' comp benefits, your rights and responsibilities.
What Resources Are Available To Me?
Your local I&A officers are a great resource and their services are free. They are not there to act on your behalf as an attorney would, but they'll help you understand how to act on your own behalf. Attend a free seminar for injured workers at a local DWC district office for a full explanation of workers' comp benefits, your rights and responsibilities. You can also make an appointment with an I&A officer and speak to them privately at your convenience.
In addition, there is a lot of information on the I&A page of the DWC's website. Check out the fact sheets and guides for injured workers. The fact sheets provide answers to frequently asked questions about issues affecting your benefits. The guides will help you fill out forms you may need to get a problem with your claim resolved at the local DWC district office.
How Can I Find Out Who Provides Workers' Compensation Coverage For My Employer Or Another Business In California?
In California all employers are required to either purchase a workers' compensation insurance policy from a licensed insurer authorized to write policies in California or become self insured. The DWC does not provide workers' compensation insurance for employers and does not maintain information about employers and their respective insurers. To find out which insurer provides workers' compensation insurance for a specific employer, visit the California Workers' Compensation Coverage website. The roster of self-insured employers can be found on the Self Insurance Plans Web page.
More information about workers' compensation can be found on the DWC's Web page for injured workers.
I know that independent contractors aren't covered under workers' compensation. How do I know if I really am an independent contractor?
There is no set definition of this term. Labor law enforcement agencies and the courts look at several factors when deciding if someone is an employee or an independent contractor. Some employers misclassify employees as an independent contractor to avoid workers' compensation and other payroll responsibilities. Just because an employer says you are an independent contractor and doesn't need to cover you under a workers' compensation policy, doesn't make it true. A true independent contractor has control over how their work is done. You probably are not an independent contractor when the person paying you:
Controls the details or manner of your work
Has the right to terminate you
Pays you an hourly wage or salary
Makes deductions for unemployment or social security
Supplies materials or tools
Requires you to work specific days or hours.
What Happens To An injured worker's personal information that is requested on various DWC forms? Is it kept confidential?
The division uses this information solely to administer its duties in workers' compensation claims. For example, if an injured worker provides their Social Security number (in whole or in part), DWC will use it as an identifier to ensure that documents are matched to the correct workers' comp case. Unless authorized by law to do so, DWC cannot disclose the residence addresses of injured workers or their Social Security number.
Note that some case file information can be found by using the public information case search tool on the DWC's website.
What Personal Information Can Be Found In A Public Information Search?
The search tool shows limited case data, such as an injured worker's name, case number, case status, court location, employer name, a description of events in the case, and associated dates. It may list the parts of the body that were injured, but it does not include medical records or any case documents. The information provided in this search tool relates solely to cases in DWC's adjudication unit and is intended to help move cases through the court system efficiently. Any person requesting access to this information is required to identify themselves, state the reason for making the request and is instructed not to disclose the information to any person who is not entitled.
Injured workers should be aware that, once an Application for Adjudication of Claim is filed, case file information, including case documents, may be disclosed under the California Public Records Act. Even in this circumstance, an injured worker's address and Social Security number are not revealed to the requestor by the DWC.