People can appreciate that construction work can be dangerous. However, that makes it all the more important for employers in the construction industry not to cut corners, especially when it comes to worker safety. Should they fail to follow applicable safety rules, it could lead to disaster.
When a person thinks of workplace injuries, they may picture a worker suffering an injury based on a one-time incident, such as straining to lift something heavy or falling off a ladder. However, some injuries build up over time simply by performing normal workplace duties. Known as cumulative trauma injuries, these injuries are increasingly giving rise to workers' compensation claims.
While some occupations are inherently more dangerous than others, the fact of the matter is that just about anyone in California can be injured or made ill in the course of performing their job duties. When this happens, they may be unable to work for a period of time. In serious cases, a person might be permanently injured. Being unable to work can cause additional stress during what is already a difficult time. Fortunately, there are several types of workers' compensation benefits Californians can pursue, in order to help cope with the expenses related to their illness or injury.
When a person in California thinks of the type of job that poses a risk to one's life, they may naturally think of jobs in the construction industry, and they would be right. Of the over 4,600 fatal workplace accidents in 2016, approximately 21 percent were in the construction industry. There were four major causes of death that were responsible for over 63 percent of fatal workplace accidents in the construction industry in 2016. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has coined the term the "Fatal Four" to describe these causes of death.
Workers' compensation benefits can be a crucial financial lifeline for workers in California who are injured on-the-job, and cannot return to work due to their injuries. When a worker wants to pursue workers' compensation benefits, they will file a claim. Unfortunately, sometimes, a person's claim for workers' compensation benefits is denied. But, that denial can be challenged.
Practically no one expects to get hurt at work; the perception is that is what happens to other people. But, you may find someday that it happens to you. If you are injured at work there are some things you need to understand. First, work place injuries can happen in two ways under California law. First, an injury can be termed "specific" in nature; for example, when a person is injured falling off of a ladder that is a specific injury. Alternatively, an injury may develop over time; such an injury is referred to as a cumulative trauma injury. For example, a beverage delivery truck driver who moves heavy kegs over and over for a long period of time might develop cumulative trauma to his/her low back or some other body part from the repeated heavy lifting. Often, such claims reveal themselves through chronic pain which does not stem from a particular injury event.
Workers' compensation carriers continue to disrupt an injured workers access to necessary and appropriate medical treatment. These efforts affect the system in many ways, including, but not limited to: (1) keeping workers on disability longer than necessary, (2) adding litigation costs to the system, (3) increasing permanent disability awards for injured workers due to lack of treatment, and (4) unnecessarily taking up the time of the workers' compensation judges on such matters.
My office represents plaintiffs in personal injury cases and Applicants in workers' compensation cases. In the personal injury setting, defendants often hire a company called Exponent, Inc. to assist in the defense of such claims. Exponent describes itself as "a multi-disciplinary engineering and scientific consulting firm that brings together more than 90 different disciplines to solve important engineering, science, regulatory, and business issues." However, what is meant by "solving issues;" in my few encounters with the company, I have yet to have a case where Exponent validated the claims that my client was making. Is that a reflection of the validity of those cases or something else? Today, Fair Warning reports on Exponent's close connection with industry and calls into question the objectivity of Exponent's work. (Fair Warning is a nonprofit investigative news organization that focuses on public health, safety and environmental issues and related topics of government and business accountability.) Essentially, the article asserts that Exponent's cozy connection with industry leads to result oriented studies and opinions in litigation matters. Check out the article and let us know what you think: http://www.fairwarning.org/2016/12/exponent/.
Employers attempt to hide injuries from the system so that their workers' compensation rates are not affected. Will the employer be prosecuted for this fraud? Sadly, no. Enforcement of fraud laws against employers is the only way to curb this type of conduct. Such action by a district attorney would be surprising. As a result, this type of conduct repeats itself as I have, unfortunately, seen too many times to recount.
We have previously reported on the myriad ways in which workers' compensation carriers' procedures add costs to the system and thereby drive up insurance rates. Here is yet another example.