When motor vehicle collisions cause injuries, accident victims are generally given the opportunity to file a personal injury claim and/or private insurance claims to seek compensation related to the harm that they have suffered. However, the situation becomes a little more legally complex when an accident victim was engaging in activities related to their job at the time that the accident occurred. Depending on their worker classification and the details of the accident itself, it may be possible for accident victims to file a workers’ compensation claim, a personal injury claim, or both kinds of claims in the wake of their accident.
When a Collision Occurs While Workers are “On-the-Job,” We Can Help
Our firm has extensive experience handling work-related motor vehicle accident claims. Whether driving a truck or car is your primary occupation or you were “simply” engaged in job-related responsibilities or travel when your accident occurred, know that our legal team has the knowledge and work ethic to file claims on your behalf efficiently and as effectively as possible. We offer confidential, no-obligation case evaluations at no cost to all accident victims, so you have nothing to lose by exploring your legal options at this time.
Can I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim for an Auto Accident?
Generally speaking, you can file a workers’ compensation claim related to your accident provided that you:
- Were engaged in work-related activities when your accident occurred;
- You are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits;
- You were not drunk or otherwise intoxicated at the time of your collision; and
- You did not crash purposefully in the hopes of claiming workers’ compensation benefits.
If you were injured while commuting to work but you were not yet “on the clock,” you likely can’t file a benefits claim successfully. However, if you were engaged in work-related activity at the time you were commuting (ex: you were picking up pastries for a work event at your boss’s request) you should be able to file a successful claim. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means that you should be entitled to receive benefits even if the eligible accident was partially or totally your fault.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim and a Workers’ Comp Claim for an Auto Accident?
If you’re ineligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits – likely because you work as an independent contractor, you’re employed by a particularly small company, or you work within a specialty industry such as the railroad – you can’t claim workers’ compensation benefits but you may be able to seek compensation through the personal injury process. To file a claim successfully in this context, the accident can’t have been totally or mostly your fault. Personal injury awards are reserved for those who have been harmed as a result of another’s negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous behavior. With that said, it’s important not to assume that you’re totally or mostly to blame for the accident before you’ve scheduled a free case evaluation with our firm. It is very possible that you’re unaware of how the choices others made affected your crash scenario.
Additionally, if you are eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits, you may be able to file a personal injury claim as well, provided that someone other than your employer contributed significantly to the crash. For example, if another motorist’s negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous behavior caused your collision, you may be able to hold them responsible via the personal injury claims process. The workers’ compensation system only limits your ability to sue your employer when you suffer work-related injuries or occupational illness.
How Long Do I Have to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
If you’re eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim related to your motor vehicle accident, you’ll want to act quickly to protect your rights. California Labor Code § 5400 mandates that an injured employee notify their employer of their injuries within 30 days of the date upon which the injury occurred. If you don’t notify your employer within this time period, you may be barred from seeking workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries. Some workers are understandably anxious to notify their employers that they’ve been hurt, as they are worried that their employers will retaliate against them for reporting their injuries. Do not allow fear of retaliation keep you from exercising your rights. Employers may not lawfully retaliate against injured workers for reporting their injuries or for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
According to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations, “Your employer must give or mail you a (workers’ compensation) claim form within one working day after learning about your injury or illness.” Not all employers honor this requirement, so please know that we can help you manage this paperwork. Within 24 hours of filing a claim – regardless of whether your employer-provided you with the mandatory paperwork or not – your employer is required to “authorize appropriate medical treatment. While your employer is deciding whether to accept or reject your claim, you may receive up to $10,000 in medical treatment.” It’s important to seek medical treatment as quickly as you can. If you need to seek emergency medical care before your claim is authorized, do not wait. Not all injuries and occupational illnesses can wait to be treated until workers are given the formal “green light” to seek treatment. If you are anxious about seeking treatment before this service has been explicitly authorized, please contact our firm so that we can clarify your legal options.
How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Claim?
If you’re ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits or you’re eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and a third party contributed to the harm you’ve suffered, the California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1 allows you to file a personal injury claim related to your motor vehicle accident within two years of its occurrence. With that said, it’s important to act as quickly as you can to explore your legal options. Unlike the California workers’ compensation system, the personal injury process is not a “no fault” process. As a result, you are not entitled to a personal injury award simply because you’ve been hurt. Our firm will need to work with you to prove that someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentionally dangerous behavior caused your injuries. If you were partially at-fault for the accident, we’ll also need to prove that the other responsible party or parties were more responsible for the accident than you were. The sooner you alert our firm to your accident, the sooner we can work to preserve critical evidence that may “make or break” your case. Similarly, we can work to preserve all of your legal options and to protect your rights more effectively if you explore your legal options as soon as you can in the wake of a crash.
How Do I Prepare for My Free Case Evaluation?
When preparing for your free case evaluation, you’ll want to be as proactive as possible. The more we know about your work situation and your auto accident at the start of the consultation process, the better we’ll be prepared to provide you with personalized guidance about your legal options and the relative strengths and weaknesses of your case. Depending on how much detailed information we have access to, we may even be able to estimate the potential compensation value of a workers’ compensation claim and/or personal injury claim with great accuracy.
First and foremost, you’ll want to take time to write down any questions and/or concerns you may have about filing a workers’ compensation and/or personal injury claim. We believe that every client has the right to know what to expect (generally speaking) from the legal process before they commit to any particular course of action. Too often, potential clients arrive at their consultations without having written their questions down and end up spending much of their time trying to remember what they wanted to ask. Taking the time to write down what you need to know will help to ensure that our team gives you the information you’ll need to make informed decisions about your legal options.
Second, you’ll want to gather relevant documentation. Each piece of paper, photograph, and contact number you provide us with will help to understand your situation better. This will, in turn, allow us to tailor our legal guidance to your situation specifically. If a police report was filed at the scene and/or an accident report was submitted to your employer, please bring copies of this information along. Similarly, any pictures or videos taken at the accident site, witness contact information, insurance information for you and others involved in the accident, as well as medical discharge notes will help us assess your case accurately.
Finally, take time to record yourself (video, audio, or paper-based recollections are all great options) recounting your memories surrounding your accident. Recording these memories now will allow us to reference them as needed while we’re building your case. Additionally, as your memories naturally fade and refocus over time, this recording may serve as a reference for you somewhere down the line.
What Else Should I Know About Preparing a Successful Case?
It’s important to be careful as you engage on social media and communicate with others by electronic means until your claim is resolved. Anything that you write, post, or comment on could potentially be used to devalue or reject your workers’ compensation claim. Similarly, your online activities and electronic communications could be used by opposing counsel to strengthen their case if you choose to file a personal injury claim. For example, say that you’ve hurt your shoulder and can no longer raise your arm above your head without causing pain. When you post a photo of you holding your child above your head (using both arms) that was taken two days before your work-related vehicle crash, an insurance claims adjuster (unaware of the date upon which the photo was taken) may use that photo as evidence that your claim should be devalued or rejected outright. After all, if you can raise your child above your head in your online photos, you must be exaggerating the severity of your condition, right? In short, take care not to unintentionally undermine the integrity of your case with your online activities until your case is fully resolved.
If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle crash that occurred while you were carrying out responsibilities related to your job, please contact our experienced legal team today to explore your legal options. Whether you’re eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you’re interested in filing a personal injury claim, or you’re hoping to pursue both opportunities for legal recourse, we’d be honored to assist you with your legal needs at this time. All consultations are free, risk-free, and confidential. We look forward to speaking with you.