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Questions about Accident at Work Law

Accidents at work are common and injuries suffered by employees can be physical as well as emotional. An employee may not be aware of his or her rights after sustaining an injury at work, resulting in confusion as to what course of action the he or she should take. Here are some commonly asked questions about accidents at work.

What are the rights of an employee who suffers a back injury after an accident at work and is diagnosed with arthritis? Will the employee be entitled to paid leave?

If a workers’ compensation claim is filed, the payment for absence from work would be compensated after being out of work for seven consecutive days under Temporary Total Disability (TTD). But if the employee is fairly new at the company uses the seven days, he or she may have no more sick leave left. Taking more leave would mean losing pay. The arthritis diagnosis might mean workers’ compensation may try to prove it was a pre-existing condition. However, the employee could argue that even if it was pre-existing, it was asymptomatic and never presented any symptoms until the accident at work. The employee may have to employ the services of a workers’ compensation attorney to help fight the claim with the insurer. Also, if the employee has not been employed for a full 12 month period, and for 1250 days within that period, there would be no protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the employer would be within his rights to terminate the employee for not attending work.

What are the rights of an “at will” employee who has an accident at work and is dismissed?

The term “at will” itself means that the employee is free to leave the job or be dismissed by the employer at any time, as long as the reason for dismissal is not discriminatory. An “at will” employee has no legal right to continued employment but can file a claim for unemployment.

An employee who has an accident at work in California is reimbursed for medical expenses and then fired. What should he or she do?

The employee needs to file a complaint with the human resources department in his or her company and then follow the administrative process. A wage claim could also be made to the Department of Labor if the employer refuses to pay the agreed upon salary. Under federal law, the employer is required to settle all monies due to the employee till his or her last day of work. The following link to the California Department of Industrial Relations will help in outlining what steps need to be taken to obtain workers’ compensation: http://www.dir.ca.gov/

An employee undergoes knee surgery six months prior to an accident at work. The employee is then given an impairment rating of 2%, which seems low. What can the employee do about it?

If the employee has had total recovery with no disability before the accident, the doctor should evaluate the injury as a result of the accident as a new one. But if there was some existing disability even after surgery, the doctor has to determine the difference in the employee’s disability between the period after surgery to that following the accident. The employee would need to get the medical records reviewed by an independent medical expert to assess the accurate rating of disability, which will determine the proper amount to be claimed.

An employee has an accident at work but the effects of it are felt only after four years. Will a claim under workers’ compensation be allowed?

Most statutes of limitations on workers’ compensation claims are between one to three years, depending on the state. However, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney will be able to determine if the statute of limitations could be suspended or extended in this case. In certain cases, the courts have at times waived the statute of limitations after considering a variety of specifics of each case.

Can an employer demand an employee’s urine sample if the employee has been involved in an accident at work? What rights does an employee who tests positive for drugs have? Can he or she be sued for causing the accident under the influence of drugs?

An employer is within his or her rights to demand a urine sample from such an employee especially if this is a requirement mentioned in the contract. It becomes an employee’s duty to keep the employer informed if prescription drugs are being taken. If the employee does not do this and tests positive, there is nothing the employee can do except contest it with the help of an attorney if there is any suspicion that unfair means were employed in conducting the test. The employer is legally allowed to sue the employee if his or her drug use has caused an accident.

Injuries suffered due to accidents at work can have debilitating effects, both physically and emotionally. Ignorance about one’s rights will only add to the confusion. It is therefore imperative for the employee to be aware of his or her rights in the event of being involved in an accident at work.
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