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Can I Sue My Employer Instead of Collecting Workers' Compensation

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Serious and Willful Employer Misconduct Significantly Increases California Workers' Compensation Benefits

Does the Employer Have Workers' Compensation Insurance?

You cannot sue your employer for personal injury (negligence) if they had valid workers' compensation insurance, or were legally self-insured, at the time of the incident or during the cumulative trauma period.

Serious and Willful Employer Misconduct Significantly Increases California Workers' Compensation Benefits By A Whopping 50% Across the Board -

You may have heard that a workers' compensation claim is the only way injured employees can sue their employer in California. While that is largely true, there is an exception: a serious and deliberate misconduct lawsuit.

In California, an employer may face additional legal liability after a workplace accident where special circumstances exist. Our workers' compensation attorneys provide the most essential information regarding severe and intentional misconduct claims in California.

What is considered serious and willful misconduct?

If you have been injured on the job in California, it is important to understand how your employer's actions can significantly increase your workers' compensation benefits.

Under California law, if an employer is found to have committed serious and willful misconduct, workers' compensation benefits are increased by a whopping 50% across the board.

Serious and willful misconduct can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Intentionally violating safety rules or regulations such as Cal OSHA
  • Intentionally hiring unqualified workers to perform extremely dangerous jobs
  • Intentionally allowing employees to work in hazardous conditions likely to cause serious injury

If you have been injured on the job and believe your employer may have committed serious and willful misconduct, it is important to speak with a workers' compensation lawyer as soon as possible. A skilled lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible for increased benefits and can help you file a claim for compensation.

How Additional Benefits Are Calculated For Serious and Willful Employer Misconduct

An employer found to be at-fault for a worker's injury/illness as a result of serious and intentional misconduct will be required to pay half of the total compensation paid out to the employee under California Labor Code § 4553. Where an injured worker would normally receive only $100,000.00 in total workers’ compensation benefits, an employer could be held liable for an additional amount of $50,000.00 via an award from a workers' compensation lawyer judge for the serious and willful misconduct of the employer. Not covered by insurance!

All benefits paid as a result of a legitimate workers' compensation claim are included in the calculation, including medical expenses and temporary or permanent disability compensation. Because these are statutory damages, California judges are unable to deviate from judgments. A serious and intentional misconduct allegation is either half the overall sum of damages or no employer liability at all. In other words, it is all or nothing.

How California Courts Define Serious and Willful Employer Misconduct Under Section 4553

California courts have made it clear that Labor Code section 4533 is not interpreted under a "negligence" standard. According to the California Supreme Court, serious and intentional misconduct "is something much more than negligence." It requires the company/ organization or individual to have intentional knowledge of wrongdoing or a high level of indifference to employee safety.

Employees Always Have The Burden Of Proof For Serious and Willful Benefits Increase

It is critical for a worker to understand that, under Labor Code Section 4553, the burden of proof is on the employee when bringing a serious and deliberate misconduct claim. An employee seeking to hold an employer liable for a workplace accident as a result of significant or willful misconduct must prove that the employer's intentional or significantly harmful actions or inactions were negligent

An employer is guilty of an act of "serious and deliberate misconduct" if it recognizes a high risk of severe employee injury as a result of actions or omissions, but still refuses to take precautions. An injured worker should begin preparing an immediate case while they are facing a serious workplace accident injury. While the burden of proof is on the claimant, being able to prove that the employer had knowledge of potential danger and willfully disregarded it can be tricky.

Seek Help From Experienced California Workers' Compensation Lawyer

If you have been injured on the job, it is important to seek legal help as soon as possible. Workers' compensation lawyers can help you determine if your injury was caused by serious and willful employer misconduct and can help you file a claim for additional compensation.