Differentiating short-term and permanent worker for workers' comp

Many working people in California and throughout the country are unaware of their right to receive workers' compensation after they get hurt on the job. While it is true that some states differentiate between the types of workers who can receive workers' compensation, California's laws are less vague on the subject. According to the California Worker's Compensation Institute, just about all people who work for an employer in the state are considered to be employees for workers' compensation purposes, with the exception of certain unpaid volunteers and self-employed individuals.

That means that regardless of whether a person works for an employer for two days or 20 years, that individual will be entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits if he or she is injured while on the job. With limited exceptions, all employees, including seasonal, short-term, occasional, part-time and permanent workers, are covered from their first day of work.

Additionally, even though it is true that individuals who are classified as independent contractors are typically not covered under workers' compensation, labor law enforcement agencies and courts have started to examine a number of factors before concluding someone is an independent contractor. This is done because, according to California's Department of Industrial Relations, some employers purposely incorrectly classify employees as ICs just so they can avoid being responsible for having workers' compensation responsibility for those individuals.

The types of benefits available

Generally speaking, workers' comp insurance can provide individuals with five types of benefits. Those benefits, according to California's DIR, are:

  • Death benefits for an employee's spouse, children or other dependents
  • Temporary disability benefits
  • Permanent disability benefits
  • Medical care
  • Supplemental job displacement benefits for those who don't fully recover and return back to work for their employer

Employees should also note that workers' compensation covers the majority of work-related injuries and illnesses, regardless of whether or not they stem from one specific event or recurring exposure to something while at work.

Temporary versus permanent disability benefits

Individuals who are hurt while on the job are entitled to certain benefits, namely temporary or permanent disability benefits. According to the Institute, temporary disability will not be paid to an individual for the first three days that he or she is not able to work, unless the individual is in in-patient care at a hospital or is off from work for longer than 14 days. The amount that an individual can receive for temporary disability is typically two-thirds of his or her wages, and there are minimum and maximum payments established by the state. The length of time an individual can receive the benefits for a single injury ranges from no more than 104 weeks to 240 weeks within a five-year period of the original date of the injury, depending on the nature of the injury.

Individuals who will not fully recover may be entitled to receive permanent disability, based on what the treating physician's evaluation concludes. The level of disability will be determined by one's age, the type of work the individual did before the injury, the nature of the injury and how much of the permanent disability was directly caused by the individual's work.

Debates often arise when trying to determine one's level of permanent disability, and accordingly, individuals who are facing such issues should seek the advice of a skilled attorney to help them preserve their rights.