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Los Angeles Employer Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Stress cited as reason for Uber employee’s suicide

When most in Los Angeles hear stories regarding workers’ compensation claims, they may likely assume them to involve injuries suffered while on the job. While that may be the case in many situations, such an assumption may fail to take into account the emotional toll that one’s career can exact. Such a toll may result in psychological or emotional issues that can be equally as damaging as physical injuries. Unfortunately, securing workers’ compensation benefits for stress and psychological issues may not be as simple as it is when dealing with typical work-related injuries.

Take the recent case of a young mother attempting to collect workers’ compensation benefits following her husband’s suicide at their home in Pittsburgh. She (as well as others) claim that his death was brought on by the emotional stress he had been experiencing since taking a job as a software engineer at Uber. The man’s family and friends claim that the company’s culture, which has already come under scrutiny in claims filed by past employees, drove him to work long hours and ultimately lose his confidence. The man himself had confirmed the stress he was feeling to a psychiatrist shortly before his death.

Defining soft fraud

The following scenario has been relayed to us here at Sacks and Zolonz LLP several times before: an employee slips and falls at work, resulting in knee injury. After a while, word comes out that he or she is also experiencing neck and back pain due to the accident, and suddenly needs more money to cover medical expenses and compensate for time off of work. If this describes the same situation you are currently having with an employee, you may be facing a bit of a conundrum: On the one hand, you may feel sympathetic to his or her suffering and simply want him or her to improve. On the other, you may be wondering how one single incident could produce so many health issues.

If your employee is indeed embellishing his or her injury situation, he or she may be attempting what the Insurance Information Institute defines as “soft fraud.” Most soft fraud cases do stem from legitimate claims. However, ultimately people end up exaggerating the extent of either damages or injuries in an attempt to collect for money or benefits. It’s estimated that millions is lost to cases of soft fraud every year.

What should I know about workers’ comp in CA?

For California workers, being hurt on the job can be a devastating experience. Loss of income can quickly lead to financial instability, which is why most employers are obligated to carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect their employees in the event of a workplace injury. Knowing the ins and outs of workers’ compensation law is crucial to this end, so that you can be sure that your employer is abiding by all pertinent rules and regulations.

According to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations, all businesses with one or more employee must provide workers’ compensation coverage. Additionally, employers are obligated to post signage listing workers’ rights in terms of compensation if injured. If proper signage is not posted, employers run the risk of incurring a fine of $7,000. Employers are also mandated to provide new hires with a pamphlet explaining their rights and benefits.

Signs of work comp fraud that employers should be aware of

In our last post, we highlighted new potential legislation that would give the Division of Workers’ Compensation more resources to detect and prevent fraudulent claims. Yes, false claims do not outnumber legitimate claims, but fraud still causes problems for employers and insurers alike.

Because of the number of fraud claims we deal with, we find it helpful to remind our clients periodically of the signs of a false workers’ compensation claim. This post will highlight a few common red flags.

New bill to give work comp fraud investigators more power

Workers’ compensation fraud is still a pervasive issue in the state of California. In a number of posts we have highlighted the drains on the state’s work comp system and shown that fraud could lead to criminal sanctions. While it is a necessary function, the state does not necessarily allocate many resources towards investigating fraud.

A new bill introduced before the assembly will create an anti-fraud division within the state’s Division of Workers’ Compensation. According to a businessinsurance.com report, Assembly Bill 1697 would amend the state’s labor code to enable the Division to investigate fraud on a larger scale. 

Why are nurses at such high risk for work injuries?

If you are a nurse in the Los Angeles area, then you are already aware of what a rewarding but difficult job it can be. You may not be aware, however, that those who work in the nursing profession run a particularly high risk of being injured on the job. According to NPR, more than 35,000 injuries to nurses are reported annually and the main culprit is clear: lifting and moving heavy patients.

When hospital patients need to be relocated, it falls on nurses, orderlies and nursing assistants to do the job. Given the rate of obesity in this country, patients are often heavier today than they were in years past. This makes nursing professionals particularly susceptible to back injuries. Shoulder and other musculoskeletal injuries are also quite common.

State pursues alleged workers' compensation fraud

Most California employers are mandated by law to carry workers' compensation insurance. This insurance is to provide benefits to employees who are injured on the job or who develop work-related illnesses. In addition to being required to carry appropriate insurance coverage, employers are supposed to report employee status and injury per regulations. These laws help to keep the system working fairly for all employers.

Three people in California today are facing a multitude of criminal charges for allegedly trying to artifically keep one business' workers' compensation insurance premiums low. One of the defendants owns a company that purchased workers' compensation insurance and the other two defendants were consultants in the industry. Together the group is said to have failed to report nearly 50 workplace accidents or injuries over the span of roughly four years.

Man crushed by three-ton concrete wall

It may be no secret to anyone in California who works in the construction industry that jobs in this sector put workers in potentially hazardous situations on a fairly regular basis. It is for this reason that there are so many safety regulations and laws in place. Workers should be able to know that their employers follow these rules so that they feel safe when going to work each day.

At the site of a future new car dealership, crews were forced to stop working when a tragic accident injured one of their colleagues and killed another. The incident occured in southern San Diego County in the city of El Cajon. A few months ago a concrete wall had been erected along the construction site. On one particular day, 30 feet of that wall came crushing down. One man working at the site was injured although the nature of his injuries and his current condition are not known.

OSHA violations on construction sites

As the owner of a construction company, you have a particularly important job to keep your various workplaces safe for all employees. While you may not be able to avoid all possible injuries, you can benefit from protecting your site from the most common OSHA violations, thereby keeping your employees safer on the job. Here at Sacks and Zolonz, we understand the gravity of workplace injury claims, and we want to provide you with fair representation if an accident occurs. However, the best defense is to maintain facilities with the utmost safety standards.

According to Jobsite, almost half of all construction deaths in 2014 resulted from poor scaffolding and falls. Since this is obviously a problematic area, you should pay extra attention to make sure your scaffolds are up to OSHA's regulations. While falls dominate a large majority of injuries on construction sites, other hazards your employees may face include getting stuck between objects, electrical shock and large objects striking them. Across all industries, other sources of workplace injury include poor or hazardous air quality and inadequate hazard communication.

How to reduce workers' compensation fraud

Since your employees may be tempted to abuse your workers' compensation benefits, you should be proactive about preventing fraudulent claims. You can take this precautionary measure through clear procedures regarding workplace injuries, as well as regular communication with your employees. Here at Sacks and Zolonz, our objective is to protect you from unnecessary and fraudulent claims.

Before an injury occurs, educate your employees on your company's workers' compensation. According to HR Daily Advisor, your employees should know exactly when and how to report a legitimate injury. However, they should understand your position regarding falsified claims, and the potential trouble that could ensue if they attempt to take advantage of the system.

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