High-Risk Occupations and Workers’ Compensation

Even though careful and diligent employers work hard to reduce the chance their employees will sustain a work-related injury, injuries are eventually inevitable.  Some professions are pretty low risk, such as typical office work.  However, there are other jobs that involve an inherently higher level of risk.  Understanding which professions more often lead to injury or even death can help you take measures to reduce the risk to your employees.

One category of people who are at high risk for workplace injuries is those who work at great heights.  This includes people such as window washers, roofers, and painters.  In recognition of the extra risk involved in working at great heights, some professions have extra workers’ compensation coverage requirements in terms of sole proprietors and the inability to opt-out of carrying workers’ compensation insurance.

Unsurprisingly, first responders also work in high-risk occupations.  It is obvious that police officers risk life and limb on a daily basis while dealing with criminals.  In addition, EMTs face risk by being required to go into unknown circumstances with injured or very ill people.  EMTs also can potentially be injured when lifting and moving incapacitated patients.  Similarly, firefighters may have to shift heavy objects in order to save fire victims.  They also obviously face risk of burns and heat-related injury.  Moreover, they can be exposed to dangerous chemicals while on the job.  The California Labor Code contains extra provisions to protect first responders’ ability to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Truck drivers are also in a high-risk occupation.  There is a level of risk involved any time you are in a vehicle on the road.  Distracted and impaired drivers are a very real danger.  Moreover, some cargo carried in large trucks is hazardous, such as chemicals or gasoline.  Employers should take careful measures to make sure their trucks are in good working order.  Keeping the vehicles in good repair will help make sure the driver and passengers stay safe, as well as protecting others on the road.

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals also face high risk in their occupations.  They are regularly exposed to potentially contagious and even life-altering diseases.  Moreover, some patients can be combative or violent.  Finally, there is a risk of injury from lifting and moving patients.

If you are a business owner and your employees are in high-risk occupations, it is important for you to understand your rights and responsibilities.  We can help you understand the workers’ compensation system and how your business fits within it.

Fatal Injuries and Workers’ Compensation

Employers make efforts to keep their business running as smoothly as possible.  This includes making sure that employees are safe at work and will not sustain work related injuries.  Despite these efforts it sometimes happens that an employee sustains an injury.  In the most tragic and unfortunate of cases, a worker may not only be injured but may sustain a fatal injury.  Workers’ compensation will provide benefits not only when the worker is injured and needs medical treatment to recover, but also when the industrial accident results in the employee’s death.

California law provides that the family members dependent on the deceased worker may apply for and receive workers’ compensation benefits.  These benefits will include reasonable burial expenses up to ten thousand dollars as well as regular payments.  The dependents that are eligible to receive benefits will fall into one of two categories – either total dependents or partial dependents.  Total dependents are those family members who were complete dependent on the deceased worker for care and support.  Conversely, partial dependents are those who only partially dependent on the deceased worker.  In addition, the amount of benefits will depend on how many dependents the deceased employee at the time of his or her death.  If the employee had just one total dependent, the benefits would be two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, which goes up to two hundred and ninety thousand for two total dependents, and three hundred twenty thousand for three total dependents.  If there are one or more totally dependent minors at the time of the employee’s death, the family will continue to receive death benefits until the youngest child turns eighteen.  If the minor is disabled, he or she is eligible to receive benefits for life.  The death benefits are paid that the rate of temporary total disability, but not less than two hundred twenty-four dollars a week.  Dependents who seek death benefits under workers’ compensation will need to commence proceedings seeking these benefits within a year of the employee’s death.  The absolute deadline for commencing an action for death benefits is two hundred and forty weeks from the date the injury leading to death occurred.

We have extensive experience in workers’ compensation cases ranging from minor injuries to death of an employee. Contact us today for a consultation to talk about your business.

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