Workers’ Compensation is defined as a “limited benefits system.” Meaning, unlike a Personal Injury case, where damages can be decided by a judge or jury, “Compensation” under California’s Workers’ Compensation system is limited to the benefits defined by the Labor Code. Labor Code § 3209 makes this point very clearly: ““Damages” means the recovery allowed in an action at law as contrasted with compensation.”
“Compensation” under the Workers’ Compensation act, while more narrowly defined than damages, does have some notable benefits. First, Workers’ Compensation in California is a “no-fault” system meaning an Employee can file a claim without proving employer negligence or any negligence. A claim also survives even if there was negligence on the Employee’s behalf.
Second, unlike a personal injury case which can go for years before there is any award, Workers’ Compensation benefits can start as soon as a claim is filed. Even while a claims examiner is deciding whether to accept or deny liability for a claim, up to $10,000 in medical treatment should be provided (with limitations). If a claim is accepted, Temporary Disability payments are designed to offset lost wages (again, and with all things in Work Comp, with limitations).
A Workers’ Compensation claim can even provide retraining before the case is finalized if the right conditions are met.
All to say while there are significant limitations involved in a Workers’ Compensation claim, qualified and knowledgeable representation can help ensure potential benefits are understood and maximized to the extent available.