Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm is specialized in the field of Rehabilitation Rights of the Injured Workers. It assists the employees who have been injured while performing their job with the workers’ compensation claims in and around the Los Angeles area. The attorneys in the firm have in-depth knowledge and expertise in the California workers' compensation law. They can argue for you if you seek to obtain vocational rehabilitation rights, which actually follow strict procedural guidelines.

What is California’s Workers Compensation Law?

Workers may suffer accidents and life-altering injuries at the workplace. Some injuries may impact their ability to work for the long term or restrict them from going to their work in the future due to physical limitations acquired after the injury. In such cases, an injured worker may be entitled to financial and other compensations. Compensation could be in the form of physical therapy or rehabilitative care intended to overcome the injury and regaining functionality. However, there are many states in the USA, which offer “vocational” rehabilitation of the workers who suffered on-the-job injuries and are unable to return to their pre-injury profession. In a workers' compensation domain, this type of rehabilitation can be claimed by an injured worker from the employer's workers' compensation carrier.

California’s Workers Compensation Law is meant to help the injured workers understand their basic legal rights and the steps to request worker’s compensation benefits. Under the Workers Compensation Law in California, a worker in entitled to worker’s compensation benefits, if:

He sustains an injury at the work: Whether you injured your back due to heavy-lifting at work, get burned by a caustic chemical, or are hurt in an accident while making deliveries, your employer is required by the law to pay you worker’s compensation. Note: These are just a few examples.

You faced repeated exposures at work: Repetitive strain or stress injuries that occurred on the account of discharging the same job responsibilities repeatedly. These may include contracting respiratory problems from working around asbestos, permanent hearing loss from being continuously exposed to loud noise, or hurting any body part from doing the same motion over and over again.  

What are the Vocational Rehabilitation Rights of Injured Workers?

On account of suffering a serious injury or illness, you may need assistance returning to the workforce. Among other benefits you may receive under the workers’ compensation law, vocational rehabilitation might be the part of your benefit package.

Vocational rehabilitation programs can play a significant role in improving the life of those employees who suffered a permanent disability or temporary total disability. The goal of such programs is to help them develop their skills they need to return to their pre-injury job and retain employment within the same field, or in some cases, enter some other field of work. Vocational rehabilitation plans can also help impaired workers to make a successful transition to some other industry by obtaining new skills. Also, if the work-injury disability has resulted in reducing the earning power ability of the worker, he or she may still be entitled to vocational rehabilitation. The type and amount of vocational rehabilitation provided to you may vary from state to state. Under California law, if the person injured in on-the-job accidents can’t return to his previous job due to medical restrictions, he/she is typically eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation services. Though the vocational rehabilitation services are generally customized based on the special needs of the particular worker, a few of the services he can receive include:

  • Transferable skills testing and analysis
  • On-the-job training
  • Resume and job application completion services
  • Labor market surveys
  • Interview skills and techniques assistance
  • Job analysis
  • Vocational rehabilitation counseling
  • Education and tuition payments for retraining
  • Job search assistance
  • Wage assessment evaluations
  • Ergonomics assessments
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reasonable accommodation assistance
  • Medical case management

Different states may have a different set of rules that must be followed in order to receive the vocational rehabilitation services and/or benefits from the employer. While getting approval from the worker’s insurance company is crucial, failing to follow with or participate in a vocational rehabilitation program may reduce your rehabilitation benefits to a certain level.

The ultimate goal of a vocational rehabilitation program is to ensure the injured worker can return to a job that will pay him or her as close as the worker’s earning before the mishap.

A vocational rehabilitation counselor plays a key role in creating and smooth execution of a rehabilitation plan. The counselor analyzes the injured worker’s strengths, limitations and inabilities and find a suitable employment. For example, a worker faces an accident that results in a severe hand injury and hampers his or her ability to perform the same work with the same level of efficiency, the vocational rehabilitation counselor can probably find a solution plan of redesigning the workstation with suitable facilities like a new type of tool that will make the job at hand easier to do. In other cases, the counselor may need to analyze the worker’s skills and limitations and then come up with a job that best complements him. The counselor may also assist the injured worker in gaining the required education or training certifications in a field that looks most suitable post-injury.

Benefits Under Workers' Compensation Law in California

So many workers get injured in on-the-job accidents. While some of them return to their work after treatment and a period of recovery, some injuries are serious enough to restrict the injured workers to resume their pre-injury duties forever. In such circumstances, an injured worker is entitled to the benefits of the state’s workers’ compensation program. These benefits to the injured workers are regardless of who was at fault. Certain benefit terms may also vary from state to state. Essentially, the workers’ compensation benefits can be broken down into 5 major categories:

  • Medical Treatment – Under Sec. 4600, the employer pays for all the injury-related expenses, including hospital services, doctor visits, medicines, medical equipment, lab tests, travel costs, etc. that are necessary for the treatment of the injury. It includes all the expenses to assist you recovering from an illness or injury caused in the workplace.
  • Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits – Under Sec. 4650, et seq., if the worker is unable to work as before, the employer has to make payments for the wages lost during the period of recovering (typically calculated at two-thirds (2/3) of your pre-tax wage and not for more than 104 weeks). However, there is a limit to minimum and maximum wage fixed by the state law. It stops as and when the injured worker returns to work, or when the declared fit to return to back by the doctor in charge.
  • Permanent Total Disability (PTD) or Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits – Under Sec. 4658, the employer has to pay if the employee is unable to recover completely and the injury causes a permanent loss of mental or physical function that can be measured by a doctor. The maximum and minimum payment rates are set by the state law based on the doctor’s medical reports, injured worker’s age and occupation.
  • Death Benefits – Under Sec. 4700, in the worst-case scenario, the employer is liable to make payments to your spouse, children, or other qualified dependents if one dies of a work-related injury or illness. The payment amount depends on the number of dependents.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation (Supplemental Job Displacement) Benefits – Also referred as retraining benefit, under Sec. 4658.7, you are eligible for a supplemental job displacement benefit, or “voucher” which can only be used for skill enhancement or educational retraining, or both, at qualified schools. The value of the vocational rehabilitation voucher depends on the time you were injured and the level of disability.

For workers injured between the year 2004 and 2012, the maximum voucher amount can be of $10,000. You may use 10% of the voucher amount for the career related expenses, like job interviews or resume preparation advice and the remaining to pay for retraining services that will help you work for a different employer or in a “modified” role for the same employer. There is no expiration date for using the voucher amount for injuries that occurred between 2004-12.

However, if the injury-related disability occurred after 2012, the value of the vocational rehabilitation voucher has been fixed at flat $6,000 for every worker irrespective of the individual’s level of disability. The voucher can only be used in California, but for a broader range of purposes. The worker can use to pay routine educational costs at the in-state school as well as for purchasing a computer (up to $1,000). A certain limit of the voucher can be used for paying fees for certification or licensing, tools, and career counseling. Voucher offers after 2012 must be used within two (2) years of the issue date or five (5) of the date of injury, whichever is later.

Temporary total disability, permanent total disability, and permanent partial disability benefits may vary based on a percentage of the employee’s pre-injury wages and other limitations determined by the state law. In addition to the financial compensation benefits, some workers with on-the-job injuries may also be eligible to receive vocational rehabilitation benefits.

Eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits

To be eligible for these vocational rehabilitation benefits, an injured worker must meet at least one of the three requirements:

Permanently Disabled

After examining the injured worker’s medical condition, if the doctor-in-charge declares that treatment is no longer yielding effective results and further recovery from the injury is not possible. And, if the doctor’s view on the effectiveness of treatment is agreed to by all the concerned parties to the worker’s compensation claim, the injury will be declared permanent and the worker may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation benefits.

Unable to Return to the Work

Once the doctor declares the injured worker’s current condition as permanent, they may also come to a decision on the worker’s ability to return to their pre-injury job in future. If the doctor has an opinion that the disability prevents the worker from getting back to his old job, the report will be sent to the claims administrator.

No Modified or Alternative Job is Offered by the Employer

In case the injured worker is declared permanently disabled or not fit to return to the old job, the employer may offer him a modified or alternative job position.

A modified position could be any job offered by the employer to the injured worker post-injury that is closely related to the pre-injury work by making some modifications in the job requirement based on the worker’s present injury. In such cases, generally the employer modifies the job by eliminating certain requirements that limit the worker to perform. This way, the worker can retain the “modified” job at essentially the same wage.

But if the injury-related disability largely effects your previous job requirements, the employer may choose to offer you an entirely different job—an alternative position. While offering an alternative position, the employer has to adhere to certain conditions, which could be the worker’s minimal salary for the alternative position, similar travel time, the minimum period of work offered, and others.

Only if the employer chose not to offer a modified position or an alternative job to the injured worker, he/she is entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits.

Workers are entitled to the benefits of vocational rehabilitation if they have been injured on the job and as a result of those injuries, can no longer discharge their regular job duties. The rules for receiving rehabilitation services differ from state to state.

Rights and Responsibilities

Recovery can be a challenging process. In this circumstance, there are some responsibilities which the employees and employers must fulfill to receive the vocational rehabilitation benefits and ensure a successful operation of the process.

Employee Responsibility                    

It is extremely important that the injured worker know and understand their rights and obligations under the workers’ compensation law in order to receive the vocational rehabilitation benefits. There are a few laws that need to understand to safeguard a worker’s right. The worker must also comply with the associated legal requirements to continue reception of those benefits. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can play an instrumental role in helping the worker obtain the entitled benefits while also educating them of obligations they must adhere to for successful operation of the established vocational rehabilitation plan. In cases, where the injured worker fails to comply with the necessary obligations, it could result in forfeiture of their further vocational rehabilitation benefits.

If one suffers a job-related injury, he should first seek the required emergency medical attention, or reach out an approved medical service provider and inform about the on-the-job injury. In such cases, he may also seek a treatment from any predesignated physician after the injury, but that is only possible if the injured worker informs the employer in writing—before the injury—the name and address of his personal physician or medical group. However, he can only “predesignate” if, on the date of injury, he had a health care coverage for medical conditions outside the employer’s health care services. If he does not own such a coverage, he has no right to predesignate.

In addition to this, under California workers’ compensation law (Sec. 5400), you must report the employer about your injury with a signed and written letter within 30 days. Any delay in reporting to your employer about a medical problem concerning a workplace injury could risk in losing the right to receive any benefit. If the insurance company approves your claim, you may receive up to $10,000 for medical treatment. And, if your claim is denied by the insurance company or, the employer, you have the right to file an appeal (Application for Adjudication of Claim) into the state court. The attorney will help you prepare the required documents, take care of all the case filing deadlines, and represent you in the court of law. You can still file a petition (Petition for Reconsideration) if you are not satisfied with the jury’s decision after the trial.

To seek the vocational rehabilitation benefits, in various states, the employee responsibility is only to “accept” it. The employee must cooperate with those who provide vocational rehabilitation and sincerely attempt to gain the suitable employment offered by the employer, if any. If the employee refuses or does not cooperate with the rehabilitation service providers, he may risk losing the benefits. The insurer may reduce or suspend the employee’s wage loss benefits during the non-cooperation period. Under California law, an injured employee has to make an appeal for vocational rehabilitation within a time frame of 15 years starting from the injury date!

Employer Obligations

Under the California workers’ compensation law, just like employees, the compensation insurers of employers or their employees also have the statutory and regulatory responsibilities, along with providing the lost wages and rehabilitation opportunities. In case of a work-related illness or injury, the employer needs to provide a workers’ compensation claim form to the worker within one working day of the illness or injury is reported. The employer must return a completed copy of the form to the injured worker and forward the claim along with their report of the occurred illness or injury to the claims administrator within one working day of receipt.

Irrespective of the number of persons working (part or full time) for the employer, every employer must purchase a workers’ compensation insurance policy from a private insurance company that is licensed to work in the state of California. The other option is to apply for the self-insurance program, i.e. OSIP (Office of Self Insurance Plans), which requires the employer to use its assets to cover necessary obligations under the workers’ compensation program.

Employers may face serious consequences if they don’t comply with the workers’ compensation program’s requirements. If you suffer an injury that requires medical treatment while working under an employer who does not have workers’ compensation insurance policy, you may be compensated through the state-administered Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund. The state would then have the right to seek reimbursement from the employer for costs incurred in your medical treatment.

In some states, the employers must propose rehabilitation-counseling services if the injury had resulted in the loss of 60 days of work. This service offer should be made to the employee within a time frame of five (5) days after the 60th day of work missed. On the other hand, the time to offer services for rehabilitation counseling is only 30 days if the employee has suffered back injuries. In some states, the time frame for an employer to provide vocational rehabilitation is 120 days in case the employee has lost gainful employment due to the injuries caused.

Some states mandate that the employer must pay for other expenses as well, which may include living expenses, travel expenses, expenses for child care, tuition payments, room and board, and other costs along with the loss of regular wage under the vocational rehabilitation program.

There are also states that have stringent requirements regarding who can deliver assistance for vocational rehabilitation to the injured workers. Some of those qualified individuals include:

  • Certified Disability Management Specialists (CDMSs)
  • Certified Case Managers (CCMs)
  • Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRCs)

Find a Workers Compensation Attorney Specializing in Rehabilitation Rights of Injured Workers Near Me

Considering the complexity involved in the process of obtaining worker’s compensation after an on-the-job injury or an accident, you would need the expertise and experience of an attorney like Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm. We have attorneys who understand the ins and outs of the court and various federal and state laws that come into play. We have successfully represented our clients who seek vocational rehabilitation rights in the state of California. If you or a loved one has been injured in a work-related accident and you live in the city or county of Los Angeles, call our Los Angeles workers compensation lawyer at 310-956-4277 today to get in touch with one of our highly qualified legal experts regarding your vocational rehabilitation rights case. We are ready to fight on your behalf!