Question About Workmans Comp Claim Handling...
(San Lorenzo, CA, USA)
I was moving a 4 ft piece of 10 inch pipe when I injured my back at our pipe shop. I have a bulging disc at L4-5, and a 10x5x10-mm left paracentral disc protrusion mildly deforms the anterior thecal sac. This extends to the left descending S1 nerve root. I received treatment from workers comp, but unfortunately had an auto accident when leaving the physical therapy office.
My question is, if I get into a car accident going home from physical therapy am I still under the employers protection?
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ANSWER for "Question About Workmans Comp Claim Handling...":
Regrettably the answer is no. The State of California Workman’s Compensation Law does not extend coverage to those times when one is driving for personal and not work related reasons, even when the new injuries are indirectly related to the on-the-job injury.
Although your question is an excellent one the California Legislature has yet to extend Workman’s Compensation coverage to periods when employees are “off duty”.
Your question follows what is referred to by attorneys as the “but for" rule, meaning that "but for" the injury you sustained on the job you would not have had to be at the doctor's that day and hence wouldn’t have become involved in the collision. Although the “but for” rule would seem logical in your case, regrettably it will not be sufficient.
The next way to interpret your question is to consider the effect the auto collision has on your pending Workman’s Compensation claim. Again your question is an excellent one. From this point forward your on-the-job injuries will be scrutinized very closely.
Fortunately you had already received a diagnosis for the injuries sustained while working. As a result you have already established a legitimate claim for the on-the-job injury. It will be up to the Workman’s Compensation Claims’ Adjuster to differentiate between your previous on-the-job injury and your new injuries.
You should remain vigilant as it will be highly probable the Adjuster will try and find a way to minimize your total injuries, blaming them on your recent automobile collision. You should have a direct discussion with your treating physician to be sure she will not be coerced by the Adjuster to minimize your on the job injuries.
If you do not have confidence in your physician go back to your employer and request another physician. You have that right. Concurrently ask the first physician to send you a complete copy of your file. That way you can review it carefully before your appointment with the second physician.
No one is going to stand by you on this one. You will have to be independent and strong.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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