Visitor Question

Employer doesn’t want to grant light duty after a car accident injury?

Submitted By: Anonymous (California)

My wife was involved in a car accident last year in California, caused by someone else. The result is that she now has back problems, and our car was damaged pretty bad ($18k worth of damages, which the other party’s insurance paid to repair).

The back/neck pains make her job hard and her employer might not continue to let her work on light duty. We are considering consulting a lawyer to pursue the income lost during the period she was out. Plus her work has become more stressful because she feels her employer doesn’t want to continue to put up with her issues.

She had an MRI and some other doctor visits. She now visits a chiropractor and physical therapist, and keeps up with all the appointments.

Can her employer disregard her light duty work on doctor’s advice, for not being able to lift and stand on her two feet all day? What can we do from here?

Also, will I be able to claim the diminished value of the car at some point? We bought the car last summer, but it’s now worth less, due to the accident. If we decide to sell for some reason then we will not get back anything close to what we paid for it, not an amount for normal depreciation in a year, but a huge depreciation because of the fact that no one wants a car with damage.

My wife’s health and job worries me. I would find it totally unfair that her employer would give her the sack because of the accident, when someone else is to blame. What is legally allowed here? Thank you.


Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Anonymous,

A California employer is not obligated to offer modified or light duty to a worker who has been injured in a non-work related injury. Under California Labor Code Section 2922, an employer may terminate the employment of a worker at any time. Section 2922 reads as follows:

“An employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other. Employment for a specified term means an employment for a period greater than one month.”

The primary exceptions to the statute are if the worker has a written contract of employment and is not in breach of that contract, and if employment is terminated based on race, color, religion, sex, or age.

Unfortunately, because you already settled with the insurance company for the repairs to your car, and in doing so likely signed a release, you will likely not be able to claim diminished value of the car.

Inasmuch as the accident occurred last year, it’s likely you already settled not only the property damage part of the claim, but the injury part as well. In then event your personal injury claim is still open, and your wife continues to require medical and chiropractic treatment, be sure the additional treatment and related costs are part of the settlement.

It’s never a bad idea to visit with an experienced personal injury attorney. Because most personal injury attorneys do not charge for initial office consultations, it would be a good idea to visit with several.

Learn more here: California Accident Guide

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,


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