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Salinas Attorneys Advocate for Victims of Work-Related Injuries

Determined counsel for workers’ comp benefits and personal injury compensation

A workplace injury can have long-lasting negative effects on your health and your finances. Under the best of circumstances, you can file a workers’ compensation claim, get the medical care you need and be back on the job quickly. But if your injury is serious enough, you may not be able to return to the same type of work or, in the worst case, any gainful employment. Under those circumstances, you’ll be heavily dependent on workers’ compensation benefits. But what if your employer says your injury is not work-related? A denied claim can subject your family to severe financial hardship. That’s the time to consult Rucka, O’Boyle, Lombardo & McKenna. For more than 35 years, we’ve helped injured workers overcome denied claims to access the workers’ comp benefits they need and deserve.

What is the legal definition of a work-related injury?

Contrary to popular understanding, not every injury in the workplace is a work-related injury, and an injury doesn’t have to occur in the workplace to be work-related. For an injury to be work-related, and therefore covered by workers’ compensation, the law requires that the harm “arise out of” work and occur “in the course of” work. Basically, this means you have to be hurt while doing something that confers a benefit on your employer, and many situations fit neatly into this category:

  • A delivery person’s back is strained while lifting a heavy package.
  • A restaurant cook is burned draining boiling water from a pot of pasta.
  • A data entry worker develops carpal tunnel syndrome from continuous typing.

But other types of injuries fall into a gray area. Here are a few examples:

  • Breaktime injuries — Workers are covered when they take a regularly scheduled break in the area the employer has designated for those breaks. But suppose a worker decided to dash back to the parking lot to get something from a vehicle during a break. This might not be covered, because the worker was acting for personal benefit when going to the car, so the accident did not arise from work and did not occur in the course of work.
  • Injuries from horseplay — Horsing around at work confers no benefit on your employer, so even if the incident occurred during work hours in the workplace, you would not be covered in most cases. However, if the employer did not enforce rules against horseplay and horseplay had become the norm in the workplace, a worker might be covered.
  • Traffic accidents — Workers are not covered for commuting but are covered when they are required to drive as part of their job. But, suppose you are commuting to work and divert from your normal course to pick up supplies for the office. If an accident occurs, you may be covered.
  • Company outing injuries — If a company picnic is purely social and recreational, employees are generally not covered, especially if the event is held off company grounds. But if there is a strong expectation that workers should attend, the event could be seen as something more than social, and even a requirement of the job. In that case, a worker would be covered.
  • Hearing loss — Loud, pervasive noise in a workplace is recognized as a cause of hearing loss for workers. But what if a worker also regularly attends loud concerts with amplified music? A court would carefully look at the facts to try to determine if workplace noise was really to blame.
  • Lung ailments — As with hearing loss, lung ailments can be work-related but may arise from other sources. If a factory worker is exposed to caustic chemicals, a lung condition such as COPD could be work-related. But what if the worker is also a lifelong smoker? Here again, a close examination of the worker’s medical records would be required.

Having your workers’ comp claim denied can be devastating. You’d have to pay for your medical treatment and you’d get no wage replacement. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are determined to provide the help you need to successfully appeal your denial and access the benefits you need. In some cases, a victim of a workplace accident may also have the right to sue a third party for negligence and recover full personal injury compensation. We thoroughly investigate your claim to see if actionable negligence played a role.

Contact our workers’ compensation lawyers in Salinas, Watsonville, Santa Cruz and Monterey, CA

Rucka, O’Boyle, Lombardo & McKenna helps injured workers appeal denials of workers’ compensation claims throughout the Central Coast. We charge no upfront legal fees, and you only pay us when you collect damages through a settlement or court verdict. Call us at 831-443-1051 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Se habla español.