In California, people hurt on the job have a right to pursue benefits by bringing a workers’ comp claim. Workers’ comp is an exclusive legal remedy, meaning you are prevented from filing a personal injury lawsuit against your employer. However, under California Labor Code § 4553, injured employees may be additional to compensation if their accident occurred due to “serious and willful” misconduct by an employer. Here, our Fresno workers’ compensation attorneyexplains how an injured employee can file a serious and willful misconduct claim in California.
Serious and willful misconduct claims arise under section 4553 of the California Labor Code. This section of California state law allows injured workers to recover 50% more compensation than they would otherwise be entitled to if their workplace accident happened because of “serious and willful” misconduct on the part of an employer.
As an example, imagine that the total value of your California workers’ compensation claim is $10,000. An investigation into the accident reveals that you were hurt because your employer intentionally and flagrantly violated a workplace safety order. You could seek penalty compensation by filing a serious and willful misconduct claim. A maximum additional award of $5,000 (50% of the value of your claim) may be available.
Following a workplace accident, you need immediate medical attention. Nothing should come before your health and safety. If you know or suspect that your injuries occurred because there were unsafe conditions on your job, the accident should be investigated. Here are three key things to understand about proving serious and willful misconduct by an employer:
- A High Bar: Serious and willful misconduct is not negligence. California courts have consistently found that the bar is higher. As an injured employee, you must prove that your employer intentionally violated safety regulations or acted with extreme disregard to worker safety.
- Causation Must Exist: Beyond proving that an employer intentionally violated health and safety orders, you must also establish that the violation in question actually caused your injuries. Without causation between the intentional safety violation and the accident that resulted in your injuries, the employee cannot recover additional compensation.
- Burden on the Employee: With a workers’ comp claim, an employee only needs to establish that they were hurt while at work. If you are seeking additional compensation through a serious and willful misconduct claim, you have the burden of proving that your employer intentionally or recklessly violated state or federal workplace safety laws.
Joseph C. Yrulegui is an experienced workers’ comp lawyer with a passion for client service. If you want to know more about submitting a serious and willful misconduct claim, we can help. Our work injury team is prepared to help you recover the maximum available financial benefits. Contact us now to speak to a reliable workers’ comp attorney. Our firm represents injured workers throughout Fresno County, including in Fresno, Clovis, Sanger, Coalinga, and Reedley.