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Workplace Injury! What To Do When Your Employee Is Injured On The Job (California)

If you're new to your role as an employer, probably the only thing you know about Workers Compensation is that you need it. Nothing more. Beyond writing the check to pay the bill, your responsibility is the claim paperwork.

Here is what you need to do following an incident/accident:

1. Get Medical Help (obviously, first things first). Seeking immediate medical attention is always the first and most important step to ensuring your employee’s safety and protecting yourself. Call 911 if the injury is life-threatening or requires emergency medical attention. It may not always be clear whether an ambulance or emergency care is necessary, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Failing to seek medical assistance for an employee who’s hurt on the job could get you slapped with a lawsuit. Even if the injury does not require emergency attention, you should encourage your employee to get medical care as soon as possible.

2. Gather the facts, interview witnesses, take photos, review footage if you have it.

3. Have the claim form on hand to complete at the first available opportunity. You do not need to ferociously chase the ambulance to the hospital, but if theres a chance you can complete it before your employee leaves, then do so. At some point, your employee will need this. You can find it Here. This is often referred to as the dwc form.

4. Determine whether this is a SERIOUS injury. If this is a SERIOUS injury, you need to report it to Cal OSHA within 5 days using this link. Wait a minute! Don't click there yet, here at the DIR website, it tells you how to define SERIOUS:

(h) "Serious injury or illness" means any injury or illness occurring in a place of employment or in connection with any employment which requires inpatient hospitalization for a period in excess of 24 hours for other than medical observation or in which an employee suffers a loss of any member of the body or suffers any serious degree of permanent disfigurement, but does not include any injury or illness or death caused by the commission of a Penal Code violation, except the violation of Section 385 of the Penal Code, or an accident on a public street or highway.

5. Contact your insurance company to let them know about the claim. They will need the information that is on the claim form you read about in step 3. Your adjuster will take it from here, it can take up to 90 days for them to decide whether they will cover the claim. In California, it is really hard for them to find any reasons not to, but there are occasions where it happens (such as if they find out the real onset of the injury was not at the jobsite, there IS a lot of fraud that is attempted, so they do look for it). You'd be surprised at what has been covered under a workers compensation claim!

Now, for some advice on your role with the employee while they receive treatment: I would advise you to stay professional. Sometimes an incident is funny, sometimes you will be tempted to laugh it off or make jokes and sometimes the employee themselves will make jokes. Do your best to not take it too far. While it might be funny at first, if the issue drags out and ongoing care is needed, sensitivity may develop and words are something you can NEVER take back. You always want your employee to know you had their best interests in mind, that you always took their injury seriously, and never added shame or blame to what could end up being life changing for the individual.

Keep in mind that all you really need to know is whether the employee has any job restrictions upon returning, and you should be careful when asking for more information than that because of California's strict HIPAA laws.

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