Workers' Compensation Claims - Serious & Willful

An employer’s actions are considered serious and willful misconduct when the employer is aware of the hazard and they deliberately fail to take corrective action. An injured employee can claim their employer’s actions rise to the level of serious and willful if the employer violates Cal/OSHA safety orders or the employer has failed to provide a safe working environment for their employees, as stated in California Labor Code Section 6400. We recommend talking to a Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorney if you are uncertain about filing a serious and willful misconduct claim against your employer. A Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorney can help you understand the difference between negligence and willful misconduct. We can also explain how to prove serious and willful misconduct and the penalties for serious and willful misconduct. Contact a Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorney today to see if you have a case. 

What is the difference between willful misconduct and gross negligence?

Our Sacramento Workers' Compensation Attorneys get calls every day from injured employees asking if they can sue their employers for negligence. Negligence is the "failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another." 

California is a no-fault workers' compensation system which means it does not matter who is at fault for a work-related accident. Your workers' compensation attorney does not have to prove negligence on the part of your employer for you to obtain workers' compensation benefits. It also means that injured employees generally cannot sue their employers for negligence because negligence itself does not typically allow an injured employee to receive extra benefits. 

This system generally works well because it speeds up the workers' compensation process so you get benefits as soon as possible. It also helps prevent unnecessary lawsuits. It is important to note that sometimes you can waive your right to sue your employer as soon as you file a workers' compensation claim. 

However, if you believe your accident was the result of something more serious than negligence, you may be able to file a serious and willful misconduct case. In order to obtain a serious and willful misconduct award, you and your attorney must prove that your employer's actions contributed to the accident and that their actions were willful. An employee has a year from the date of injury to file a serious and willful misconduct complaint.

How do you prove serious and willful misconduct? 

Proving serious and willful on the part of your employer can be very difficult, so we recommend contacting a Sacramento Workers' Compensation Attorney. Our attorneys have many years of experience in serious and willful misconduct cases. 

To prove your employer violated a Cal/OSHA safety order, you and your attorney must show: 

  • How the order was violated 
  • How the violation caused your injury; and 
  • Your employer knew of the safety order and they knew they were in violation.

To prove employer serious and willful misconduct for an unsafe environment, an injured employee must show: 

  • Your employer knew of the dangerous working conditions; 
  • Your employer knew the situation would probably result in serious injury to an employee; and 
  • Your employer deliberately failed to take action to correct the problem. 
Is there a penalty for serious and willful misconduct? 

According to California Labor Code 4553, the penalty for serious and willful misconduct is generally an additional fifty percent of all the workers' compensation benefits received by the injured employee. Workers' compensation insurance does not cover serious and willful misconduct, so the penalty comes directly from the employer. 

What’s next? 

If you have any questions regarding serious and willful misconduct and whether you have a case, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorney today. A Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorney can explain the difference between negligence and willful misconduct, how to prove serious and willful misconduct and the penalties for serious and willful misconduct. If you are uncertain if your case rises to the level of serious and willful misconduct, we recommend contacting a Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorney.