For as long as you’ve been working in law enforcement in California, you’ve been paying into the California Workers’ Compensation system. But do you know how it works? For most people, the answer is “not exactly,” or even just “no.” Most of our Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, P.C. clients come to us after being injured on the job for the first time. So unless you’ve been injured or become ill due to your work, you may know how the California workers’ compensation system works for law enforcement functions.
This article explains the differences between workers’ compensation for law enforcement officers (LEOs) and workers’ compensation for other occupations. But first, some background.
Workers’ Compensation: A Basic Definition
Workers’ compensation benefits are designed to benefit employees who get injured or become ill at or because of their job. In addition, it brings financial support to workers while they are out of work and recovering from injuries. For law enforcement, the risks of this happening are more significant than in other occupations for obvious reasons.
For most occupations, here are the basics about the workers’ compensation system works:
- Incident reporting: If you are injured or become ill due to a work-related circumstance, you must immediately report it to your employer, who will give you a form to fill out. After you’ve compensated the employee section, your employer will fill out their section. Then, the employer sends it to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
- Medical treatment and care: Once reported, the injured employee will go to a doctor, who may be the employer’s designated doctor for all employees or a doctor of the employee’s choice. The doctor will either refer to a specialist or create a treatment plan for the injured employee.
- Filing a claim: The insurance compensation claims handler generally has 14 days to notify you of your accepted or denied claim. During this process, you may be asked for more information, documentation, or further medical testing.
- Payment of benefits: If the claim is approved, benefits are dispersed to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other related costs. The amount distributed depends on the severity of an injury or illness and the extent of lost wages. While many workers’ compensation cases do not require legal representation, it is essential to understand the benefits offered and whether more help may be available. Therefore, having an experienced workers’ compensation attorney representing your best interests is helpful.
- Back to work: Work can generally be resumed once the employee has recovered from their injury or illness or can perform duties with reasonable modifications. However, vocational training and other services can assist if employees need help to perform their previous job duties.
Workers’ Compensation for Law Enforcement
While the workers’ compensation process for LEOs follows the same primary path, there are a few crucial differences, including the higher-risk nature of law enforcement and certain established conditions and diseases common to law enforcement work.
For example, there is the presumption of specific work-related injuries for law enforcement that is not present for most other occupations. Presumptive medical conditions for LEOs include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), heart disease, and high blood pressure, but these are not the only ones.
Other differences may include increased benefits to officers who get hurt during specific duties on the job, like riot control or pursuit of a fleeing subject.
If you work in law enforcement, you should be aware of and track the changes to unique laws or provisions that apply to your work. Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, P.C. are highly experienced in the compensation of the workers’ compensation system, including the unique aspects that pertain to law enforcement personnel. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation and stand by to help you.