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Every month, a reader asks one of our sponsor legal experts about a work-related issue. These building trades law professionals respond in an Organized Labor exclusive. This month’s expert is Kevin Lancaster of The Veen Firm.

Visit the VEEN FIRM website.

I’ve been seriously injured at work. Am I eligible for Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) benefits while I’m disabled? Are there other issues and benefits that I should consider?

The simple answer is “yes.”

You are entitled to the restricted benefits of the WCAB system. As long as you weren’t fooling around or intoxicated when you got hurt, the no-fault system provides you medical treatment and limited temporary disability payments. If you end up with an ongoing permanent disability (i.e., you can’t return to work or there are limitations on how much you can lift or stand), you may also be eligible for periodic permanent disability payments.

However, where your injury might cause $500,000 worth of actual financial loss for past and future medical treatment, past and future lost wages, and inability to perform household services and family chores, the WCAB may only pay $50,000. Therefore, to recover full compensation, it is important that you seek the advice of a “third party/industrial injury civil attorney” to see if there is a “third party case.”

You are considered the first party, and your employer is the second party. Because you cannot sue your employer, the question is: Did a third party contribute to my accident? Generally, your only and exclusive remedy against your employer is your WCAB claim.

Many workplace injuries occur on worksites where there are many opportunities for the participation of third parties, such as multi-employer construction sites with many subcontractors, equipment and service suppliers. Similarly, a single employer may lease equipment from a rental company or outsource maintenance or systems design to third parties. Workers also suffer injury from the tools and machinery they operate. These are all examples of how a third party civil case may arise. Most civil third party attorneys collect the expenses and legal fees only if the case is successfully concluded by settlement or trial.

If the injury prevents you from returning to work, California state disability insurance, private disability insurance (if you bought it), or federal Social Security disability payments may also be available to you.

Lastly, there are strict time limits for a WCAB claim and a civil suit - time is of the essence. You should consult co-workers, family, union officials, the internet and county bar associations for attorneys who specialize in WCAB applicants’ work and for civil attorneys experienced in third party industrial civil cases. Good luck.

-Kevin Lancaster, Trial Team Leader; The Veen Firm, PC, San Francisco, CA

“Interaction via “Ask the Expert” does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Any advice given is neither legal advice nor does it serve as a replacement for hiring an attorney. In addition, any case results mentioned or discussed are not guarantees of similar results.”


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This Month's Expert; Kevin Lancaster

Mr. Lancaster joined The Veen Firm, PC in 1984 and since has litigated more than 30 product liability cases, including industrial products, tools, and machines. Mr. Lancaster typically represents individuals who have suffered catastrophic injuries, including union, non-union, construction, and agricultural workers. He has served on the OSHA Advisory Committee and has spoken before the CA Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations about issues of concern to injured workers.

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