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 Elinor Leary of The Veen Firm.
I was injured at a nonprofit community center while doing weekend community service to work off a speeding ticket. I was clearing brush when the machine jammed and seriously injured me. I am now unable to work at my regular job, and I have no income. What can I do?
You may be entitled to receive Worker’s Compensation benefits, even though you were not injured at your regular job. The question comes down to who your “employer” was over the weekend that you were doing community service work. Under the Labor Code, the nonprofit organization is exempt from being considered an employer, so you will not be entitled to collect Worker’s Compensation benefits from them. However, the County where you were going to be sentenced for your speeding ticket would likely be considered your “employer” even though you didn’t sign a contract and were not expecting to be paid a wage for your community service.
You may also have a remedy in civil court based on a defective product claim. You should immediately contact an experienced civil litigator who has experience dealing with cases that involve workplace injuries. If you do have a remedy against the manufacturer of the machine that malfunctioned, you will need an attorney who knows how to carefully draft a complaint on your behalf. If the complaint is not carefully drafted, you may receive an unfavorable ruling from the civil court that may prevent you from pursuing your case in civil court. This would limit you to only the benefits you would receive in the Worker’s Compensation system, reducing the compensation you might otherwise be eligible to receive.
-Elinor Leary, Attorney; The Veen Firm, PC“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.”
This Month's Expert; Elinor Leary
Elinor Leary is the team leader of the Leary Trial Team, which handles complex cases that involve life-altering injuries or death. The Leary Trial Team has expertise with cases that involve construction and worksite injuries, defective products, dangerous property conditions, negligent security, car and truck collisions, and incidents that involve pedestrians and bicyclists. Ms. Leary has tried cases to verdict as well as reached large settlements in numerous other cases, including cases listed in The Recorder’s “Top Settlements” publications. Elinor is rated "AV Preeminent" by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating possible for both legal and ethical standards. She has been selected by peers to the Northern California Super Lawyers List, top 5% of attorneys, and to the Top Northern California Female Lawyers. Elinor is bilingual in Spanish.