Workers' Comp Law in California

By Samantha Kemp

All California employers must provide workers' compensation insurance for their employees. This insurance provides employees with a number of benefits.

California's workers' compensation laws provide injured employees immediate medical care of up to $10,000 after sustaining a work-related injury, or suffering a work-related illness, without an investigation into who was at fault. In exchange, injured employees are barred from suing their employers.

Employer Insurance Responsibility

California's workers' compensation laws require all employers, even if they have only one employee, to pay for workers' compensation insurance. Additionally, roofers must carry workers' compensation insurance even if the business owner is the only worker. For other self-employed individuals or business owners, workers' compensation insurance is optional if the business does not employ anyone other than the owners. California does not require workers' compensation insurance for independent contractors. California's workers' compensation requirements also apply to out-of-state employers that have an employee who regularly works in California, or that enter into contracts in California.

Insurance Options

Most California employers purchase their workers' compensation insurance policy through an insurance broker licensed in the state. State employers must pay the entire portion of the premiums and cannot pass this expense to employees. California also has a State Compensation Insurance Fund that provides this type of insurance if a private insurance company is not willing to underwrite the policy. Employers can self-insure if they have a minimum net worth of $5 million and net income of $500,000 if they post a security deposit.

Monetary Benefits

An employee may be eligible for temporary disability benefits if his treating doctor determines that he is unable to perform his usual work for more than three days, or if his employer does not offer alternative work while he recovers. Employees who are unable to work at all receive temporary total disability payments, and employees who can perform some work while recovering receive temporary partial disability. Payments usually are two-thirds of the employee's average weekly earnings. Payments can continue up to 104 weeks or until the employee can return to work, whichever occurs first.

If an employee's doctor determines that the worker suffered a permanent disability, he may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. These benefits begin after the temporary benefits end. The amount of permanent disability benefits is based on the claim administrator's rating of the disability, the date of the injury, the employee's average weekly wages and whether the employer has offered the employee alternative work. The maximum weekly amount of these benefits is $290 for injuries that occurred in 2015.

Claims Process

After the employer learns of the work-related injury, it has one day to provide the employee with the claim form. The employee completes his relevant portion of the form, and the employer completes the employer section. The employer sends the form to its workers' compensation claims administrator for processing.