it was a pulled muscle and now my x-ray shows that i have no disc. i work as a stand up reach forklift operator and if my back doesn't fully heal i will be out of a job. my job is union, am i able to sue them?
If you have a documented work injury, you have a claim under California's WC statute. You cannot sue your employer. You should consult local counsel to fully understand your options and how it is best for you to proceed.
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Workers' Compensation Lawyer
Workers' Compensation for injuries on the job is "no fault." You are not suing them as much as you are making a claim for benefits. In fact the document you need to complete and file with your employer is called a DWC-1 Claim Form. Keep a copy, in case they lose it.
I represent Employers, but I can recommend Worker Attorneys in So Cal if you ask.
It is a work injury claim so you are not suing your employer.
Workers' Compensation Lawyer
First and foremost, you should seriously consider consulting a reputable workers’ compensation attorney. There are two types of workers’ compensation injuries, a specific injury such as pulling a muscle on a specific date, and a cumulative trauma, where your repetitive work causes injury, such as a compressed disc. You probably have suffered both types of injury but only a doctor can say that for sure. A good workers’ comp attorney will know what doctors you should see.
I hope you reported your pulled muscle and your employer provided medical care. If not, that is too detrimental to your case, but you should notify your employer and get a DWC-1 claim form. (This may have already happened; it is not clear from your question).
Your employer has the right to control what doctor you see for the first 30 days. After the 30 days, you can select a different doctor but if there is a Medical Provider Network (MPN) you generally have to treat with a doctor in their network (with certain exceptions that your attorney will be able to identify if applicable).
In a workers’ compensation case you will be compensated for, among other things, your level of permanent disability. In theory this is to compensate you for your lost ability to compete in the open labor market but in reality, it is fairly small amount of money that will not make up for losing your career if that is the case. If you don’t heal, you will have “work restrictions,” for example, “No prolonged standing” etc. If your employer cannot reasonably accommodate those work restrictions you unfortunately are out of a job. The workers’ comp system also provides for a supplemental job displacement voucher that you can use to pay for training in another line of work, but in the end, it is unfortunate when work restrictions take away somebody’s career.
I hope you recover well. I would also recommend seeking the advice of a WC attorney.
I agree with my colleagues that you should consult an attorney who practices workers' compensation law. Here are a few thoughts for you which are worth asking that attorney to explain.
First, if you have not filed a claim and you believe your injury is work related, you need to talk with your employer as soon as possible (ASAP) to complete the paperwork (a DWC-1 Form) to protect your rights. If you do not file a claim within a year of when you knew or should have known it was a work related injury, you might not be able to make the claim. This is called the statute of limitations and you MUST SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY ASAP TO EXPLAIN THIS TO YOU. I cannot emphasize this part enough.
Second, if your employer did not carry workers' compensation insurance, then an interesting twist develops in your case. In that situation, you could sue your employer directly (through civil court) AND still file a workers' compensation case (through the WCAB court). If this is your situation, then you are way over your head in legal complexity without the assistance of an attorney. Start with an attorney who practices workers' compensation.
These are very general answers for a general set of facts. Your actual case and the details surrounding it might alter these answers or generate other issues. Consult an attorney--knowledge is power. Good luck on your case!