Traffic accidents result in injuries every day on Orange County roads and highways. The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) reports that Orange County collisions caused nearly 20,000 injuries or deaths in a recent year. Seal Beach, Laguna Beach, and Brea are among the Orange County cities with the highest per capita accident rates.
The OTS does not record how many of those collisions involved drivers who were working when the accident occurred. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that work-related driving accidents are the leading cause of on-the-job accidents, accounting for 23% of all work-related fatalities.
Work-Related Driving Accidents
California Workers’ Compensation covers traffic accident injuries that an employee sustains while he or she is driving or riding in a vehicle in order to carry out their job. Employees who are commuting to or from work are not usually covered if they have not started, or if they have ended, their work day.
- Employees are usually covered, however, if they are:
- Making deliveries for an employer
- Making service calls for an employer
- Traveling from one job site to another
- Picking up supplies (or coffee and donuts) for an employer
There are many other situations in which an employee is entitled to workers’ compensation coverage for an Orange County traffic accident. For example, a sales employee may not have a fixed job site and might travel from home to a different location every day without first checking into the office. Those employees are typically covered by workers’ compensation even if they were technically “on their way to work.”
Employees should never assume that their boss knows whether or not an injury is covered by workers’ compensation. Obtaining legal advice from an Orange County Workers’ Compensation attorney is the best way for an employee to assure that his or her rights will be protected.
Orange Country Traffic
Large numbers of traffic accidents occur in Orange County in part because there is so much to see and do in Orange County. Tourists (as well as Orange County parents) fill the roads while taking their kids to Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, or Balboa Fun Park. The giant helium balloon at Orange County Great Park spurs traffic to Irvine while the Orange County Zoo and Santa Ana Zoo keep kids entertained all day.
Parents also take their children to Pretend City Children’s Museum and Discovery Cube Orange County. Kids also enjoy the Irvine Park Railroad. Adults without children are more likely to visit Bowers Museum or Mission San Juan Capistrano.
Sports fans drive to Angels Stadium to enjoy baseball games or to the Honda Center to watch hockey. Active people who want to participate rather than watch sports visit Salt Creek Beach Park for a day of surfing, or travel to Crystal Cove State Park, where they can go hiking or biking.
Photographers record the beautiful scenery at Inspiration Point in Corona del Mar, Heritage Hill Historical Park, or Limestone Canyon. The sculptures and ocean views at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach attract visitors with or without cameras.
Of course, shoppers cause traffic jams as they crowd into Orange County’s shopping venues. Fashion Island in Newport Beach, the Outlets in Orange, and the LAB in Costa Mesa often have crowded parking lots. The upscale food courts at Anaheim Packing District and Santa Ana’s 4th Street Market are among the many places that feed hungry people who are tired of driving.
Traffic Accident Workers’ Comp Injuries
Many different kinds of injuries afflict drivers and passengers who are involved in traffic accidents, ranging from mild injuries causing temporary disability to severe injuries that will leave the employee with a permanent impairment. Common traffic accident injuries include:
- Whiplash injuries that affect nerves, tendons, and muscles in the neck, shoulders, and upper back
- Head and brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries, including organ damage
- Knee, ankle, and foot injuries
- Eye injuries
When accidents occur while an employee is traveling for work, the employee is entitled to workers’ compensation regardless of fault. Except in extreme cases (for example, if an employee was drag racing or very intoxicated), an employee’s negligence does not prevent recovery of workers’ compensation benefits, even if the employee’s negligence contributed to the injury.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Employers or their workers’ compensation insurer must pay all medical bills that are reasonably related to a job-related traffic accident injury, including ambulance bills, emergency care charges, lab tests, and the costs of physician care. Be sure to tell every hospital or clinic billing department that your injury is work-related so that the bills will be sent to your employer, not to you.
Unfortunately, insurance lobbyists convinced the California legislature to set a cap on physical therapy and chiropractic care payments. If you may need care of that nature, you should talk to your Orange County workers’ compensation attorney about how to deal with the cap.
In addition to medical care, an employee injured in a traffic accident is entitled to replacement of a portion of the employee’s income. Since temporary disability benefits are tax-free, the employee’s benefits may be close to the employee’s take-home pay, depending on the employee’s earnings.
Injured employees have a permanent disability if they are unlikely to return to the condition they were in before the accident. Once the degree of that disability can be rated, the employee is entitled to permanent disability benefits, even if the employee is capable of working. Since claims adjusters usually try to minimize the degree of a disability, it is important to have an Orange County workers’ compensation attorney fighting for the disabled employee’s rights.
Employees who want to return to work and are capable of working are usually entitled to do so. California law prohibits employers from firing an employee simply because the employee was injured on the job. Retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim is also prohibited. Any Orange County employee whose employer imposes barriers to a return to work should seek advice from an Orange County workers’ compensation law firm.
Orange County Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
The experienced Orange County Workers Comp Lawyers at ODG Law Group are available to help employees who were injured while engaged in work-related travel. Whether the dispute involves payment of medical bills, temporary disability benefits, total disability benefits, or other workers’ compensation benefits that are available to injured employees, ODG Law Group stands proudly on the side of injured employees.