Auto Accidents and Workers Compensation: A Unique Case

Can I get workers compensation for a car accidentA recent story from the Pasadena Star News documents a strange event that occurred in Monterey Park. On April 16th, there was an auto accident involving two fire trucks. A truck from Monterrey Park was traveling eastbound while another from Alhambra was moving southbound to respond to the same fire. It appears that the two groups of firefighters were unaware of the presence of the other group. A tragic accident occurred in which one fire truck continued to drive through a red light, striking the other fire truck. The fire truck belonging to the city of Monterrey Park crashed into a small Chinese restaurant. As a result of the collision, 15 people were injured, including 6 firefighters. There have been at least five claims filed because of injuries, both physical and psychological, that resulted from the crash.

This case is particularly interesting because there are various legal issues applicable to this incident. First, there were six firefighters that were injured while attempting to reach the blaze in Monterey Park. Because these firefighters were injured while in the course of their employment, they are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. While they didn’t received an injury while firefighting, the car accident that occurred while trying to assist people who needed their aid would typically fall under workers’ compensation because they were acting within the course and scope of their employment. Please note that due to the dangerous nature of a firefighter’s occupation, there many other workers’ compensation rules and presumptions that are specifically tailored to address firefighter work injuries.

Additionally, the restaurant patrons that the firefighter truck may also have claims for the injuries that they endured.

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a system of benefits that seeks to return injured parties to their previous form of health. In California, workers’ compensation provides for medical care, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, supplemental job displacement benefits if your injury occurred after 2004, and death benefits. While a person is recovering from injuries that occurred from a work accident, that person is usually entitled to ⅔ of his or her average weekly wage. These benefits are commonly known as TTD (total temporary disability) benefits.

Alternatively, firefighters are entitled to “4850 benefits” if disabled as the result of an industrial injury. These benefits constitute 100% of the fire fighter’s gross salary for a period not to exceed one year. If the disability or injury continues beyond a year, the regular temporary disability benefits (TTD), discussed above, are payable to the injured firefighter.

What is emotional distress?

While the firefighters were injured because of the collision, there are also other potential claims from the injured restaurant patrons. In this case, the injured parties that have filed a claim are not only seeking compensation for their physical injuries, but may also seek damages for psychological suffering. Specifically, one party seeks money for psychological trauma and extreme emotional distress. To prove a case for negligent infliction of emotional distress, the injured party will have to show that 1) the defendant was negligent; 2) that the injured party suffered serious emotional distress; and 3) that the defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the injured party’s serious emotional distress.

A case like this is interesting because it involves separate issues of workers’ compensation and injuries that occurred during a traffic accident. It is typical in a legal case for several legal issues to be present. Fortunately, the lawyers at the Appel Law Firm LLP have a strong reputation in motor vehicle accidents and workers’ compensation. If you are ever involved in a vehicular accident and also have a claim for workers’ compensation, contact the Appel Law Firm LLP for immediate assistance.

Photo Credit: Robbie Howell via Compfight cc

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