Some workplace accidents are simply accidents, entirely unintentional and not the fault of any particular party. In other cases, however, an employer may endanger employees by knowingly failing to provide a safe work environment or follow OSHA safety standards. When a worker is injured because an employer engages in “serious and willful misconduct” as defined by California law, the worker may claim damages in addition to the normal workers’ compensation benefits. These damages can increase the total benefits you receive by up to 50 percent.
A serious and willful misconduct petition should be filed if you have been injured because of serious and willful misconduct by your employer. This petition must be filed within 12 months of the date of injury. A serious and willful petition can only be filed if you have a pending Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) case at your local district office. Opening a WCAB case can be complicated, so you’ll need help from an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney.
The burden of proof is difficult in a serious and willful misconduct case; employers frequently claim they had no knowledge of the situation that led to an employee’s injury or illness. To prove that your employer is guilty of serious and willful misconduct, you must clearly demonstrate that the employer failed to fix a dangerous condition that the employer knew about, and the injury or illness was caused by that failure; or you must prove the employer violated a safety regulation and that the violation led to your injury or illness. As you can see, it’s imperative to work alongside a good workers’ compensation lawyer who can investigate the circumstances of your injury or illness and prove – point by point – your employer’s willful negligence.
If you’ve been injured at work or if you suffer a work-related illness – whether or not your employer engaged in serious and willful misconduct – get the legal help you need and contact an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney immediately.