On 31 October, the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) released the newest Regional Score Card examining workers’ compensation claims in the California Central Valley. The study reviewed 344,000 workers’ compensation claims from 2005 to 2011 in the 18-county area stretching from Kern County in the southern area of the state to Butte County in the north.
Central Valley Farm Workers More Likely to Sustain Serious Injuries in Accidents
The study found that the Central Valley workers were more likely to sustain injuries from accidents, as opposed to strain from working, than other workers in the state. The increased risk of injuries from accidents is likely due in part to the role of agriculture in the Central Valley as the Central Valley has experienced a higher proportion of agricultural worker’s compensation claims than any other area in the state of California.
Common Central Valley Injuries
According to the report, Central Californians are more likely to sustain fractures, foreign bodies in their eyes, and puncture injuries than other workers in California. This is due in large part to the agricultural industry in Central California, as the accident rate is higher in the agricultural industry than in any other industry.
The first category of injury Central Californians are most likely to sustain, fractures, are common in farming. Fractured extremities like broken hands and broken legs are especially more likely to occur in Central California as farm workers risk being caught in the machinery necessary to their work.
The second category of injury, foreign bodies to the eye, is especially dangerous to workers. In these types of injuries, according to a study on migrant workers, the wound is often penetrating. This increases the risk of the injury blinding a worker and preventing him from continuing his livelihood.
Finally, puncture injuries, like fractures and eye injuries, are a regular hazard faced by farm workers and, according to the report, are more likely to happen in Central California as opposed to the rest of California.
Average Time to Process a Worker’s Compensation Claim in Central California
The study also found that the average time for a claim to be processed was 325 days, more than two months less than other areas of the state. This shortened time is attributed to shorter treatment lags, fewer permanent disability claims, significantly less attorney involvement, and several other factors.
Farming Hazards: Poor Legal Representation for Injured Farmers
The decreased time for a claim is portrayed as a good thing for the Central Valley in the report, but it exposes Central California farm workers’ poor legal representation.
The agricultural industry is already known to have poor reporting on worker’s compensation injuries, largely due to many people not claiming the benefits to which they are entitled. Many times, this is the case because the workers do not understand what benefits are available to them because of poor attorney involvement in injury claims in the farming industry.
This poor legal representation of farm workers then causes the workers to not only hold back from filing worker’s compensation claims, but also pass on opportunities for personal lawsuits which may further reduce the financial burden of an injury.
What Does This Mean for You?
The findings of this study reveal the inequality of representation and its cost to Central California farm workers. If you or someone you love is injured in an accident on a farm, seek experienced legal representation as you may be entitled to damages in addition to workers’ compensation benefits.
Stockton Agricultural Injury Attorneys
Hello, I’m Ed Smith. I am a farming accident lawyer in Stockton. If you or someone you care about has been seriously hurt or lost their life in an agricultural accident, please call me at (209) 227-1931 for fast, free and friendly advice. When calling from outside the (209) area code, please call me at (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice.
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Image Attribution: CSIRO [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], courtesy of Wikimedia Commons