While a workers’ compensation claim is generally the sole legal remedy that injured workers have against their own employer in California, there is an exception for harm caused by “serious and willful misconduct.” An employer facing this type of claim may be weighing the risks of negotiating a settlement versus raising a zealous defense. In this article, our California workers’ compensation defense lawyer explains the key considerations for employers to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to settle a serious and willful misconduct claim.
Background: Understanding Serious and Willful Misconduct Claims
Under California Labor Code § 4553, a serious and willful misconduct claim arises when an employer’s deliberate act or extreme recklessness and disregard for employee safety results in injury. For liability to be imposed in this type of case, an employer’s actions or inactions must demonstrably veer from recognized safety regulations—and the burden of proof lies with the employee. Successful serious and willful claims can result in significant penalties. Though, these are complex cases. Injured workers have a high bar to meet in serious and willful misconduct claims.
The Three Key Factors That Affect Settlement Considerations
A number of different factors can affect settlement considerations in a serious and willful misconduct claim in California. Every case should be evaluated on a fact-specific basis. Here are three of the most important issues:
- The Strength of the Evidence: The persuasiveness and quality of the evidence are crucial factors in evaluating settlement. You must assess the validity and weight of the allegations being raised by your company. The stronger and more compelling the evidence of misconduct, the more likely that a settlement is the right option.
- The Settlement Amount: The amount of the settlement always matters. The financial implications should be evaluated carefully. Employers need to determine whether the settlement figure is appropriate given their actual risk of being held liable and how much they would be liable for in damages.
- Time, Cost, and Risk of Litigation: Finally, the time, cost, and risk of litigation also play a crucial role. Litigation can be a lengthy, costly process with an unpredictable outcome. Even a successful defense of a serious and willful misconduct claim in court will carry its own costs.
All these considerations interplay in shaping negotiation strategies and, ultimately, the decision of whether to settle or proceed with litigation in serious and willful misconduct claims. A California workers’ compensation defense lawyer with relevant experience can protect your interests.
Contact Our California Serious and Willful Misconduct Defense Lawyer Today
At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation law firm has the legal and professional expertise needed to take on the full range of serious and willful misconduct cases. If you are an employer facing a claim for a serious and willful misconduct violation, please do not hesitate to contact us today for a confidential consultation. We serve the following areas: Fresno, Stockton, Redding, San Jose, Salinas, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Oxnard. and Van Nuys.