Following a job-related injury, a workers’ compensation claim is generally the sole legal remedy that an employee has against their own employer. However, in California, there is the big exception of the accident caused by “serious and willful” misconduct on the part of the employer. Under California Labor Code § 4553, an injured worker can seek additional compensation in these cases.
To be clear, employers have the right to defend themselves against an employee’s serious and willful misconduct claim. A strong defense should be built on a foundation of comprehensive evidence. Here, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense attorney highlights the evidence that could be used by an employer to defend a serious and willful misconduct claim in California.
Documented Safety Protocols and Training
Employers can present evidence of comprehensive safety training sessions, handbooks, or guidelines provided to the employee. This can demonstrate the employer’s commitment to maintaining a safe work environment.
Compliance With OSHA Regulations
If an employer has been consistently complying with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and can provide inspections or reports verifying this, it can serve as a solid defense.
Employee’s Past Disciplinary Records
If an employee has been previously warned or disciplined for unsafe practices, these records can be relevant in defending a serious and willful misconduct claim. Indeed, disciplinary records could be used to help establish that it was the employee’s own negligence that contributed to the accident.
Video or Photographic Evidence
Surveillance footage or photographs can help establish the circumstances surrounding the incident. They can provide a clear, unbiased view of the events leading up to and during the incident. Make sure you have any relevant photos or videos.
Maintenance and Inspection Records
Employers should be sure to gather all relevant maintenance and inspection records. Doing so can be used to help demonstrate that equipment and the workplace, more broadly, were regularly inspected and properly maintained.
Emails, memos, or other communication that highlights any discussion related to safety measures, concerns, or training can be invaluable. This can establish that the employer was proactive and attentive to safety concerns.
Records of Prior Safe Practices
Evidence that showcases a history of safe practices can help an employer. If an employer can prove that they have had a long-standing history of safety without incidents, it can bolster their defense.
Evidence of External Factors
In some cases, external factors, like third-party interference or natural disasters, can cause or contribute to an incident. Any evidence that proves these external factors were significant can be beneficial in defense.
Contact Our Fresno Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer for Immediate Help
At Yrulegui & Roberts, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense attorneys invest time, resources, and attention to detail to help our clients get the best outcome. If you have any questions about a serious and willful misconduct claim, we can help. Contact us by phone or contact us online for a fully private case assessment. From our Fresno law office, we defend serious and willful misconduct claims at WCAB locations throughout the region, including in Bakersfield, Sacramento, and Salinas.