This summer California experienced its hottest June and July on record. August wasn’t much better. In August, towns in the Central Valley and Southern California’s desert reported record high temperatures. On August 4, Palm Spring reported its high temperature reached a shocking 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
For many Californians, the hot weather was a time to stay indoors and enjoy air conditioning or a fan, But many California workers didn’t have that option. Workers who must be outside during the day — in particular, agricultural workers — have faced extreme temperatures, and reports indicate they are suffering dehydration, heatstroke and other health problems as a result. For some, the results have been fatal.
Experts warn that rising global temperatures could make the problem much worse.
It’s hard to say who is responsible after a worker is injured due to the weather. Is it the employer, for making them work outside when it was dangerously hot? Can an employer be held responsible for the weather?
If a worker wanted to file a personal injury action against an employer in a heatstroke case, these might be important questions. In a workers’ compensation case, they are not.
California’s workers compensation is a no-fault system. To receive benefits, an injured worker does not have to prove that their employer did anything wrong. Generally, so long as they were injured while in the course of their employment, they should be able to receive benefits.
These benefits should cover their medical and rehabilitative expenses, and help with their lost wages while they are unable to return to work. In cases of fatal injury, the benefits should provide for their family members.
Of course, there is a big difference between what the system should do and what will happen in any given case. Often, workers need to argue with employers and their insurance providers to make sure they get the full amount of benefits they need. To be successful, it can be crucial to have the help of an attorney who has experience in workers’ compensation law.