I Can’t Work; Can I File For Unemployment Even Though Litigation is Pending?
Going through the whole process of filing for worker’s compensation and waiting to hear what the outcome is can be stressful, especially when you have no income in the meantime. This is a time when unemployment insurance would be of use to you, as you can file for unemployment while waiting for your worker’s compensation to process.
Worker’s Compensation vs. Unemployment Insurance
Worker’s compensation benefits are utilized by those workers that were injured on the job or even contract an illness that is entirely work-related. They’re also available to those who lose a family member who was killed on the job. The primary qualifications for worker’s compensation are that the illness or the injury is directly related to their work. It doesn’t necessarily have to have happened in the workplace to be eligible, anytime you’re on the clock acting on behalf of the company, including when you’re driving to and from a job site. Driving back and forth to work from home does not meet the qualifications. There are three different benefits from workers compensation:
- Compensation for the days that they are unable to work, once they are unable to work five days either consecutively or non-consecutively,
- Help to move to a new field if they cannot return to their old job as a result of the injury or illness,
- Receive medical benefits for any appointments about the injury or illness.
Unemployment insurance ensures that you will have an income to support the worker while they are out of work either temporarily or permanently. If it is permanent, this replaces the income they would have received while they look for a new job. Unemployment insurance is based on state law, so each state differs as to their eligibility requirements. The requirements for the state of California are:
- Be wholly or partially unemployed
- Be unemployed through no fault of their own
- Physically able to work
- Available for work
- Ready to accept work immediately upon finding a job
- Looking for a job
- Approved for training (before receiving training benefits)
- Received enough wages to establish a claim
In this situation, if you were awaiting a final answer on workers compensation, it means that you would have been out of work for an illness or injury that was work-related. If you are already unemployed, even partially, you can receive unemployment insurance.
Before and During Litigation
Things can get complicated when worker’s compensation is involved. The reason why litigation is necessary is that every case is fact specific. The outcome will depend on the situation. If your employer denies that your injury is work-related, they’ll want to prove their side to be true, and so will you. Once you are off the job whether it’s temporary or permanent, you should apply for unemployment insurance so long as you meet the requirements. If you are physically unable to work again, you would not be able to collect unemployment.
While your case is pending litigation, you can collect unemployment insurance, which requires weekly check-ins. Depending on the outcome of your settlement, you may or may not be able to continue receiving benefits.
If the court agrees that your injury was work-related and grants you worker’s compensation, it is not a weekly check the way that unemployment insurance is. It is a lump sum to cover the cost of your injury. It is important to talk to your lawyer before accepting any settlement amount because your choices can affect your future opportunities. If you accept the settlement amount but are asked to resign from your job, this is a situation where you would not be able to receive unemployment benefits after litigation. Sometimes, you’re not asked to leave at all but decide to for your personal reasons. In that case, you are not entitled to unemployment benefits.
If the court disagrees and says that your injury was not work-related, then you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits if you meet the requirements. Your employer can allow you to come back after your injury heals, even though it is not work-related. The difference is that you would not be receiving worker’s compensation or unemployment insurance (because you would still be employed). Instead, you can file for Disability Insurance (DI), which is available in California. You would be receiving wage replacement to help ease the stress of not working during the time that you are injured.
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