Can I Get Workers’ Compensation Benefits if I’m Injured Outside of California?

Traditionally, most people worked close to where they lived. Very few jobs required individuals to travel outside of their state of employment. However, times have changed.

Many employees travel for their jobs. They may have a “home base” where they complete most of their work. However, they may also regularly travel to other states as part of their employment. 

If an employee is injured at work, they should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, what happens when employees are hurt while traveling for work? Where do they file a workers’ comp claim?

California Workers’ Compensation System 

With just a few exceptions, California employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance. Therefore, if a worker is injured on the job in CA, they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits include medical treatment for injuries and wage benefits if the employee cannot work because of their injury.

The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system. Workers do not need to prove negligence or fault to receive benefits. They only need to prove they were injured in the normal course of business. 

Jurisdiction for California Workers’ Compensation Claims 

California has jurisdiction over workplace injuries that occur within the state. Except in limited situations, California retains jurisdiction over injuries within the state. This is the case even though the worker may be employed in another state. Additionally, an employee might receive California workers’ compensation benefits for out-of-state injuries. 

California Labor Code §5305 applies in some cases. It states the Division of Workers’ Compensation has jurisdiction over cases when the contract for hire was made in California. Jurisdiction applies for out-of-state injuries too.

The statute also states that the person must be a resident of California for jurisdiction to apply. However, the California Supreme Court ruled the residency requirement unconstitutional in several cases. 

Furthermore, California Labor Code §3600.5 also applies in some out-of-state injury cases. California has jurisdiction over out-of-state injuries if the employee is regularly employed in California. Therefore, employees hired out of state or injured in another state can apply for California workers’ compensation benefits if they regularly work in California.

What Happens When State Laws Conflict with Each Other?

Individual state law governs workers’ compensation benefits. Therefore, the laws in one state could conflict with the laws of another state. The result could mean that both states claim jurisdiction over injuries within their state or employers who operate there.

For example, let’s assume that you are employed in California, but you travel to Pennsylvania to work. Say you are injured while performing your job duties in Pennsylvania. Section 101 of Article I of The Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act states the law applies to all workplace injuries occurring within the state. Jurisdiction applies regardless of where the contract of hiring was made.

However, Pennsylvania also has extraterritorial provisions within its workers’ compensation laws. Generally, Pennsylvania does not have jurisdiction of a workers’ compensation claim if:

  • Employment is principally localized in another state AND
  • The employee regularly works within that state.

California might claim jurisdiction under Labor Code §5305 if the contract for hire was made in California. The facts and circumstances of the situation could result in concurrent jurisdiction of a workers’ compensation claim. An attorney would need to compare the laws to answer that question.

Why Does Jurisdiction of a Workers’ Compensation Claim Matter?

Some states have laws that favor injured workers. Conversely, the laws in other states may favor employers and insurance companies. Therefore, an injured worker must carefully consider which state has the most favorable workers’ compensation laws before filing a claim.

For example, would the worker receive more money for lost wages by filing in California or Pennsylvania in our example? Could the worker receive more money for a permanent impairment by filing in California or Pennsylvania?

The decision of where to file a workers’ compensation claim for out-of-state injuries can be complicated. Therefore, it is wise to seek legal advice from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer before taking any steps. 

However, you may have a short deadline to file a workers’ compensation claim or seek medical treatment for an injury. Therefore, you should not delay seeking legal advice. Again, each state’s workers’ compensation laws are different. So, the deadlines in your state of residence may be different from the deadlines for the state in which your injury occurred. 

Injured workers may sustain long-term disabilities. It is crucial that you receive maximum workers’ comp benefits. Your earning potential could be significantly reduced because of a workplace accident