Penalties for Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud in California

Workers’ compensation fraud is a significant issue in California, costing the state an estimated $1 billion to $3 billion annually. However, this exorbitant amount in damages is only one of many reasons why this crime is heavily scrutinized and prosecuted, with significant penalties in place to deter such activities.

Legal professionals operating within this system, including workers’ compensation lawyers in Garden Grove and throughout the OC, must balance aggressive advocacy for their clients with strict adherence to legal and ethical standards, in order to protect legitimate claims and maintain trust in the system, all while securing the rightful benefits for injured workers.

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Who commits workers’ compensation fraud?

Workers’ compensation fraud can occur in several forms, including employees exaggerating or fabricating injuries. Employers can also commit fraud by underreporting payroll or misclassifying employees to reduce premiums, and healthcare providers billing for services not rendered.

Who investigates workers’ comp fraud in California?

Prosecution of workers’ compensation fraud in California is aggressive, with specialized units in all the state’s district attorneys’ offices, including the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. These fraud units work closely with the California Department of Insurance to investigate and prosecute fraud cases. 

The number of prosecutions and convictions for workers’ compensation fraud typically can vary significantly from year to year. For example, historical data sourced from California’s Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) shows fluctuations in the number of cases referred, prosecuted, and resulting in convictions, highlighting the seriousness of the ongoing challenge of combating this type of fraud​​.

What is the penalty for workers comp fraud in California?

The penalties for workers’ compensation fraud in California are severe, creating severe punishment aimed at metering fraudulent activities. Under California Insurance Code 1871.4, workers’ compensation fraud is considered a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances surrounding the defendant’s criminal history.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties can include up to but no more than one year in county jail, whereas felony charges can result in up to five years in state prison. Additionally, fines for offenders can be quite substantial, potentially up to double the amount of the fraud or $150,000, whichever is greater​. Many businesses end up going bankrupt when caught “cooking the books” and lying about their workers’ compensation coverage or lack thereof. 

What is the penalty for workers comp fraud in California

Perjury in Workers’ Compensation Cases

Perjury, or lying under oath, in workers’ compensation cases is also taken seriously. The consequences of committing perjury can include criminal charges, which carry potential state prison time and fines, reflecting the legal system’s emphasis on truthful proceedings​.

Attorney-Client Relationship & Ethical Duties

Regarding the role of attorneys, if a workers’ compensation lawyer discovers that their client is lying, the lawyer faces ethical dilemmas. While attorneys are bound by attorney-client privilege, which prohibits them from disclosing confidential information about their clients, they cannot knowingly allow false testimony or fraudulent claims to proceed.

If a conflict between professional ethics and client interests arises, an attorney may seek to withdraw from representing the client, but they must do so without violating confidentiality or harming the client’s case. This process involves careful navigation of legal and ethical guidelines to ensure that the attorney does not break attorney-client privilege while adhering to the law and ethical standards of the legal profession​​.

Where can I find dedicated workers’ compensation lawyers near me in Garden Grove, CA?

California Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, APC is the prime destination if you’re looking for legal specialists who put your well-being first. Serving clients from West Garden Grove all the way to San Clemente and anywhere in between, we combine fierce advocacy with tailor-made strategies, proven to give impressive results. Reach out to us today, schedule your free consultation, and let us assist you in securing your future!