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Tesla Workers’ Comp: What to Do After Your Injury

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Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
May 30, 2024  ·  6 min read
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Injuries at Tesla, the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer, are not uncommon. Around half of Tesla’s employees work in one of its eight factories manufacturing cars, batteries, or solar panels. But the company has also made headlines for a high rate of work injuries, discouraging employees from reporting injuries, and pressuring doctors to avoid paying workers’ comp.

If you get injured while working at Tesla — whether on the job or because of it — you can qualify for paid medical care and lost wage relief through workers’ compensation. Here’s what to do to get the benefits you’re entitled to.

Does Tesla offer workers’ comp?

Yes. Tesla and other large employers are required to hold a workers’ compensation policy in most states. Workers’ comp is an insurance program that pays for an employee’s medical care and lost wages in the event they are injured on the job.

Tesla workers’ comp in California

In California, where Tesla operates factories in Fremont and nearby Lathrop, the company is self-insured, meaning it handles workers’ comp claims internally rather than taking out a policy with an insurance company or working with a third-party claims administrator. Even though Tesla is self-insured in California, the company still needs to meet the state’s insurance requirements.

Tesla workers’ comp in Texas

In Texas, where Tesla is headquartered and operates its Austin gigafactory, private employers like Tesla are often non-subscribers. That means Tesla doesn’t have to carry workers’ comp insurance at all. If you were injured while working for Tesla in Texas, talk to a workers’ comp lawyer about your options.

Injuries that qualify for Tesla workers’ comp

As long as you were on the clock or your injury resulted from doing your job duties, any work injury can qualify for workers’ comp benefits. Because workers’ comp is a no-fault system, it doesn’t matter if the injury was your fault, someone else’s, Tesla’s, or a freak accident.

Here are some common types of qualifying injuries at Tesla.

Overexertion and bodily reaction

Working at a Tesla factory can be physically demanding, and injuries can result from improperly carrying, lifting, or pushing a heavy object. Injuries can also be cumulative and develop from months or years of doing the same repetitive tasks.

With repetitive-motion injuries, it can be harder to prove your injury qualifies for workers’ comp. Unfortunately, Tesla has a history of employees sustaining repetitive-motion injuries like herniated discs and tendonitis.

If you have a cumulative injury, you should report it the moment you discover your injury’s relationship to your work. The sooner you report your injury, the better chance you have of winning your workers’ compensation claim and receiving the care you need to recover.

Contact with objects and equipment

Working in a Tesla factory means being exposed to lots of different equipment and objects, some of which are very large, heavy, or sharp. Here are some examples of injuries that resulted from contact with objects or equipment at Tesla’s facility in Fremont:

Exposure to harmful substances or environments

Some injuries don’t involve heavy equipment or objects at all. In 2017, Tesla factory workers told the San Francisco Chronicle that they sustained a variety of symptoms, including rashes and eye damage, from improper training on chemical safety.

Environmental injuries can also occur from working long hours in extreme temperatures. In 2019, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined Tesla over GA4, the tent it swiftly built to house additional production outside its Fremont factory. One of the citations had to do with Tesla’s failure to “properly train employees to prevent and respond to heat illness.”

What to do after a Tesla work injury

Reporting your injury as soon as possible and creating a paper trail are key to a successful workers’ comp case. Here’s what to do if you’re injured while working at Tesla.

1. Get emergency medical care

The most important thing to do immediately after an injury is to seek any emergency medical attention you may require, whether that’s at Tesla’s on-site Kaiser Permanente doctor in Fremont, at an emergency room, or from an urgent care facility.

2. Report your injury to your boss

Whether or not you think you qualify for workers’ comp, you should report your injury to your boss or supervisor as soon as possible.

In California, you need to provide written notice within 30 days or you lose access to workers’ comp benefits. Other states have deadlines as short as three days after your injury. Check this list of how long you have to report an injury in your state.

3. File a claim

After you report your injury, your boss or someone at Tesla should provide you with some paperwork to fill out. If you’re in California, Tesla should give you Form DWC-1 within one business day. Fill it out and return it. The sooner you give it back, the sooner you can get benefits.

The exact form you need varies by state and in some areas, your employer may be able to handle it all themselves. Make sure to follow up and if no one has given you anything to fill out, we recommend talking to a workers’ comp lawyer to make sure Tesla is following proper procedure. (Your initial call with an Atticus lawyer is free. Get connected today.)

Separately from your workers’ comp claim, employers are required to report workplace injuries to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Tesla landed in hot water when it failed to report at least 36 injuries to OSHA in 2018.

Atticus can simplify the workers' comp process for you.

Can I choose my own workers’ comp doctor?

It depends. In California, an employee can choose to predesignate a doctor but they must do so in writing using Form DWC-9783 before their injury occurs.

If you’ve already been injured and didn’t predesignate a doctor, Tesla can choose your doctor — and they might be on Tesla’s payroll since the company is self-insured — for the first 30 days. If your injury takes more than 30 days to recover from, California law allows you to choose your own doctor.

According to a 2019 investigation by Reveal, Tesla’s workers’ compensation manager pressured doctors at its in-house medical clinic Access Omnicare to prevent injured workers from receiving workers’ comp. If you feel like your Tesla-assigned doctor is downplaying your injury and its relationship to your work, you should speak to a lawyer.

How much does Tesla workers’ comp pay?

Workers’ comp entitles you to two types of benefits. Tesla will pay for all medical care associated with your workplace injury, and if your injury prevents you from working, you’ll also be reimbursed for part of your lost wages, but the amount varies by state.

In California, you can expect to receive about two-thirds of your average weekly wage. (See our 2024 workers’ comp payment charts for a more detailed breakdown.)

If you live outside California, here’s how much workers’ comp pays in every state.

What happens if I’m assigned “light duty” work while injured?

If your injury prevents you from doing your usual job, Tesla might assign you light-duty or modified-duty work while you recover from your injury. Examples of light-duty work at Tesla include spot-wiping cars with alcohol pads and folding laundry.

These jobs often receive lower wages, but in 2018, Tesla announced a new policy whereby “an injured employee who comes back to work in a less demanding role will have their pay remain the same.”

In all situations, it’s important that you don’t do more work than your workers’ comp doctor has cleared you to do.

Learn more about how much work you can do while injured.

Can Tesla fire you for filing a workers’ comp claim?

No, Tesla cannot legally fire you as retaliation for filing a workers’ comp claim. Tesla also cannot legally fire you for getting a second medical opinion or talking to a workers’ comp lawyer.

Check out other common misconceptions about workers’ comp.

Get help with the workers’ comp process

A workers’ comp lawyer can help you navigate the application process, especially if your supervisor, doctor, or another Tesla manager is being uncooperative. Even if you haven’t run into issues, a lawyer costs nothing upfront and their sole job is to make sure you get the full benefits that you’re entitled to. If you’re having trouble with your doctor, a lawyer can help you fight for impartial medical care. If you’re trying to negotiate a settlement, a lawyer can help you reach a fair deal that covers all of your lost wages and medical care.

Atticus is a California-based law firm with local workers’ comp lawyers across the state and the rest of the country. To get answers to your questions and figure out if a lawyer is worth it for your case, fill out our quick intake quiz or call us at the number below for free.

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Related resources:

5 Common Questions About Workers’ Comp Lawyers

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How Much a Workers’ Comp Lawyer Costs in Every State

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A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.

Victoria Muñoz

Lead Attorney

Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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