While it’d be easy to meditate on the inevitability of death and taxes with April 15th upon us, let us instead observe National Poetry Month and consider a quote from modernist poet Wallace Stevens, (also a former lawyer and executive at The Hartford) that can motivate us as we handle complicated claims and the ever changing legal landscape in workers’ compensation: “Everything is complicated; if that were not so, life and poetry and everything else would be a bore.”
WCIRB REPORTS THAT WRITTEN PREMIUM DECLINED AGAIN in 2018
According to the quarterly experience report issued by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau, written premium declined to $17 billion in 2018, down from $17.7 billion in 2017 and down from $18.1 billion in 2016. The report indicated that the last two years broke a chain of seven years of increases, and attributed the decreases to decreases in insurer charged rates as opposed to increases in employer payroll. The 2018 industry average charged rate was $2.25 for every $100 of payroll. The full report can be found here: https://wcirb.com/news/quarterly-experience-report-year-end-2018-released
EXPANSION OF PEACE OFFICER PRESUMPTIONS UNDER REVIEW
Senate Bill 416, which would have expanded compensability presumptions as to cancer, low back injuries, heart trouble and other conditions to anyone meeting the Penal Code definition of peace officer, is on hold while the Senate Appropriations Committee reviews the effects such an expansion would have on the state’s budget. The bill would have provided the presumptions already available to firefighters, police officers, CHP officers, and corrections officers to additional employees such as police working in school districts and in the university system. An analysis of the bill, (link to document) indicates that the bill “would result in higher workers compensation premium costs for state departments,” and could potentially increase the budget by “millions of dollars annually.”
CWCI CASE LAW SEMINAR IN MAY
The California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) is holding its 21st annual Case Law Seminar. The program will see CWCI’s General Counsel Ellen Sims Langille moderating a panel of veteran defense attorneys and an applicant’s attorney. The panelists will review recent court decisions and provide practice pointers for claims personnel, attorneys, and hearing reps. The program is scheduled to run from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in both Northern California and Southern California at the following locations:
Tuesday, May 7
The Grand Long Beach Event Center
Thursday, May 9
Hotel Nikko San Francisco
CWCI is offering 5.0 hours of Legal Specialization MCLE credits from the State Bar of California for the program. CWCI will also provide certificates of attendance for submission to the Association of Hearing Representatives of California and will verify hours for any adjusters seeking to meet their Department of Insurance workers’ compensation claims adjuster certification requirements. Registration information can be found here: https://www.cwci.org/conferences.html
SUPPLEMENTAL JOB DISPLACEMENT VOUCHER CASE: SUBSTANCE OVER FORM
In the case of Fndkyan v. Opus One Labs, a unanimous WCAB panel composed of Commissioner Jose Razo, Commissioner Katherine Zalewski, and Commissioner Marguerite Sweeney, reversed a WCJ’s decision finding that a voucher was not owing because the QME had failed to provide the defendant with the Physician’s Return-to-Work & Voucher Report (DWC-AD 10133.36) and found the applicant to be entitled to the supplemental job displacement voucher. The WCAB reasoned that where a QME had provided final opinions on applicant’s permanent disability and work restrictions, denying the applicant the voucher simply because the RTW form had not been sent to defendant would place form over substance. The Panel found that in interpreting a statute designed to protect the public interest substance should take precedence over form. For claims administrators, this means that where there is notice of permanent disability and permanent work restrictions there should be some investigation into whether a voucher needs to issue and that a lack of a RTW form alone will not remove the obligation to provide a voucher.
NEWS ABOUT OUR CHICO AND REDDING OFFICES
We are pleased to announce that our Redding and Chico offices are now operating as one to better serve our clients’ needs. Both locations will remain open with a large practice team of experienced staff and attorneys. Office management will be consolidated in Chico under the leadership of Senior Partner, Medy Beauchane. In Redding, this change will allow Senior Attorney, Cindy Hermann to focus on expanding client services as our practice continues to grow in the community.
NEW CASE BRIEFS AVAILABLE!
The Case Briefs section of our website is a great resource as to case law and statutory interpretation in workers’ compensation and provides practice pointers, insights into recent cases, and updates on changes in the law. This month, Associate Attorney Michael Braun of our Los Angeles office discusses a recent WCAB decision extending CIGA’s complete protection against liability under Insurance Code 1063.1 to situations where there was a joint and several award implicating other insurance under the now inoperative Wilkinson doctrine, even where the claims involved successive injuries and not a shared single cumulative trauma period. Please head to www.mulfil.com/case-briefs to give them a read.