We at Mullen & Filippi hope you enjoyed a cookout, some company, and accommodating weather and had a safe and healthy Independence Day weekend. For those of us with dogs, it can be hoped their month-long nightmare of random fireworks going off at all hours will finally trickle to an end. This summer we hope you stay safe and get some rest away from your desks in the months before we enter the holiday and year-end business corridor of fall.
SB 335 AMENDED TO REMOVE SHORTENED TIMEFRAME FOR CLAIM ACCEPTANCE AND INCREASE IN MEDICAL CAP DURING INVESTIGATION
The California Assembly Insurance Committee voted to amend the bill and re-refer it to the Committee on Appropriations on 7/13/2021. The bill as originally written would have given most employers 45 days to determine liability and accept or deny a claim rather than the 90 days the Labor Code currently provides. The bill would have reduced the investigation period to 30 days in the case of claims subject to public safety officer presumptions. Finally, the bill would have increased the $10,000 cap on medical liability during the investigation period to $17,000.
As amended, the bill would provide 90 days for employers investigating standard claims to determine liability as is the case under existing law and would provide 45 days for employers investigating claims subject to certain presumptions. The amended bill would increase the cap on penalties for the unreasonable denial of presumptive claims from the lesser of 25% of the benefits delayed with a cap of $10,000, to the lesser of 25% of the benefits delayed with a cap of $25,000. Proponents of the bill have argued that higher penalties are required as a deterrent to the unreasonable denial of claims, while opponents of the bill argue that there is no data suggesting widespread unreasonable denial of claims and suggest that the penalties will create an incentive to litigate claims and penalties unrelated to any need to curb employer practices.
The bill’s continued development can be tracked more closely here: https://legiscan.com/CA/rollcall/SB335/id/1104695
SB 788: APPORTIONMENT DISCRIMINATION BILL PASSES ASSEMBLY WITH AMENDMENTS
A bill that would amend Labor Code 4663 to prohibit consideration of race, religious creed, color, national origin, gender, marital status, sex, sexual identity, or sexual orientation in findings of apportionment passed the Assembly on 7/1/2021 after it was amended to remove prohibition of consideration of age-related and genetic factors in the assignment of apportionment. The bill is now returned to the Senate for further vote. It can be tracked here: https://legiscan.com/CA/bill/SB788/2021
INDUSTRIAL COVID CLAIMS DECLINE IN JUNE
According to the California Workers’ Compensation Institute there have been 147,758 COVID claims reported through 7/12/2021, and 1,012 death claims. The 612 claims reported in June of 2021 are the lowest since March of 2020 and down from the high of 43,109 claims reported in December of 2020. Healthcare as an industry continues to make up the majority of the claims, representing 31.1% of all claims. Public Safety (17.4%), Retail (10.4%), Manufacturing (7.5%) Transportation (6.5%), and Food Services (4.6%) are the other sectors of industry representing the majority of the claims. A link to several interactive graphs and the references cited for the statistics is available at: https://www.cwci.org/CV19claims.html
DWC TO REOPEN PUBLIC COUNTERS AT DISTRICT OFFICES AS OF JULY 26, 2021
The public counters at all district offices will again be open to assist the public with information, assistance, and in-person filings. The DWC will also reopen the Return-to-Work Supplement kiosks and have Information and Assistance officers onsite in most locations to assist injured workers with any questions. The DWC continues to encourage those who can submit documents by e-filing or the JET filing system to use those methods due to onsite staff shortages. The district offices will not be holding in-person hearings or accepting documents on a “walk-through” basis at this time, and the DWC has not advised as to whether that will change in the near future. The full story can be found here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2021/2021-76.html
This Bulletin was written by Jim Cotter, Senior Partner in our Oakland office.