A BREAK ON THE HORIZON

This month California has been wet, to say the least.  An unrelenting series of storms has pounded our state since the end of December, leaving no part of California untouched.  As we have endured, the term “atmospheric river” has become yet another word added to our ever-expanding weather-related vocabulary.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center, nearly all of California has seen above average rainfall over the past several weeks, with totals between 400 to 600 percent above average values.

As the rain continues to fall, California’s reservoir levels have generally seen a steep rise.  Even more promising, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which accounts for about 30 percent of the state’s water supply, stood at more than 174 percent of the usual average for this time of year, according to the state Department of Water Resources (DWR).

Although more rain is coming, a break appears to be on the horizon, with weather forecasters calling for drier days ahead.

We at Mullen & Filippi hope that you, your family and friends have stayed safe throughout these trying times and enjoy the break that lies ahead!

DWC ANNOUNCES MILEAGE RATE INCREASE

On January 3, 2023, the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) announced that the mileage reimbursement rate for medical-legal travel expenses was increased from 62.5 cents to 65.5 cents per mile effective January 1, 2023.

In its announcement, the DIR noted that the increased rate must be paid for travel on or after January 1, 2023, regardless of the date of injury.

The mileage reimbursement rate is tied to the rate state workers are paid for travel, which is based on the Internal Revenue Service’s mileage rate.

According to a recent WorkCompCentral article, the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) reported that the “steep increase in the cost of gasoline earlier this year spurred both the … increase in the standard mileage rate, as the IRS bases its adjustments on results of a study of fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile, which includes gasoline depreciation … Although the price of gasoline has recently come down from record highs, apparently those declines either took place after the latest increase was calculated or failed to offset the steep increases recorded earlier.”

Mileage Rate for Medical and Medical-Legal Travel Expenses Increases Effective January 1, 2023 | California Department of Industrial Relations

Mileage Reimbursement Rate Climbs to 65.5 Cents

DWC OPENS REGISTRATION FOR ANNUAL EDUCATIONAL CONFERENCE

Last month, the DWC announced that registration for its 30th annual educational conference is open.  The conference will take place at the Oakland Marriott City Center Hotel on March 9-10, 2023, and at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott on March 23-24, 2023.

According to the DIR, the annual event is the largest workers’ compensation training in the state and allows participants to learn about recent developments in the system.

The DWC has applied for continuing educational credits for attorneys, case managers, and rehabilitation counselors, among others.

DWC Opens Registration for 30th Annual Educational Conference | California Department of Industrial Relations

WCIRB: LITIGATION AND LATE REPORTING MORE COMMON FOR POST-TERMINATION CT CLAIMS

According to the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB), cumulative trauma (CT) claims, particularly those involving the post-termination defense, tend to be reported later and are more likely to necessitate ongoing litigation than specific injury claims.

A recent WorkCompCentral article notes that nearly 20% of non-COVID-19 claims filed in 2020 involved CT-type injuries.  Although CT filings increased throughout the state, the greatest increases occurred in the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions.

During a webinar earlier this month, the WCIRB Executive Vice President and Chief Actuary, Dave Bellusci, said that the WCIRB estimates that cumulative trauma claims account for about $3 billion in claim costs.  According to Mr. Bellusci, 40% of CT claims are filed on a post-termination or post-employment basis, despite Labor Code Section 3600(a)(10) statutory prohibition on post-termination claims.  Mr. Bellusci said, “we know CT claims are reported later, stay open longer, have more frictional costs, but (post-termination) CT claims – more even than regular CT claims – are reported later, open longer and have more frictional costs.”

Applicants sometimes receive medical treatment for cumulative trauma type injuries before being terminated from their employment, which allows them to defeat the post-termination defense.  However, many applicants avoid the bar on post-termination claims because they do not become aware that their disability resulted from their work until after they have been discharged.

According to the WCIRB, about half of post-termination claims involve the manufacturing sector.  Other common sectors, which account for between 5% to 6% of post-termination CT claims, involve warehousing, hospitality, retail, transportation, and clerical-type jobs.

As noted by WorkCompCentral, Julie Zhang, Vice President of Data Analytics for the WCIRB, said that “the industry sector pattern for post-termination CT claim potentially reflects the impacts of economic changes, such as the closure of a larger manufacturing factory or layoffs at hotels and restaurants.”

CT claims also have higher costs for medical-legal and medical liens in comparison to specific injuries.  Payments for medical-legal services are similar with CT type injuries and those involving the post-termination defense.  However, payments for medical supplies and equipment are almost double on post-termination claims and payments for interpreting services are almost triple on post-termination claims.  According to Lucy Chen, a Senior Data Analyst at the WCIRB, the increased costs may be because post-termination claims are typically reported late.  The “significant difference really ties back to the potentially higher litigation on post-termination CT claims, and the nature of these claims being filed after the termination of employment,” she said.

WCIRB: Litigation, Late Reporting More Prominent for Post-Termination CT Claims

This Bulletin was written by Steve Rosendin, Associate Partner in our San Francisco office.  A copy of this Bulletin and the most current twelve months is available on our website at www.mulfil.com/bulletins.

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