MICHAEL SULLIVAN & ASSOCIATES BLOG

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Posts about Workers' Compensation:

Understanding the Commercial Traveler Rule

Understanding the Commercial Traveler Rule

Under the commercial traveler rule, an employee traveling on the employer's business is regarded as acting within the course of employment during the entire period of his or her travel. Workers' compensation coverage applies to the travel itself and also to other aspects of the trip reasonably necessary for the sustenance, comfort and safety of the employee. But the commercial traveler rule does not cover all of an employee's activities. Personal activity not contemplated by the employer might constitute a material departure from the course of employment. (Latourette v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1998) 17 Cal. 4th 644, 652.)

WCAB Issues En Banc Decision
Regarding Application of Kite

WCAB Issues En Banc Decision
Regarding Application of Kite

In 2013, the WCAB held in Athens Administrators v. WCAB (Kite) that an injured worker's disabilities are not required to be combined using the Combined Values Chart (CVC). The WCAB explained that although the AMA guides favor the combined values method, "physicians may, under certain circumstances, employ a different method of determining impairment if they remain within the four corners of the AMA Guides."

For more than 10 years, Kite became shorthand for combining disabilities by simple addition. Although the case is not binding, such addition is a common method accepted for combining an injured worker's disabilities. Over the years, many cases have applied Kite, but none of the cases was binding nor did any fully elaborate on the circumstances when disabilities could be combined by addition, rather than by using the CVC. The cases also largely depended on how well the physicians explained their opinions.

The Initial Physical Aggressor Defense Under LC 3600(a)(7)

The Initial Physical Aggressor Defense Under LC 3600(a)(7)

Labor Code § 3600(a)(7) establishes the initial physical aggressor defense. It explains that a claim is not compensable when the injury arises "out of an altercation in which the injured employee is the initial physical aggressor." That defense embodies the legislative intent to exclude from compensation those who introduce violence into the workplace.

The types of behavior that are barred under the statute were defined in the seminal case of Mathews v. WCAB (1972) 6 Cal. 3d 719, in which the Supreme Court explained that former LC 3600(g), now LC 3600(a)(7), applies when two conditions are present. One, the injury must "arise out of an altercation." Two, the injured employee must be the "initial physical aggressor" in the altercation.

Understanding the Impact of California Minimum Wage Changes on TD Rates

Understanding the Impact of California Minimum Wage Changes on TD Rates

Effective April 1, 2024, the minimum wage for many California fast-food workers increased from $16 to $20 an hour. The changes were brought by Assembly Bill (AB) 1228, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 28, 2023. AB 1228 added Labor Code § 1474, § 1475 and § 1476. [1]

The change, of course, means that the average weekly wage (AWW) of employees — and, accordingly, the rates for indemnity payments — will increase. But the more poignant concern: Is there an increase for existing cases in which temporary disability is being paid out? After all, if a raise is expected and scheduled at the time of injury, that must be taken into account when establishing the AWW. Do existing claims need to be looked at now for a possible adjustment? The answer might well be yes.

Change of Treating Physician After Discharge from Care

Change of Treating Physician After Discharge from Care

Nearly one-quarter century ago, in Tenet/Centinela Hospital Medical Center v. WCAB (Rushing) (2000) 80 Cal. App. 4th 1041, the Court of Appeal held that when a treating physician has declared the employee's injury to be permanent and stationary, has released the employee to return to work and has prescribed no further doctor-involved treatment or visits, the employee did not have a right to change treating doctors just because future medical care was warranted. Instead, the court explained that the employee was required to comply with the provisions of California Code of Regulations, Title 8, § 9785(b), and Labor Code § 4061 and § 4062, to change primary treating doctors (PTPs).

Navigating WCAB's Recent Order on Frivolous Petitions: What Employers Need to Know

Navigating WCAB's Recent Order on Frivolous Petitions: What Employers Need to Know

When a party disputes an order, decision or award issued by a workers' compensation judge (WCJ), there are two options for appeal. Pursuant to Labor Code § 5900, a party may file a petition for reconsideration of a "final order, decision, or award made and filed by the appeals board or a workers' compensation judge." In contrast, LC 5310 states, "The appeals board may ... remove to itself, or transfer to a workers' compensation administrative law judge the proceedings on any claim." A petition for removal is the appropriate remedy for interim, nonfinal orders.

WCAB Issues Significant Panel Decision That It Will Continue to Follow Shipley

WCAB Issues Significant Panel Decision That It Will Continue to Follow Shipley

As discussed in an earlier Special Report,[1] for more than 30 years, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) relied on Shipley v. WCAB (1992) 7 Cal. App. 4th 1104 to decide petitions for reconsideration, even if it did not act timely on a petition pursuant to Labor Code § 5909. That statute states, "A petition for reconsideration is deemed to have been denied by the appeals board unless it is acted upon within 60 days from the date of filing." Based on Shipley, the WCAB generally held that if a petition was not considered within the time limit of LC 5909 due to the WCAB's own inadvertent error, it still may decide the merits of the petition, even if the 60-day time period has elapsed.

Exclusive Remedy Rule and Claims Against Co-Workers

Exclusive Remedy Rule and Claims Against Co-Workers

Under Labor Code § 3602, workers' compensation benefits are "the sole and exclusive remedy of the employee or his or her dependents against the employer" for work-related injuries. The purpose of the exclusive remedy rule is to protect the employer's side of the compensation bargain. Under that bargain, the employer assumes liability for industrial personal injury or death without regard to fault in exchange for limitations on the amount of that liability. The employee is given relatively swift and certain payment of benefits to cure or relieve the effects of industrial injury without having to prove fault. In exchange, he or she gives up the wider range of damages potentially available in tort.