When an employer lends an employee to another employer and both have the right to exercise certain powers of control over the worker, a "special employment" relationship arises. The employee can be held to have two employers — the original "general employer" and the second "special employer." If a special employment relationship is found to exist, both employers are jointly and severally liable for any injuries to the employee.
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Pursuant to Labor Code 5500.5(a) , liability for a cumulative trauma injury is limited to employers who employed the worker during the one-year period immediately preceding the date of injury (LC 5412), or the last exposure to the occupational hazard, whichever occurs first. Multiple employers or insurers can be liable for a cumulative trauma (CT) injury. An employee can choose to obtain an award for her or his entire CT injury from one or more employers for whom they have worked within the preceding year (LC 5500.5(c)).
The statute of limitations for pursuing death benefits is established in LC 5406. Except for LC 5406.5 and LC 5406.6 (which cover deaths from asbestos and HIV-related disease), proceedings for the collection of death benefits, per LC 5406(a), may be commenced one year from:
- the date of death when it occurs within one year from date of injury;
- the date of last furnishing of any compensation benefits, when death occurs more than one year from the date of injury; or
- the date of death, when death occurs more than one year after the date of injury and compensation benefits have been furnished.
Effective Jan. 1, 2022, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) amended its Rules of Practice and Procedure to permit electronic service, including via email. The Labor Code, however, previously recognized electronic service of a request for authorization (RFA) for medical treatment. Specifically, LC 4610(i)(1) states: "The request for authorization and supporting documentation may be submitted electronically under rules adopted by the administrative director."
On March 9, 2022, the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) announced that in-person hearings will resume starting March 21, 2022, at almost all of the DWC district offices. The only exceptions are Eureka, which is now a completely virtual office, and satellite locations Bishop, Marysville, Chico and Ukiah, which also will remain virtual.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has updated its Workers' Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) Reference Guide (Reference Guide). The latest version, Version 3.5, was published Jan. 10, 2022. The Reference Guide was updated to clarify the use of non-CMS-approved products to address future medical care.
It has long been recognized that an employee's ability to participate vocational retraining is a significant factor that must be considered in assessing the worker's permanent disability. (LeBoeuf v. WCAB (1983) 48 CCC 587, 597.) An employee's inability to compete in the open labor market could support an award of permanent total disability. Even though vocational rehabilitation was repealed and replaced with the supplemental job displacement benefit, in Ogilvie v. WCAB (2011) 76 CCC 624, the Court of Appeal held that an employee could still rebut a scheduled rating by establishing that he or she was not amenable to rehabilitation.
On June 1, 2021, the 6th Appellate District Court of Appeal certified for publication its decision in Applied Materials et al. v. WCAB.
In that case, the 6th District Court of Appeal issued a lengthy 73-page decision addressing multiple issues raised by the parties. However, the decision is most significant for two issues:
- Whether a worker's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arising from a treating physician's sexual misconduct is compensable under workers' compensation. It was.
- Whether the Fitzpatrick case was wrongly decided. Fitzpatrick was important as it had held that the WCJ may not use LC 4662 on its own to make a finding of total permanent disability. This case and its finding were affirmed.