An Update on Recent California Workers’ Compensation Legislation:
Psychiatric/Psychological Disorders Affecting the Injured Worker
Limitations to Psychiatric/Psychological Disorders
In mid-January, at the author’s request, SB 626 (Beall; D-San Jose) was pulled from the hearing agenda for the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. Among other actions, SB 626 would have reversed SB 863’s elimination of certain psychiatric mental health disorders from consideration in workers’ comp disability ratings. Strong opposition stopped the bill. Both business groups and CalChamber argued that it would have a detrimental effect on job growth and that its passage would dramatically increase workers’ compensation costs. Although the bill as written did not pass, the measure could signal future efforts to revise some of the recent reforms.
Interpreting SB 863 and Labor Code section 4660.1
As we stay abreast of potential changes to SB 863, careful interpretation of the exact wording of the existing legislation remains essential for those of us in the workers compensation industry so that we may work with our clients. For example, Labor Code section 4660.1 revised the system of permanent disability compensation limiting “add on” allegations of sleep disorders, sexual disorders and psychological/psychiatric disorders to physical injury claims. Many of those injury claims involved orthopedic injuries.
However, although an injured worker may not be entitled to receive permanent disability for psychological/psychiatric conditions, the code preserves an injured worker’s right to receive treatment for them. Furthermore, an injured worker may still receive permanent disability compensation in other situations; for example, if primary injury is to the psyche, in cases of traumatic brain injury, and in cases where the psychological/psychiatric disorder directly results from an underlying industrial event that is inherently psychologically traumatic. And the code does not preclude an injured worker from receiving temporary disability compensation when he becomes temporarily totally disabled due to a compensable consequence psychological/psychiatric disorder. An in-depth analysis of SB 863 written by Charles R. Rondeau, a recently appointed Commissioner of the Workers’ Compensation Law Advisory Committee of the State Bar of California, is included here for your review as well. Again, careful analysis of this statute and consideration of its context within the larger body of law assists each of us in serving our clients.
Summary of Legislation (compiled by CWCI and related sites):
An overview of 2013 legislation affecting workers’ compensation
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