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What Is AB 221?

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Workers’ compensation exists to help injured workers cover their medical expenses and lost wages after suffering an illness or injury on the job. Many people do not realize that most states’ workers’ compensation laws also cover “cumulative” injuries that develop over time, such as herniated spinal discs from consistent bending and lifting, and carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive typing. Illness from continuous exposure to harmful substances or environments may also lead to workers’ compensation claims.

When an injured employee files a workers’ compensation claim, he can typically expect to collect compensation for his immediate medical expenses and lost income due to his injuries. Depending on how the injury or illness came about, the injured worker may be able to secure additional compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, product liability claim, or another third-party claim.

The Reasoning Behind the Bill

Employers typically dread workers’ compensation claims because they often cause the premiums on their workers’ compensation insurance policies to increase. California Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) recently introduced Assembly Bill 221, which would greatly lower the burden placed on employers providing medical treatment to injured workers. This new bill has sparked controversy, because it will also make obtaining benefits for some cumulative injuries and occupational diseases much more difficult. If passed, the bill would take effect on January 1, 2018 and pertain to all workers’ compensation claims filed on or after that date.

The bill proposes several changes to the labor code stipulating acceptable claims and referral practices. The text of the bill states that employers would only have liability to pay for the treatment of cumulative injuries and occupational illnesses if certain criteria are satisfied. One of those criteria is that the employer must authorize the treatment. Other criteria include:

  • The employer must acknowledge the injury being treated.
  • The appeals board must find the treated injury compensable.
  • The injured employee has been evaluated by a qualified medical examiner and the examiner must conclude that the injured party’s employment caused (in whole or in part) the occupational illness or cumulative injury.

Workers’ compensation systems are strained by extraneous and fraudulent claims, and the state of California has passed various legislative measures to combat workers’ compensation and health care fraud. AB 221 takes aim at curbing extraneous claims and lightening the burden on employers, but it may make claiming workers’ compensation benefits much more difficult for injured employees.

What You Should Do

The proposed changes, while intended to encourage good faith practices in workers’ compensation cases, will make it much harder for injured employees to receive workers’ compensation benefits for injuries and illnesses that develop over time. These are typically the most difficult cases when it comes to workers’ compensation claims because the injured or ill parties must prove that their conditions definitively resulted from work.

An attorney can be a tremendous asset when navigating any type of workers’ compensation claim, especially in light of the recent developments in California state law. If AB 221 passes, many injured and sick workers could have difficulty receiving appropriate treatment.

Find a legal team with a proven track record of success in workers’ compensation cases to handle your claim. Cumulative injuries and occupational illnesses may be some of the most difficult conditions to prove resulted from on-the-job actions, but they typically take the largest toll on workers’ well-being. Protect your rights with strong legal representation.