California Workers’ Compensation Law Update – Part II

The recent bills signed into law by Governor Newsom will continue to impact workers’ compensation claims in California moving forward into the new year, 2023. All workers in the state of California should keep an eye on new laws that are going into effect for the upcoming year so that they can stay informed of their legal rights. 

If you become injured at work or suffer a work-related illness, be sure that the workers’ compensation attorney you hire understands how the new 2023 laws may impact your workers’ compensation claim. Since changes in the law occur frequently, it is crucial to remain up to date regarding any substantial changes.

California Lawyers for Workers’ Compensation Claims

At the Law Office of Kneisler and Schondel, we know how devastating work injuries can be—not just for the injured worker, but also for their family. Attorney Matthew A. Schondel has decades of experience helping injured workers obtain the benefits that they deserve. 

The entire legal team at the Law Office of Kneisler and Schondel is dedicated to fighting for the legal rights of workers hurt on the job. We understand that you want to return to work as soon as possible while not missing out on lost wages as you recover from your illness or injury. Our team is here to help you get back on track after a work injury and to help you obtain all the workers’ compensation benefits that you are eligible for throughout this process.

If your claim for workers’ compensation benefits is initially denied, it does not necessarily mean that you do not have a valid workers’ compensation claim. Depending on the facts of your case, a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer might be able to turn things around for you and your case. To learn more about what we can do to help you fight for benefits, contact us today to schedule a consultation with our office.

Senate Bill 1127 and Its Impact on California Workers’ Compensation Laws

In September 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1127 into law. The new legislation will be going into effect beginning on January 1, 2023. 

However, some aspects of this law are retroactive, meaning that the new laws could also impact older cases that have already been filed. It is always a good idea to talk to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to get a better understanding of how new laws could impact an existing case.

One of the most significant changes to workers’ compensation law in California for the upcoming year involves changes to temporary disability benefits in certain cases. Since this is one of the most important benefits for injured workers, having an understanding of the upcoming changes is beneficial for any worker.

What Are Temporary Disability Benefits?

Injured workers may be eligible for temporary disability benefit payments if they are unable to work because of their injury and lose wages due to their injury. These payments are usually issued weekly or bi-weekly.

The amount of money an injured worker typically receives in temporary total disability benefits while recovering from their work injury or illness is two-thirds of their usual average weekly wage. This amount is calculated based on pre-tax (gross) earnings and is based on their earnings for the year leading up to the date of their work injury or illness. 

However, each person’s temporary total disability benefit rate is subject to state minimum and maximum rates. Your workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand more about how the minimum or maximum rate could impact your case, if applicable.

An injured worker becomes eligible for temporary total disability benefits when their treating physician determines that they cannot perform their usual job duties for more than three days, or if the injury causes the need for an overnight hospitalization. In general, temporary total disability payments cease once the injured worker can return to work in some capacity.

Temporary total disability payments will also end when the injured worker’s treating physician determines that the injured worker can either go back to work or has reached maximum medical improvement. A determination of maximum medical improvement (MMI) means that the injured worker’s condition has improved to the extent that it can, and generally, no further treatment will be beneficial.

Changes to Temporary Disability Benefits for Peace Officers and Firefighters

With Senate Bill 1127 going into effect in January of 2023, a major change related to workers’ compensation benefits includes an increase in the length of time that people in certain jobs remain eligible for temporary total disability benefits. This change is applicable for presumptive injuries for public safety employees which are caused by certain illnesses, such as the types of cancer set forth in the California Labor Code. 

Under the new laws, certain California firefighters and peace officers are eligible for an increase in the total number of weeks they are eligible to receive temporary total disability benefits. They will now be entitled to receive up to 240 weeks of benefits. This represents an increase from the maximum 104 weeks of temporary disability that are available for other injured workers. Further, this increase in eligible weeks applies without any limitations regarding the time from the official date of injury or illness. For this section to apply, however, the peace officer or firefighter must be making a claim for benefits in connection with an injury related to cancer.

While there are some provisions of the California Labor Code that limit the period for collecting temporary disability benefits to five years from the date of injury or illness, Senate Bill 1127 does not have this limit for injuries to public safety personnel who suffer from injuries/illnesses that are related to cancer. It is always helpful to seek the guidance of a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer who is up to date with new developments in the law that impact workers’ compensation claims.

Increase In Minimum and Maximum Temporary Total Disability Benefits for 2023

Workers’ compensation benefits for temporary total disability are reviewed annually by the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). The DWC establishes a minimum and a maximum temporary total disability rate that provides a lower and upper limit for what injured workers are eligible to receive. While this is a standard change that happens every year, it is still something worth taking note of.

In accordance with Labor Code Section 4453(a)(10), the minimum and maximum weekly earnings used to calculate TTD are increased at a rate equal to the percentage increase in the California state average weekly wage as compared to the previous year. For the upcoming year, the minimum TTD rate will be set at $242.86 per week (up from $230.95), while the maximum TTD rate will be set at $1,619.15 per week (up from $1,539.71).

What Will Happen to My TTD Benefits if My Work Injury Is Permanent?

In some cases, a work-related injury or illness may cause an injured worker to suffer permanent disability. A permanent disability is considered any long-term disability that causes the worker to suffer permanent functional impairment to body part(s) or systems, sometimes resulting in a reduced earning capacity.

These injured workers may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. Since permanent disability benefits are different and paid under different circumstances, the changes to California workers’ compensation law made with the enactment of Senate Bill 1127 generally will not apply. Your California workers’ compensation attorney can help you learn more about whether your workers’ compensation case could involve compensation for permanent disability. 

Do I Need to Hire a California Workers’ Compensation Lawyer to Handle My Case?

Although there is no requirement that a workers’ compensation case must be handled by an attorney—regardless of how complex it is—having an attorney on your side can substantially improve the outcome of your case. Since many workers’ compensation lawyers work on a contingency-fee basis, there are typically no up-front charges to worry about, since your lawyer will not be paid until your case is resolved.

The Law Office of Kneisler and Schondel does not charge for consultations with potential clients, and workers’ compensation claim cases are handled on contingency. We will only receive payment in the event there is a settlement or an award made after trial. To find out more about how we can help you move forward with your claim for workers’ compensation benefits, reach out to our office through our website form or give us a phone call at (707) 542-5132