Vilkitis v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, California Polytechnic Institute State University, et al., No. B209235 (Cal. Ct. App. 06/18/09, unpublished).
In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal denied a professor's petition to combine his two permanent disability ratings into a single award.
What it means: In California, combining permanent disability percentages for different injuries is no longer permitted. The law requires physicians to consider each injury sustained, discount other causes, and apportion the injured worker's disability for cause to its source.
A professor sustained cumulative trauma to one knee while doing field work for the university. He later suffered a specific injury to the same knee. He filed separate applications for workers' comp benefits. The professor's qualified medical examiner evaluated and apportioned the injuries according to their cause. It was determined that the specific injury caused a 62 percent permanent disability and the cumulative trauma caused 14 percent. The professor would receive $68,057.50 if the awards were rated separately, but he would receive $100,165 plus a life pension if they were rated together. The professor argued that the permanent disability ratings should be merged into a single award. The Court of Appeal rejected his argument, reasoning that prior disabilities are presumed to still exist and must be apportioned out rather than calculated into the current injury. The court noted the employer is only responsible for the percentage of permanent disability caused by the work-related injury, as determined by a physician.
The court noted that physicians are required to "parcel out the direct cause of the disability, disconnect past injuries and any other causes, and apportion PD for cause." The Court of Appeal denied the professor's petition to merge the disability ratings.
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August 3, 2009
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