California: Reforms have reduced attorney involvement in permanent disability claims
The California Workers' Compensation Institute analyzed more than 200,000 permanent disability claims to assess statewide and regional changes in attorney involvement, initial permanent disability benefit payment, claim closure rates and average claim payments following the implementation of Senate Bill 899 in April 2004. Compared to the pre-reform claim experience, researchers indicated that the latest post-reform data found that:
- Attorney involvement has declined slightly. The study found a reduction of 6.4 percent in the attorney involvement rate for permanent disability claims after the reforms were implemented.
- Speed of payments has increased. Researchers noted increases in the percentage of permanent disability claims that received at least one payment at 12, 24 and 36 months post injury.
- Claim closure rates have improved. The study found a relative increase of 33 percent in the claim closure rate for attorney involvement claims at 36 months of injury.
- Amount paid for claims three years after an injury have decreased. The study found a 6.5 percent reduction in the average amount paid on all permanent disability claims at 36 months postinjury. In addition, researchers found a 5 percent reduction in the average amount paid on attorney involvement claims.
However, researchers said that the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board's en banc decisions in Almaraz v. Environmental Recovery Services, Guzman v. Milpitas Unified School District, and Ogilvie v. City and County of San Francisco have given rise to concerns that the objectivity and consistency of the permanent disability rating system introduced by the reforms will be eroded.
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December 7, 2009
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