Vast Workers' Compensation Changes Passed in California

On September 19, 2012, Governor Brown signed a new workers' comp law making vast changes to the workers' comp system. The new law calls for higher permanent disability payments to workers but changes many workers' comp processes in the name of reform and cost savings. Here are some of the specific changes that will affect injured workers most:

  • A higher minimum and maximum weekly rate will be phased in for permanent partial disability rates.
  • Permanent disability benefits are no longer increased or decreased by 15% depending on whether the employer offers an inured worker modified or alternative work.
  • Changes are being made to the permanent disability rating schedule for injuries after 1/1/13.
  • There are changes in the supplemental job displacement benefit (training voucher) as to the amount of the benefit and when it expires.
  • The laws regarding medical provider networks, the utilization review, the independent medical review system, and the role of qualified medical evaluators have changed substantially.
  • Advance payments of permanent disability are no longer required to be paid if the employee is offered a position that pays at least 85% of his or her wages at time of injury (that is, the insurance company can wait until an award of permanent disability is finalized before making PD payments).

Most of the changes take effect January 13, 2013, and at some point regulations will be published, further explaining some of the changes in the law.