Workers’ Compensation Bill SB 863 – New Legislation

The recently passed workers’ compensation bill SB 863 (full text available here) will significantly change the current workers’ compensation system in California. This new law is designed to decrease litigation costs to employers.

The attorneys of Adelson, Testan, Brundo & Jimenez are already familiar with the changes in SB 863, which will be implemented on a rolling basis over the next two years.

SB 863 offers modifications that are projected to save millions of dollars in workers’ compensation expenses.  Briefly, some of the changes are:

  • The lien system will see a major overhaul. The lien filing fee has been reinstituted at $150. The statute of limitations is now 18 months from the date of service, and liens will not be permitted for treatment disputes that should be handled through Independent Medical Review (IMR). This reduces the cost to the defense while ensuring that truly injured workers can access care timely and within the existing system.
  • There will no longer be permanent disability add ons for psychological, sexual, or sleep disorders arising from a physical injury, except for catastrophic injury or violent act claims. Though in most cases, treatment for these disorders is still required as part of a legitimate workers’ compensation claim for other injury, costs for the defense will be reduced through the removal of the add on treatment packages.
  • The old system of AME/QME review is changing, so that IMR will be mandatory in almost all treatment disputes, and the decision of the Independent Medical Reviewer will be final, limiting expenses related to endless court appeals.

These reforms, in particular the lien system changes and the IMR process, is projected to reduce the backlog of unnecessary and fatuitous litigation that is currently clogging the workers’ compensation system.

Contact Adelson, Testan, Brundo & Jimenez for seminars on SB 863.

Tips to Avoid Costly Employers’ Liability for Distracted Driving

Every year, distracted driving injures or kills hundreds of thousands of people in the United States. Activities such as eating, checking maps, and talking or texting on cell phones while driving are dangerous for any driver, but, for those driving commercial vehicles, the risk of doing harm to someone else while distracted increases tremendously.

The size, weight, and longer stopping distance of commercial vehicles mean that only a second of driver distraction can result in a life changing accident for the driver and those sharing the road. Unfortunately, not all commercial drivers have gotten the message, but the Workers’ Compensation attorneys of Adelson, Testan, Brundo & Jimenez are working to change that.

The Distraction Is Worse Than Many Assume

In today’s world, multitasking is accepted as a way of life. In any environment, multitasking necessarily reduces an individual’s focus on any one task which, in turn,  increases the chances of errors.  Statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation confirm:

  • In 2010, 18% of all crashes involving an injury involved reported distraction.
  • Those using hand held devices such as cell phones and audio players while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a crash that causes injury.
  • The risk of a crash increases by 23 times over focused driving when the driver is text messaging.

Clearly, no matter how accustomed one is to multitasking, it is not possible to drive safely while distracted.

Employers of Commercial Drivers Must be Diligent

In many cases, the regulation of commercial driver behavior is stricter than that of other drivers. For example, commercial drivers using handheld cell phones can face fines of up to $3,000 and lose their commercial driver’s license and fines to the employer can be as much as $11,000 per incident. Nevertheless, crashes involving distracted commercial drivers are frequent. Employers of commercial drivers must be aware of employee behavior while employees are behind the wheel of company vehicles, since employers can be held liable for an employee’s distracted driving. The consequences of not so doing can be severe:

  • Employers can be held responsible for paying worker’s compensation for workers injured due to distracted driving, which might not be insurable.
  • Negligence per se can be established against the employer of a distracted driver, leading to punitive damages.
  • Employers found grossly negligent may face additional fines, costs, and license revocations arising from a distracted driving incident.

ATB: Working to Solve the Problem

The Law Offices of Adelson, Testan, Brundo & Jimenez takes distracted driving seriously. As experienced workers’ compensation defense attorneys, we work with employers to protect their businesses against exposure to distracted driving by employees and the costs associated with workers’ compensation litigation. Employers can take steps to mitigate the business risks of employee distracted driving, including updating company policies and manuals to include unambiguous language concerning the use of electronic devices while driving, using technology to monitor and control employee driving habits, and communicating regularly with employees about expectations for vehicle use. These steps can not only help shield transportation businesses in a workers’ compensation defense case, but reduce the chances of an incident proactively.