Date of Injury

Gravlin v. City of Vista (BPD) (2017 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.d. LEXIS 413)

 

The Appeals Board affirmed the WCJ’s finding that applicant’s employment as a firefighter caused one single cumulative injury in the form of skin cancer and heart condition/hypertension, causing a combined permanent disability is 74%.

 

The WCAB rejected defendant’s assertion that applicant had two separate dates of injury pursuant to Labor Code §5412, one for his heart/hypertension and another to his skin in the form of skin cancer.

 

Defendant argued for two different dates of injury because applicant’s condition became permanent and stationary for each of the injuries at a different time. The WCAB held that when separate disabilities arise out of a single injury they are rated together, even if those disabilities do not become permanent stationary at the same time. The WCAB held that generally where employee suffers contemporaneous injury to different body parts over extended periods of time, employee has suffered one cumulative injury.

 

That there can be separate periods of cumulative injury over extended employment, if the employment caused compensable temporary or permanent disability, followed by returned to work and new an additional temporary permanent or temporary disability.

 

The WCAB held there was no evidence in this case establishing separate periods of disability.

 

Although the applicant continued to work until 2005 there was no evidence that the applicant suffered any new injurious exposure after he was declared permanent and stationary in 2002.

  1. Gonzalez v. Jezowski & Markel Contractors (BPD) (44 CWCR 137):

 

The applicant last worked his duties on November 22, 2013, prior to which time he had obtained medical treatment. The applicant indicated he stopped working on that date because of back pain. The applicant’s job duties included frequent bending and lifting heavy objects. The applicant testified that the physicians could not identify the cause of his back pain, although he had, on his own, form the opinion that his back pain was caused by his work.

 

Applicant had back surgery on March 14, 2014, and in May 2014 the physician who performed the surgery confirmed that applicant’s injury was work related.

 

Parties used an Agreed Medical Evaluator who concluded that because applicant’s exposure, albeit on modified duties, continued through November 25, 2013, that was the date of injury.

 

The arbitrator reasoned the date of injury was the final date worked on full duty, and in a Findings and Award, dated July 23, 2015, found the applicant’s cumulative trauma date of injury was November 22, 2013.  The injury caused permanent disability of 37%, with indemnity payable total amount of $41,400.

 

Applicant sought reconsideration contending the date of injury was May 2014, when medical opinion confirmed the applicant’s disability was caused by his work.

 

The WCAB indicated that date of injury for a continuous trauma is determined by Labor Code §5412, which states the date of injury in cumulative trauma cases is the date on which the employee’s suffered disability and knew, or reasonably should have known, that said disability was caused by work.

 

Under the case law, the panel indicated that medical opinion is important but not dispositive in establishing employee’s knowledge of industrial injury.

 

The WCAB, citing City of Fresno (Johnson) (50 CCC 53), in the absence of medical opinion confirming industrial injury, an employee is not usually charged with knowledge that the disability was work-related.  Johnson recognized, however, an exception where the nature of the disability in the employees training, intelligence or qualifications is such that an employee should have known that the disability was caused by work.

 

Applying the law to the facts of this case the WCAB found that low back pain was not an exotic disease that required expert opinion to determine causation. The panel noted that applicant’s testimony was not entirely consistent as the date of knowledge of industrial disability, but, on balance, it appeared the applicant relied on the doctors regarding the cause of his back disability and surgery.

 

The WCAB reversed the Arbitrator found that the date of injury was May 2014.

 

The WCAB seemed to be saying that although the applicant was of the opinion his back condition was work-related it was only when he had the reliable conclusion made by a doctor that the date of knowledge occurred.

 

Editor’s note from the CWCR indicated there was no discussion of the case law distinction between the date of injury and §5412 and the time of injury when the injured worker incurs compensable disability as a result of his work exposure. These issues involve the case of Dickow (38 CCC 664) and Van Voorhis (39 CCC 137) which conclude that for the purposes of determining compensation rate and earnings the first date of compensable disability which this case would have been November 2013. The WCAB does not discuss this issue.

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