The California Workers’ Compensation Institute has filed an amicus brief with the 4th District Court of Appeal arguing that the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) “judicially rewrote” a statutory cap on temporary disability duration when it awarded benefits to an injured worker more than five years after the injury occurred.
After sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Pike received temporary disability benefits from September 2015 to August 2016 for an injury that happened in July 2010, a debate on the five-year limit was ignited. The WCAB, which granted Pike the benefits, claims that in cases like Pike’s, involving a Petition to Reopen for New and Further Disability, benefits can be awarded more than five years from the date of injury.
However, San Diego County, along with one of the WCAB commissioners, disagrees with this decision. Instead, the County believes the law expressly limits any benefits beyond five years and is not open to interpretation, and that the WCAB has exceeded its power by issuing Pike these benefits. While the WCI has agreed with the county, the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association intends to come out in support of Pike, according to the co-chairman.
Prior to 2004, injured workers were limited to 240 weeks of temporary disability benefits within five years of the date of injury. Lawmakers changed that as part of the reforms in Senate Bill 899, which allowed workers to receive 104 weeks of TD benefits during a two-year period that starts with the first payment.
Whichever way this ruling goes, it will surely make an impact on temporary disability cases in the future.