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Catastrophic Remains Undefined?

Happy Wednesday, dear readers!

As you will recall, SB-863 saw an amendment to the psyche claim business – pursuant to section 4660.1, there is to be no increase in permanent disability due to a compensable consequence psyche claim unless the injured worker was either the victim of violence, exposed to significant violence, or if the applicant sustained a catastrophic injury.

In classic theatrical style, the legislature left a lot of space for imagination, speculation, and (my favorite) litigation! What-oh-what did they mean by catastrophic injury?

Well, the panel cases to date have not been particularly helpful.  Everyone seems to be settling or, at least, not appealing the “catastrophic injury” question.

Recently, the WCAB reversed a WCJ’s rating based on a compensable psyche claim specifically because the issue of whether the underlying injury was violent or catastrophic was not addressed.

In Bevington v. County of Mariposa, the WCJ awarded applicant additional permanent disability based on a psyche rating, and defendant appealed arguing that a compensable consequence can only be awarded in accordance with LC 4660.1, as above.

In this particular case, the mechanism of injury was squatting, resulting in injury to the applicant’s knee.

The WCAB instructed the WCJ to develop the record and issue a ruling on whether or not the injury was catastrophic.  Unfortunately, the WCAB offered as much guidance on this point as the legislature did – how is one to determine whether or not an injury is catastrophic?  The mechanism? The effects on the body? The effects on the injured worker’s life and status and future?

For all of us sitting on the sidelines, this is a case to watch and a question to be answered.  For the parties in the trenches, this is likely a case to settle.  And the world will continue to speculate as to what catastrophic means.

If you’ve got any panel decisions that define the term – please send them to your humble blogger!

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