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The year 2019 is quickly coming to a close, and 2020 is upon us. In the new year, there will be some changes in the area of workers’ compensation law that California workers should be aware of. If you have any questions regarding how these changes may impact your current workers’ compensation case, it is worthwhile to speak with an experienced California workers’ compensation lawyer.

The California workers’ compensation attorneys at Kneisler and Schondel can help you with your workers’ compensation claim. Our attorneys make sure to stay informed regarding any and all changes in the area of workers’ compensation law and are ready to help you take advantage of changes in the law that may positively impact your case. Give us a call today to schedule a meeting with one of our lawyers to discuss your potential workers’ compensation case.

An Increase in Workers’ Compensation Benefits Will Go into Effect in 2020

In California, workers’ compensation temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are calculated with consideration of California’s state average weekly wage. The state determines annual maximum and minimum TTD benefit rates based on the California state average weekly wage. 

Maximum TTD Benefit Rate Increase

Currently, the maximum TTD rate is $1,251.38 per week. This means that benefits are maxed out at this rate, even if the injured worker makes enough money that their benefits under the proper calculation would result in a figure greater than this. Beginning with cases with a date of injury of January 1, 2020, or later, the TTD maximum rate will increase to $1,299.43 per week.

Minimum Benefit Rate Increase

The increase in the California state average weekly wage will also impact the minimum TTD rate. The minimum rate for these benefits is currently $187.71 per week. Starting with injuries occurring on January 1, 2020, or later, the minimum TTD benefit rate will increase to $194.91.

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PD Benefit Rates

Currently, the maximum PD rate is $290.00 per week. The minimum PD rate is $160.00 per week. These rates will not change in 2020.

If your employer underpays the workers’ compensation benefits that you are owed, they may be liable for fees and penalties. For this reason, it is important for all California workers to be aware of this change so they can make sure that they are receiving the total amount of benefits to which they are entitled.

Worker Classification Changes—California Assembly Bill 5

California Assembly Bill 5 was signed into law in September 2019 and will take effect on January 1, 2020. This law addresses an issue that frequently pops up in the practice of workers’ compensation—the designation of employee versus independent contractor. The new law amends the California Labor Code and the Unemployment Insurance Code. Assembly Bill 5 codifies and expands the presumption that workers are employees. The law expressly adopts the “ABC” test, which classifies independent contractors as articulated by the California Supreme Court in 2018 in the case of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles

California Assembly Bill 5 will have the effect of limiting employers from classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Employees of a company are entitled to greater labor protections—along with being eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in the event of a workplace injury. Independent contractors lack many of the protections that employees have. Of particular importance here, independent contractors are not covered by California workers’ compensation law. This law stands to benefit some workers as it allows for a broader interpretation of the employee classification. When it goes into effect, employers will have a more challenging time denying workers’ compensation benefits on the basis that the worker is an independent contractor if the ABC test, as established in the Dynamex case, indicates a designation of an employee.

Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board—Proposed Changes to Rules

In September of 2019, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board held a meeting regarding proposed changes to the rules. The primary goal of these changes is to renumber and reorganize the rules to make things easier for all participants in the workers’ compensation system. Some substantive changes were also proposed, including a change to incorporate gender-neutral pronouns when possible. Another proposed change is that trial exhibits would be required to be filed twenty days prior to the trial date. The Appeals Board has also proposed a change to the procedures currently in place for adjudicating medical-legal expense disputes. There were also many other changes proposed to the rules, primarily in an effort to clarify previous rules.

If you have been injured at work and are considering filing a claim for workers’ compensation, contact the lawyers at Kneisler and Schondel as soon as possible. You can reach us at (707) 542-5132 or by filling out our online contact form. We would be happy to set up an appointment to discuss your potential case.