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Calif. workers comp claims involving an attorney cost more: Analysis

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More than 11.6% of all California workers compensation claims and 80% of claims for permanent disability benefits involve attorneys, resulting in significantly higher costs compared with claims in which attorneys are not involved, according the California Workers' Compensation Institute.

Oakland, Calif.-based CWCI released a study Wednesday that analyzed attorney involvement in workers comp claims from 2005 through 2010.

The study found that California temporary disability claims that involved an attorney resulted in an average of $30,319 in benefits and expenses, compared with $5,598 for such claims without attorneys. About 6.6% of temporary disability claims in the state include litigation, CWCI said.

Permanent disability claims involving attorneys, or 80% of permanent disability claims in the state, resulted in an average of $66,208 in benefits and expenses for the period. That compares with $25,300 for such claims that did not involve attorneys.

Time away from work because of disability also was substantially higher for California workers comp claims involving attorneys, CWCI said. Indemnity claims involving attorneys in the state had an average of 122.8 paid temporary disability days compared with an average of 30.6 paid temporary disability days for claims without attorneys.

CWCI also noted that claims involving an attorney can be slow to close. As of Jan. 1, 2013, only about 72% of indemnity claims with attorney involvement for the 2005-2010 period were closed and resolved, the report said.

“California lawmakers have enacted major workers compensation reforms on multiple occasions, usually with the stated intent of reducing friction and expense within the system,” CWCI said in the analysis. “Yet, despite those efforts, the litigation rate has nearly doubled for all workers compensation claims, and more than tripled for claims involving lost time.”