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Cumulative trauma claims in California under the microscope

Posted On: Dec. 20, 2016 2:02 PM CST

Cumulative trauma claims in California under the microscope

An analysis of 649,000 workers compensation claims in California shows that physical or mental injuries that arise over time from repetitive stress, motion or exposures cost 53% more than claims that stem from a specific event or accident.

The Oakland, California-based California Workers’ Compensation Research Institute on Monday released the study, which it said was spurred by an earlier report released in October by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau that found cumulative trauma cases — those involving injuries that arise over time — have doubled in the state over the past decade.

For its own research, the institute examined 41,000 cumulative trauma claims and 608,000 non-cumulative-trauma claims that received workers’ comp benefits between 2005 and 2013. In addition to higher costs, the findings state that:

• Ninety-one percent of the cumulative trauma, lost-time claims involved an attorney, which was twice the attorney involvement rate for all other claims. For medical-only cases for cumulative trauma, attorney involvement occurred in 80% of claims; four times that for injuries involving a specific event.

• Cumulative trauma cases involved a higher percentage of injuries to multiple body parts and mental disorders.

• Cumulative trauma cases were most prevalent in the manufacturing sector.

• Workers claiming cumulative trauma were 10 times more likely to claim other injuries.

Earlier this year, the bureau reported that cumulative trauma claims as a percentage of California workers’ compensation lost-time cases had more than doubled over the past decade, climbing to about 18% of all indemnity cases in 2015, according to the institute’s report.