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Distinct Injuries Get Separate Compensation, Court Says

February 18, 2009
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Related Topics: Workers' Compensation, Health and Wellness, Policies and Procedures, Compensation, Latest News
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A California appellate court has ruled that simultaneous but distinct industrial injuries must be compensated separately rather than combined to settle a permanent-disability case.

The ruling Tuesday by California’s 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco in the closely followed case of Diane Benson v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, the court upheld a 2004 reform measure regarding claims apportionment.

It also upheld a workers’ comp board finding that granted Benson a total of $49,210 for two awards stemming from neck injuries that each caused a 31 percent permanent disability.

The file clerk for Permanente Medical Group suffered a “specific neck injury” on June 3, 2003, as well as a “cumulative trauma injury” through that date, according to court records.

Benson had argued that she is entitled to $67,000 because she suffers a 62 percent combined permanent disability from both injuries.

The difference between the compensation Benson sought and the board’s award stemmed from a “nonlinear benefit schedule,” court records state.

“We agree with the board that a system of apportionment based on causation requires that each distinct industrial injury be separately compensated based on its individual contribution to a permanent disability,” the appellate court ruled.

Filed by Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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