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Industry Insights

Grinberg: Legislature Proposes Psyche Presumption for LEOs, Firefighters

  • State: California

You know what California really needs? We need a strong lobby group that will protect our most precious and marginalized citizens — a lobby group to look after the interests of those who are rarely thanked, often forgotten and frequently subject to abuse.

Gregory Grinberg

Gregory Grinberg

I am speaking, of course, of the workers’ compensation defense attorneys and adjusters.

Perhaps if we mobilized our numbers, marched with our heads held high, and demanded that our contribution and suffering be recognized, we could finally … no one is buying this, are they?

While we on the defense side do not have a strong lobbying group, it looks like the advocates for police and firefighters are diligently and zealously pushing protection laws through the Legislature.

I bring to your attention Senate Bill 542, introduced by Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park.

In addition to the various presumptions already enjoyed by peace officers, SB 542 would now add Section 3212.15 to the Labor Code, expanding the scope of “injury” to include post-traumatic stress disorder or mental health disorder as described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or the American Psychiatric Association.

Speaking as a citizen, is this really necessary? Of course, law enforcement officers and firefighters are exposed to serious, dangerous events. They are tasked with running into the danger as the rest of us are running away from it. At the same time, they are specifically trained for these dangerous activities and are equipped, whether with physical tools or mental preparation, to address these issues.

That’s not to say that it is impossible or even unlikely that an LEO or a firefighter cannot sustain psychiatric injuries. But when they sustain them, why should the burden of proof be lower than for non-peace officer?

There are already enough cynics who look at our workers’ compensation system and regard it as a second retirement package. Some practitioners even go so far as to suggest that some claimants keep their intent to retire secret and file workers’ compensation claims at the end of their careers to boost their retirement income.

As one reader suggested to me in a recent email, this is particularly the situation with longshore cases.

If an LEO or a firefighter sustains a psychiatric injury as the result of work activities, let him or her make the claim and approach it like any other claimant. At least, that’s what I would propose. But then again, it has been awhile since the Legislature of California darkened my doorstep seeking my wisdom.

Gregory Grinberg is a workers' compensation defense attorney at the Law Office of Gregory Grinberg, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. This post is reprinted with permission from Grinberg's WCDefenseCA blog.

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