As a general rule, injured workers in California can obtain workers’ compensation benefits if they can prove that their injury occurred within the course and scope of their employment. The “duty-belt” presumption is a specialized provision that flips the burden of proof in certain workers’ compensation claims involving first responders. Under California Labor Code § 3213.2, a police officer’s lower back injury is presumed to be work-related. There are a few common myths about how these types of claims actually work. Here, our California workers’ compensation defense attorney clears up three of the most common misconceptions about our state’s duty-belt presumption.

Myth #1: The Duty-Belt Presumption Applies to All Types of Police Officer Injuries/Illnesses

False. There is a relatively common misconception that any injury or illness suffered by a police officer automatically falls under workers’ compensation based on the duty-belt presumption. This is simply not true. The duty-belt presumption is specifically designed to address injuries that can be linked to the weight and design of a police officer’s duty belt. The equipment/tools carried on this belt can be heavy, and their distribution can place strain on specific areas of the body, particularly the back. However, if a police officer suffers from an illness or injury not associated with the weight or design of the duty belt, such as a respiratory illness, the duty-belt presumption does not apply.

Myth #2: A Police Officer With a Lower Back Injury Automatically Gets Workers’ Compensation

False. Employers have the right to defend the full range of police officer workers’ compensation claims, including lower back injury claims. While it is certainly true that the duty-belt presumption exists to address unique challenges posed by the weight and design of the duty belt on an officer’s lower back, it does not guarantee workers’ compensation. Each claim is assessed on its own merits. The duty-belt presumption is just that—a presumption. It shifts the burden of proof from the employee to the employer in police officer lower back injury workers’ compensation claims.

Myth #3: The Duty-Belt Presumption Applies as Soon as a Police Officer Joins the Force

False. Another common misconception is that as soon as someone becomes a police officer, they are covered by duty-belt presumption. This is not the case. In California, a person must have worked for at least five years in a qualifying position—police officer, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer, public university officer, etc.—in order to be covered by the duty-belt presumption. For example, if a police officer sustains a lower back injury within his or her first six months on the job, he or she is not covered by the duty-belt presumption.

Speak to Our California Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer Today

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation defense law firm provides solutions-forward legal representation. If you have any questions about our state’s duty-belt presumption, we are here as a legal resource. Give us a call now or connect with us online to arrange a fully private consultation. With office locations in Fresno, Bakersfield, and Sacramento, we defend duty-belt presumptions claims throughout the entire region.