California employers are required to provide no-fault workers’ compensation benefits to their workers. State-mandated workers’ compensation insurance must offer coverage for two distinct injuries — specific and cumulative trauma. Whereas a specific injury is linked to an accident, cumulative trauma develops gradually over time.

For several different reasons, cumulative trauma claims are complicated. One way to defend this type of claim is by raising a statute of limitations challenge. To get workers’ compensation benefits for cumulative trauma, employees must take reasonably prompt action to bring a claim. Here, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense attorney discusses the statute of limitations defense.

Cumulative Trauma Defined

As a starting point, it is useful to clarify what ‘cumulative trauma’ actually means under California’s workers’ compensation laws. Under CA Labor Code Section 3208.1(b), cumulative trauma is an injury, occupational disease, or other medical condition that happens because of “repetitive events” in the workplace.

Though the condition cannot be linked to a single work-related accident, it can be linked to a workplace activity that puts repeated stress on the body. As an example, imagine that a worker spent years lifting boxes in a Fresno area warehouse. That employee may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits through a cumulative trauma claim if he or she developed a degenerative back ailment as a consequence of repetitive work.

Statute of Limitations Starts on the Date Employee Knew or Should Have Known

In California, workers’ compensation claims are subject to a one-year statute of limitations. Beyond an obligation to report injuries to their employer in a prompt manner, a worker has one year from the date of their accident to file a claim. Without specific injuries, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the incident.

Of course, in a cumulative trauma workers’ compensation claim, there is no one set date. Under California law (CA Labor Code Section 5412), the date of the injury for an occupational disease or other cumulative trauma ailment is the date on which the employee first “knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known” that the injury/medical condition was likely linked to their employment.

In defending a cumulative trauma workers’ compensation claim, an insurance company or claims administrator has the right to raise a statute of limitations defense. If an employee failed to act in the timeframe required by Labor Code Section 5412, then the claim can be dismissed on those grounds.

Call Our Fresno Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyers for Legal Guidance

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation defense lawyers are devoted to providing aggressive, practical representation to our clients. If you have questions about cumulative trauma claims and California’s statute of limitations, we are here to help. Contact us today to set up a strictly confidential, no obligation initial legal consultation. We serve WCAB locations throughout the entire region, including in Fresno, Sacramento, Redding, San Jose, Salinas, and San Luis Obispo.