California Workers’ Compensation Defense: Your Guide to Labor Code Section 4660.1

Businesses and non-profit organizations are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees. Through a workers’ compensation claim in California, an employee can seek benefits for job-related injuries. As noted by the state’s Division of Workers’ Compensation, “psychiatric injuries are compensable under California Law,”

However, under Labor Code Section 4660.1, a worker with a psychiatric injury cannot obtain permanent disability benefits unless certain specific criteria are satisfied. Our Bakersfield workers’ compensation defense lawyers provide a brief guide to psychiatric injuries and Section 4660.1 of the California Labor Code.

Background: Psychiatric Injuries May Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

California Labor Code Section 3208.3 allows an injured worker to claim benefits for psychiatric injuries. As described in the statute, this type of harm to an employee can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits “if it is a mental disorder which causes disability or need for medical treatment.” State law recognizes that stress in the workplace can cause both mental and physical harm to workers.

That being said, the regulations regarding psychiatric injuries have been tightened somewhat in California over the last decade. As a general rule, an employee cannot get workers’ compensation benefits for workplace stress related to a normal personnel action. Further, workers’ compensation applicants are required to produce comprehensive medical evidence in a psychiatric injury claim.

California Labor Code Section 4660.1 Limits Permanent Disability Benefits for Mental Health Issues

Labor Code Section 4660.1 was added to California law as part of a more comprehensive workers’ compensation reform package signed by, then Governor, Jerry Brown in 2012. Among other things, that work injury legislative reform package created a presumption that states that employees cannot get permanent disability benefits for a psychiatric injury. However, there are three key exceptions under Labor Code Section 4660.1. An injured employee may qualify for permanent disability benefits for a worked-related mental health impairment if any of the following three criteria are met:

  • The employee was the victim of a violent act in the workplace;
  • The employee was directly exposed to a serious violent act in the workplace place; or
  • The employee also sustained a catastrophic physical injury. 

Labor Code Section 4660.1 explicitly states that loss of limb, severe burns, and severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can all qualify as catastrophic injuries. An individual who sustained a severe burn injury in a work-related accident may be entitled to permanent disability benefits purely for their psychiatric injuries. However, without a violent act or a catastrophic physical injury, no permanent disability benefits are available for mental health injuries through a California workers’ compensation claim. 

Get Help From a Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer in Bakersfield, CA

At Yrulegui & Roberts, we are devoted to providing solutions-centered legal representation to our clients. If you have any questions about Labor Code Section 4660.1, we are more than happy to help. Call us now or send us a direct message for your strictly confidential case evaluation. We serve communities throughout the area, including in Bakersfield, Fresno, Sacramento, and Salinas.