In October of 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 542 into law. A workers’ compensation reform bill, the legislation created a rebuttable presumption that certain public safety employees diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a compensable industrial injury. Here, our California workers’ compensation defense attorneys provide a more comprehensive explanation of the key things to know about SB 542’s PTSD presumption.
The Presumption Applies to Firefighters and Certain Police Officers
SB 542 creates a workers’ compensation PTSD presumption for certain public safety employees. A section of the law lists the specific categories of employees that are covered by the presumption. Broadly speaking, the law is meant to cover firefighters and police officers who are engaged in active law enforcement activities.
The PTSD Presumption is Disputable
The bill signed by Governor Newsom added Labor Code Section 3212.15 to California’s workers’ compensation laws. Among other things, this section of the law states that post-traumatic stress disorder developed by a qualified public safety employee “shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment.”
In effect, this means that a firefighter or qualifying police officer who develops PTSD is assumed to have a valid workers’ compensation claim. State law presumes that their psychiatric injury is linked to their employment. That being said, the presumption is disputable. An insurer, claims administrator, or employer has the right to submit additional evidence that rebuts causation.
PTSD Presumption Holds for Three Months Per Year of Service (60-Month Maximum)
California law recognizes that PTSD may arise with a delayed onset. Under SB 542, a qualifying public safety employee is entitled to the disputable PTSD presumption following the end of their employment for up to three months per each year of service. As an example, a firefighter employed in Fresno for a period of four years would be entitled to the PTSD workers’ compensation presumption for up to one year after their employment ends.
Notably, the law includes a 60-month maximum statutory limit. After five years have passed since a public safety employee last worked at a qualifying job, they can no longer rely on the PTSD presumption, no matter the length of their employment.
Most Recent Definition of PTSD in the American Psychiatric Association DSM Holds
Similar to other psychological injuries, PTSD is still not fully understood. It is a complicated medical condition. As defined by the Mayo Clinic, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious, life-altering “mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event.” For the purposes of SB 542, PTSD is defined in reference to the most recent definition that is used and accepted by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation defense attorneys provide practical, solution-driven legal representation. If you have questions about the SB 542 PTSD presumption, our lawyers are available to help. Contact us now for a completely confidential evaluation of your case. We represent clients throughout the region, including in Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto, Salinas, Monterey, Merced, and Visalia.