The burden of proof matters in any legal case. It determines who has the obligation to provide evidence in a claim. In California, the burden of proof for a workers’ compensation claim generally rests on the injured worker. They have the responsibility to prove the following:
- They sustained a compensable injury or illness; and
- The injury or illness in question is connected to their employment.
However, the burden of proof flips in certain cases involving first responders. This is because of a rule called the duty-belt presumption. Here, our California work injury claims defense lawyer provides a comprehensive guide to the duty-belt presumption.
What is the Duty-Belt Presumption in California Workers’ Compensation?
Found within California Labor Code § 3213.2, the duty-belt presumption is a workers’ compensation policy in our state that makes it easier for police officers to qualify for benefits for a lower back injury. More specifically, Labor Code § 3213.2(b) states that a lower back impairment will be “presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment” for qualifying applicants.
In other words, the duty-belt presumption flips the burden of proof for lower back injuries for police officers. Most workers who have developed a lower back problem have the burden of proving that it is job-connected to qualify for benefits. However, public safety officers who have worked for a sufficient length of time will be presumed to qualify for benefits when they have a lower back issue.
Understanding Which Workers Qualify for the Duty-Belt Presumption in California
The California Labor Code (LC) holds that the duty-belt presumption applies to police officers. The police officers who are covered by this statute are those who work for a local police department (city or county), a state police agency (such as the California Highway Patrol), or as a public safety officer for any location of the University of California. Not all police officers are eligible for the duty-belt presumption. They must have worked full-time in a qualifying position for a minimum of five years.
You Can Still Defend a Lower Back Injury Workers’ Compensation Claim By a Police Officer
It is important to emphasize that the duty-belt presumption shifts the burden on proof. That is all. It does not make a claimant automatically eligible for benefits. While the shifting of the burden of proof is very important, employers, insurers, and claim administrators retain the right to challenge these claims. A duty-belt presumption-based workers’ compensation claim could be properly denied if there is clear evidence that the claimant’s injury is not job-related. For example, an employer may know that the claimant suffered a serious lower back injury in a recent off-duty motorcycle crash. That could be valid grounds to deny workers’ compensation benefits even with the duty-belt presumption.
Contact Our California Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorney Now
At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workers’ compensation lawyers have the professional skills and legal expertise to handle duty-belt presumption claims. Need more information? Contact us today for a confidential consultation. Our law firm serves the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) throughout the area, including Fresno, Bakersfield, Sacramento, Stockton, Redding, San Jose, Salinas, San Luis Obispo, Oxnard, and Van Nuys.