Workers’ Compensation Defense: Cumulative Trauma Claims Likely to Be Disproportionately Litigated in California

On March 4, 2024, the Insurance Journal reported that cumulative trauma claims represent a disproportionate share of the workers’ compensation cases that end up in litigation. As part of a major study, researchers studied a representative region in the Los Angeles Basin to assess the outcome of claims. Businesses, claims administrators, and insurers should be aware that these cases are more likely to end up in a dispute. Here, our Bakersfield workers’ compensation defense lawyer discusses the data and highlights the key points to understand about cumulative trauma claims.

What is a Cumulative Trauma Claim?

A cumulative trauma (CT) claim is a type of claim filed by a worker who suffered an injury or impairment that occurred as a result of repetitive stress or strain over time. It stands in contrast with an acute injury claim, in which an employee is hurt in a single incident/accident. Cumulative trauma can happen due to routine job activities—such as continuous typing or prolonged standing. It can be covered by workers’ compensation insurance in California.

The Data: Cumulative Trauma Claims Likely to Disproportionately End in Litigation

The California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) conducted a study on approximately 1.4 million workers’ compensation claims that were filed between 2010 and 2022. A number of different findings were made. Notably, the study found a significant rise in cumulative trauma claims when comparing the earlier years to the later years. Further, researchers found that these claims are far more likely to end up in litigation than acute injury workers’ compensation claims. The CWCI determined that, among the 1.4 million claims, 37.5 percent of the workers’ compensation cases that went to litigation were cumulative trauma claims. 

The Reasons Why Disputes are More Likely in Cumulative Trauma Workers’ Compensation Claims

Why are cumulative trauma workers’ compensation claims more likely to end up in litigation in California? Here are some of the leading reasons proposed by researchers:

  • Proof of Injury Origin: Disputes often arise due to the difficulty in proving that the cumulative trauma injury is directly related to the workplace activities. Cause matters.
  • Delayed Onset: Symptoms of cumulative trauma injuries can appear long after the initial exposure, thereby further complicating the link between the workplace and the injuries.
  • Multiple Employer Liability: Workers with long careers or those who have changed jobs may have been exposed to similar risks across different employers.
  • Varied Medical Opinions: There can be significant discrepancies between medical experts on the cause and extent of cumulative trauma injuries.

Contact Our Bakersfield, CA Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorney Today

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our Bakersfield workers’ compensation defense lawyers have the skills and experience to take on cumulative trauma claims. If you have questions or concerns about defending a cumulative trauma claim, we are here as a resource. Give us a phone call now or contact us online to arrange your fully confidential initial case review. We defend workers’ compensation cases in Bakersfield, Kern County, and all across the surrounding area.