Struggles endured by survivors of the Dec. 2, 2015, San Bernardino terrorist attack throw an unflattering spotlight on California’s workers’ compensation system and San Bernardino County.
Changes in workers’ comp laws have led to big savings for insurance companies, but made it increasingly difficult for injured workers to get the help they need.
And the county “put dollars ahead of people” and showed “ignorance and a complete lack of empathy” by denying or delaying some treatment, said state Sens. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, and Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.
The worker’s comp system just wasn’t designed to treat people injured in such attacks or other workplace violence.
“If we fail those employees and we can’t fix it, then we really have something wrong with the system,” said Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, who represents the 47th Assembly District.
San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Lovingood declined to respond to those and other statements involving the handling of survivors’ workers’ comp claims.
“The supervisor doesn’t have any comment at this time,” said county Policy Advisor Don Holland.
Under state workers’ compensation laws, when an employee is injured, the employer is required to immediately open a workers’ comp claim and send the employee for medical treatment.
All California workers hurt on the job have a legal right to benefits including medical care, wage-loss compensation or temporary disability payments during recovery, vocational rehabilitation, death benefits and lost future earnings compensation or permanent disability payments, according to a state Legislative Analyst’s Office report.
A crisis has evolved following legislative changes made in the past 10 to 15 years after the state’s insurance market deregulation in the 1990s led to insurance rate spikes. Employers pushed for legislative help, which included Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introducing SB899 in 2004. Since that era, it’s been harder for employees to prove claims, medical treatments have been denied or delayed, and permanent disability compensation has dwindled.
But it wasn’t until Dec. 2 survivors…