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Two-Years of 4850 Pay?!

Two-Years of 4850 Pay?!

This week the California Senate unanimously passed SB 897, a bill that would add section 4850.1 to the Labor Code, providing a second year of Labor Code section 4850 pay for each injury claimed by police officers and firefighters.

Current law allows for one year of full pay followed by one year of temporary disability benefits for each injury claimed by various public safety employees.  Many public agencies, already struggling with the costs of safety officer injury claims, are understandably wary at the prospect of some of those costs doubling.

Fortunately for cities and counties and the taxpayers who fund them, the bill seems to be narrowly tailored.  As amended, SB 897 limits the additional year of 4850 pay to “catastrophic” injuries, defined as: (1) severe burns; (2) severe bodily injuries resulting from the collapse of a building; and (3) severe bodily injuries resulting from a shooting or stabbing.  Further, the injury must result from the actions of another or through active firefighting operations irrespective of the cause of the fire. (Hence, an accidentally self-inflicted stabbing or shooting may not be covered.)

A recent analysis from the Los Angeles Controller’s office demonstrated that only around 17% of firefighter injury claims in that city result from actually fighting fires.  Not all of those involve severe burns or the collapse of a building.  Hence, the exposure to an additional year of 4850 pay for firefighters might be limited.

In the case of police officers, actually getting severely burned, stabbed or shot in the line of duty is thankfully uncommon.  Other more common injuries from altercations in the line of duty, such as being punched or kicked, would not appear to be covered by SB 897.

Additionally, the bill makes clear in proposed section 4850.1(h) that the two-year aggregate disability payment time limit imposed by Labor Code section 4656 would apply to these benefits, which means that in the event of one of these catastrophic injuries, there would be no temporary disability owed after the two years of 4850 pay.

The bill is now at the state Assembly.  Stay-tuned for further updates.

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