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How does California's workers' compensation system help workers?

Every day, the majority of California workers show up for work in order to help support their families. Virtually any worker can suffer an on-the-job accident, but some workers are in industries or fields in which the chances of being hurt are much higher. For this reason, in 1914, the state of California established the State Compensation Insurance Fund as its version of a workers' compensation program to allow injured workers some income as they recovered. The system has endured, but was overhauled nearly three years ago by Senate Bill 863.

What led to this recent reform effort? Over the decades, inequities and abuses have appeared in the workers' compensation system and various reform efforts have tried to resolve these problems. Senate Bill 863, which passed the state legislature in August, 2012, is intended to ensure that the system provides enough compensation to larger numbers of eligible workers. The first provisions became effective at the beginning of January, 2013, and several more have rolled out since.

What does Senate Bill 863 do? The final legislation introduced cost-saving efficiencies, increased both minimum and maximum weekly benefits, established new procedures for calculating disability payments and created a new Return-to-Work Fund to help workers with injuries that are serious, but not necessarily disabling.

The use of modifiers also was improved and expanded so that more workers in different industries could secure compensation. The current modifier system uses an injured worker's age and occupation. The Division of Workers' Compensation has now been authorized to modify that system so that it more accurately represents current industries and occupations that may not have existed until relatively recently.

An on-the-job accident is challenging emotionally, physically and financially to an injured worker. With the passage of Senate Bill 863, workers should now have more compensation available that can meet their needs while they recover.

Source: State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, "Overview of Senate Bill 863", accessed March 12, 2015

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