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Existing law specifies the time period within which various proceedings may be commenced under provisions of law relating to workers’ compensation. With certain exceptions, a proceeding to collect death benefits is required to be commenced within one year from the date of death or, in some cases, from the last furnishing of benefits. However, no proceedings for death benefits may be commenced more than 240 weeks from the date of injury.

AB 1373 would have provided that certain proceedings related to the collection of death benefits of firefighters and peace officers may be commenced within, but no later than, 480 weeks from the date of injury and in no event more than one year after the date of death if all of the specified criteria are met, including, but not limited to, that the employee’s death is the result of a specified injury.

According to the author, and the sponsor the California Professional Firefighters, there are cases where current law they say “unfairly harms” the dependents of fallen public safety officers. In circumstances where a safety officer dies more than 240 weeks after a diagnosis of the condition that causes death, current law does not provide benefits for surviving dependents. However, there are conditions where survival for more than 240 weeks after diagnosis is not uncommon, notably a cancer that goes temporarily into remission, or a blood-borne disease that results in a debilitating but long, slow decline.

A number of public agencies opposed the bill primarily on the basis of increased costs as well as the uncertainty of the as-yet unspecified time period. These agencies believe that the workers’ compensation benefits available to public safety officers are already sufficiently generous, and local governments are simply not in the position to incur new financial obligations.

Last year the legislature passed AB 2451 which also proposed to extend the statute of limitations in presumption cases. AB 2451 was significantly broader in at least 2 respects: it also applied to death resulting from heart conditions, and it did not limit the cases where the extended limitations period applied to those where the date of injury was during active employment. Rather, AB 2451 would have applied regardless of when the condition arose, resulting in significantly more uncertainty, and significantly more cases, than AB 1373 will apply to. Governor Brown vetoed AB 2451 last year.

And he also vetoed AB 1373 passed by the legislature this year. His veto message said “This measure is identical to the one I vetoed last year. At that time, I outlined the information needed to properly evaluate the implications of this bill. I have not yet received that information.”