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Discovering the “date of injury” in a continuous trauma claim is both significant, and sometimes complicated.

It is significant since the carrier for the one year prior to the “date of injury” might not be the carrier on the last date of employment. So just using the last date of employment as the date of injury might not involve the correct carriers. Benefit rates increase on January 1 of each year. Thus the date of injury might effect the rate of benefits to be paid. And finally, the statute of limitations defense is based upon the date of injury, and the date the Application for Adjudication was filed.

A recent panel decision makes the determination of date of injury less complicated since it clarifies existing law on how to determine the date of injury in a continuous trauma claim.

Imelda Sosa submitted a claim form to her employer on June 3, 2011 for a specific injury “From shoulder to neck-sometimes whole arm.” On July 7, 2011, Sosa’s primary treating physician took applicant off work for a single day on June 13, 2011 and a single day on July 7, 2011.

After a period of medical treatment, Sosa filed an Application for Adjudication of Claim on November 7, 2012.

At trial, the parties stipulated that Sosa sustained an industrial injury during the period April 8, 1997 through December 10, 2012. However, the parties also submitted the issue of “date of injury” at trial.

The School District contended that applicant did not sustain compensable temporary disability in 2011 because applicant was paid industrial accident leave under the Education Code for a single day’s absence and would not have been entitled to temporary disability under Labor Code section 4652.

The workers’ compensation administrative law judge found that Sosa sustained a cumulative trauma injury through June 13, 2011. Reconsideration was denied in the panel decision of Sosa v Brawley Union High School District.

Labor Code section 3208.1 provides that a cumulative industrial injury occurs whenever the repetitive physically traumatic activities of an employee’s occupation cause any disability or a need for medical treatment.

Pursuant to section 5500.5, liability for an injured worker’s cumulative injury is limited to those employers who employed the employee during a period of one year immediately preceding the date of injury, as determined pursuant to Labor Code section 5412, or the last date on which the employee was employed in an occupation exposing her to the hazards of the cumulative injury, whichever occurs first. (Lab. Code, § 5500.S(a).)

The date of injury for an industrial cumulative trauma injury is defined by Labor Code section 5412, as follows: “The date of injury in cases of occupational diseases or cumulative injuries is that date upon which the employee first suffered disability therefrom and either knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, that such disability was caused by his present or prior employment.”

As used in Labor Code section 5412, “disability” means either compensable temporary disability or permanent disability. (Chavira v. Worker’s Comp. Appeals Bd. (1991) 235 Cal.App.3d 463 [56 Cal.Comp.Cases 631]; State Compensation Insurance Fund v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (Rodarte) (2004) 119 Cal.App.4th 998 [69 Cal.Comp.Cases 579].)

Here, applicant had knowledge of an industrial injury and suffered disability as a result of the injury on June 13, 2011. Accordingly, the WCJ correctly determined applicant’s date of injury.