The California Fire Service March-April 2023

10 • THE CALIFORNIA FIRE SERVICE MAGAZINE • MARCH/APRIL 2023 oe” dedicated 30 years to the fire service, and retired in 2014 as a Fire Captain. For the last eight years of his work, he was on one medication for high blood pressure, but he did not make any claim for workers’ compensation benefits. No doctor told him his high blood pressure was related to his work. In 2020, Joe was on two blood pressure medicines, but he suffered a major stroke. He was not working in any capacity at that time. He filed no workers’ compensation claim. No one told him his stroke was related to any job. He was then confined to a wheelchair, and he could not speak. On November 15, 2021 a colleague suggested to Joe’s wife that she call me. I learned that Joe also suffered from different forms of “heart trouble.” We filed workers’ compensation claims alleging “date of injury” years through November 15, 2021. The workers’ compensation claims adjuster scoffed at the claim filed about seven years after Joe retired from all work, and they offered “nuisance value settlement of $2,500”. We rejected their offer. We began litigation. Recently, the employer’s comp carrier agreed to pay for past and future medical care, including home nursing care, and compensation for Joe’s wife for the care she provided. In addition, Joe receives more than $1,200 per week for workers’ compensation total disability benefits. The defendants will pay several million dollars in medical and disability benefits even though Joe’s “date-ofinjury” was long after he retired. (This extraordinary situation is a real claim, with name and some facts altered for identity protection. No lawyer, can promise these sorts of results, but it is “J “Injured” after retirement Legal Corner By Richard E. Elder, Jr. first “injury” but you probably give defendants a built-in “time limit” defense if you focus upon an old claim as you have only one year from “the date of injury” to file for comp. Time limits kill comp cases. It is not a defense to a time limit to claim “I didn’t think it was serious enough” or “I didn’t file because I was on the Captain’s list”. Time limits kill comp cases, so there is lots of litigation on time limits and lots of exceptions. For example, one major extension of the time limit provides if you receive any workers’ compensation benefit on an injury you probably have five years from the date of injury to file for comp. But there are complications that deserve professional advice on any serious claim. This article cannot cover all problems, injuries or exceptions. Seek counsel. In “Joe’s” case, defendants argued “Joe must have realized that his high blood pressure was job related years before the claim was filed so his claims must be barred by time limits.” We common for claims adjusters to “lowball” settlement offers). How can you win a claim long after retirement? You need help. “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… should have known, that such disability was caused by his present or prior employment.” (California Labor Code 5412). “Date of injury” can be long after retirement, and it can be long after the worker suffers symptoms or time loss. What the employee knows and when they know it is crucial in these “cumulative” or “occupational disease” claims. Sometimes an under-represented worker files a claim alleging their firsttime loss as “the date of injury”. This may be a mistake. Often firefighters suffer aches and pains. Sometimes years intervene between time loss. You may feel tough or dedicated by filing five or twenty years after your