Study Shows Regional Differences Among California Workers’ Comp Claims

November 1, 2016

Workers in California’s Central Valley have a distinctly different workers’ comp claims experience than those from other regions in terms of notification and treatment lag times, mix of injuries, types of care, types of drugs used, levels of attorney involvement, incidence of permanent disability, average claim duration and average benefits paid, according to a newly released California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) Regional Score Card.

CWCI’s latest Regional Score Card provides detailed data on claims filed by injured workers living in California’s Central Valley farm belt, stretching through 18 counties from Kern in the south to Butte and Glenn in the north. The Score Card analyzed nearly 344,000 Central Valley claims for 2005 – 2015 injuries that resulted in more than $4.4 billion in medical and indemnity payments. During the 11-year study period, the Central Valley accounted for 18 percent of California work injury claims and 15 percent of total workers’ comp benefit payments. Agriculture clearly played a huge role in the area’s workers’ comp claims experience, representing 17.5 percent of all claims in the study – four times the proportion noted for the rest of the state – yet the diversity of the Central Valley economy also was evident, as more than 8 out of 10 job injury claims from the region involved non-agricultural workers.

As in the rest of California, strains were the top “nature of injury” category for Central Valley claims, though the proportion of claims involving back strains and sprains or cumulative injuries was slightly less than in other regions as specific injuries such as fractures, foreign bodies in the eye, and punctures were more common. With the different mix of injuries and a different work force, average first-year medical payments on Central Valley claims were relatively high compared to the rest of the state, but relatively low as the claims developed, suggesting that in many claims the workers were treated and returned to work quickly. Across all claim types, the average claim duration in the Central Valley was 325 days, or 2-1/2 months less than in other parts of California. That result is consistent with several other findings quantified by the Score Card, including significantly shorter notification and treatment time lags, fewer claims with permanent disability payments, lower levels of attorney involvement, fewer claims with lien payments, and a higher claim closure rate at two years post injury.

The Regional Score Card features two dozen exhibits with data and commentary on a wide range of metrics including distributions of claims by industry; premium size; claim type; nature and cause of injury; and diagnosis. Several exhibits compare results for the region against those for all other regions, and many also show statewide results, offering a wealth of detailed data on workers’ comp experience both for the region and for the entire state.

CWCI Regional Score Cards are available to Institute members and subscribers who log on to Anyone wishing to subscribe or to purchase individual Score Cards may do so on CWCI’s online Store. The next Score Card in the series will look at claims from the San Francisco Bay Area.

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