Duty to Disclose

Published by Joseph Yrulegui on March 23, 2021

Workers’ Comp Defense in California: Understanding a Claimant’s Duty to Disclose 

On February 3rd, 2021, the California Department of Insurance announced workerscompensation fraud charges against a Kern County man accused of bilking an insurance company. According to the allegations raised by the agency, this man unlawfully failed to disclose a previous work-related injury in an effort to collect workerscompensation benefits that he did not deserve.

The charges are an important reminder that workers’ comp claimants in California have a duty to disclose previous injuries. In defending a claiminsurers and employers have a right to request relevant medical information from the claimant, including workers’ comp records. Here, our California workers’ comp defense lawyers provide a more detailed overview of the duty to disclose. 

California Workers’ Comp Benefits: Apportionment of Responsibility is Based on Causation 

In some cases, there is little dispute over how exactly an employee’s injuries occurred. There may be a specific and easily identifiable cause. However, in many other workers’ comp claims, there are some outstanding questions over the true cause of an employee’s injuries—and there may even be multiple legitimate causes. 

In California, apportionment of responsibility for a permanent disability is based on causation. As an example, imagine that a Central California employee filed a workerscompensation claim for a degenerative back injury. If comprehensive medical evaluations determine that the back condition was caused 50% by work and 50% by a non-work condition, responsibility would be assigned accordingly.  

California Labor Code § 4663(d): Disclosure is Required Upon Request

An insurance company, claims administrator, or employer cannot fairly evaluate the issue of causation in a workers’ comp claim without adequate medical information. For instance, if an employee files a workers’ comp claim for a shoulder injury, it is important to know whether or not they have recently sought medical attention (or filed any other claim) for a shoulder injury

On this matter, California law is clear: Workers’ comp claimants must disclose. Indeed, under California Labor Code § 4663(d), “an employee who claims an industrial injury shall, upon request, disclose all previous permanent disabilities or physical impairments.”

In the case of the Kern County man charged with workerscompensation fraud, the California Department of Insurance essentially filed two workers’ comp claims (with different insurance companies) for the same underlying injuries. Beyond failing to proactively disclose the pre-existing injuries, the man falsely denied that he sustained any other relevant injuries. Insurers and employers can and should request all relevant medical information from workers’ comp claimants. 

Speak to Our Central California Workers’ Comp Defense Attorneys Today 

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our California workerscompensation defense team have deep experience representing insurance companies, claims administrators, and employers. If you have questions about workers’ comp defense and a claimant’s duty to disclose, we can help. To arrange a confidential review and evaluation of your legal case, please contact us right away. We offer workers’ comp defense services throughout the San Joaquin Valley and Central California, including in Fresno, Bakersfield, and Sacramento.