In California, workers are entitled to ‘no-fault’ benefits for job-related injuries. In filing a workers’ comp claim, it is generally an employee’s responsibility to prove that their injuries are connected to their employment. However, in limited circumstances, California law shifts the burden of proof in the other direction—ruling that certain injuries for certain workers are “presumptively” covered.
The so-called ‘duty-belt presumption’ for police officers who suffered a lower back injury is a textbook example. It is a special protection for law enforcement officers. Here, our Central California workers’ comp defense attorneys explain the most important things that you need to know about our state’s ‘duty-belt’ presumption for police officer workers’ compensation claims.
The duty belt presumption is found under California Labor Code § 3213.2. It provides a clear path for law enforcement officers who wore a belt to get workers’ comp coverage for lower back problems. Here are two key things to know about the statute:
- Applies to State, Local, and University Police Officers: The duty belt presumption applies broadly to law enforcement officers in California. LC 3213.2 covers members of the California Highway Patrol, local police departments, and officers within the University of California system.
- Covers Lower Back Impairments: The duty belt presumption covers lower back injuries. A lower back injury that occurs within 60 months of an officer’s last date of work (depending on length of service) is presumed to have arisen out of the course and scope of their employment.
Note: For the purposes of California’s workers’ compensation laws, a duty belt is defined as a belt used to hold a gun, handcuffs, baton, and other work-related tools common to law enforcement. Most police officers in California are required to wear a duty belt.
Presumptive Industrial Injuries and Workers’ Comp Defense As noted under California Labor Code § 3212, the specialized presumptions that apply to law enforcement officers are “disputable and may be controverted by other evidence.” If a police officer wore a duty belt, a lower back injury will be presumptively deemed to have occurred during the course and scope of their employment. That being said, these workers’ comp claims can be defended. Employers, insurers, and claims administrators have the right to present evidence to the contrary. Of course, compelling evidence must be presented to effectively undermine the duty belt presumption.