If a disabled worker sustains injuries in the workplace, and already had a prior disability, the State of California provides benefits in the form of the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF). The SIBTF was created in 1945 by California’s legislature to encourage employers across all industries to hire disabled workers, without worrying about taking full responsibility for their pre-existing disabilities. Qualifying for the California Subsequent Injuries Fund is a complicated process, which is why, only injured workers who’re represented by a qualified attorney apply.
Workers’ comp cases dealing with the complex Subsequent Injuries Fund have been increasing. For attorneys representing injured clients, there are various issues that they need to be familiar with before handling such cases. While the core issue in SIBTF cases is whether or not an injured worker meets the threshold to qualify for additional compensation from the SIBTF, understanding how the SIBTF works is critical in resolving complex workers comp cases.
Here’s what to know about California’s SIFs:
What is Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF)?
The SIBTF is a legally-accepted, potential source of additional workers comp benefits for any injured worker in California, who already had a known pre-existing impairment or disability at the time of the current injury. The benefits for these cases are pursued through the SIBTF. Although some attorneys handling workers’ comp cases don’t seek or identify SIBTF benefits in injury cases, an applicant attorney representing a client is usually obligated to do so.
In most cases, application attorneys refer the SIBTF aspect of workers’ compensation cases to attorneys who are more experienced in handling SIBTF cases, under the Labor Code § 4751. The California Subsequent Injuries Fund can provide lifetime benefits to an injured worker, a portion of which goes to the attorneys handling the case for the duration of the injury claim.
Understanding the Legislative Intent of Labor Code § 4751
While there are different types of legislative laws outlining how workers compensation cases should be handled in California, SIFs, falling under Labor Code § 4751, allow injured workers with pre-existing impairments or disabilities to have an opportunity to find and get any form of gainful employment in their skill set, without employers worrying about being responsible in any way for a worker’s pre-existing conditions, should they sustain work-related injuries that result in the pre-existing condition or disability becoming worse.
The Labor Code § 4751 was put in place as a mechanism to assist workers, should their disability increase in such circumstances. The main purpose of the California Subsequent Injuries Fund is to both encourage disabled or impaired persons to go ahead and seek employment and to also encourage employers to hire disabled or impaired persons.
What’s the Threshold for California’s SIBTF?
To identify cases that qualify for Subsequent Injury Fund benefits, application attorneys must ensure that a client’s case meets the required thresholds. California’s SIF has certain main elements that you should know:
- The injured worker must have a pre-existing permanent impairment, medical condition or disability that prevented them from accessing any form of employment.
- The worker must have a subsequent industrial impairment, medical condition or disability.
- When the two disabilities are combined, they have to be greater than what the worker’s disability would have been if the worker suffered only the subsequent injury and not the pre-existing impairment or disability.
- The two disabilities when combined must be equal to 70% or more of the total permanent disability.
- The new work-related injury must also cause at least 35% permanent disability without any form of adjusting factors coming into play.
If an injured worker you’re representing in a California Subsequent Injuries Fund case qualifies, the State of California helps make up the difference between the worker’s overall impairment or disability and the amount of disability resulting from the subsequent work-related injury alone.
Who is Eligible for the Lifetime Benefits of SIBTF?
California’s SIBTF offers a detailed guideline on eligibility requirements and guidelines when dealing with subsequent injury fund cases. Injured workers may be eligible for the lifetime benefits of SIBTF during a workers’ compensation claim if they had heart disease, arthritis, lung problems, heart murmur, chronic fatigue syndrome, autism, thyroid problems, cancers, Crohn’s disease, anemia and a wide range of other medical conditions prior to the claim.
Why Attorneys Should Consider SIBTF for Their Clients
When dealing with workplace injury cases that make a pre-existing condition get worse, attorneys consider doing SIBTF for their clients. By doing so, they’re helping their clients get the needed additional benefits for the rest of their lives, improving their lives while also giving them a little less stress. Beyond the benefits, attorneys also receive a portion of the Subsequent Injury Benefits Trust Fund payout for the entire duration of the worker’s compensation claim, which is also subject to any Cost of Living Adjust increases as deemed appropriate.
The Application Process
The application process for the California Subsequent Injuries Fund benefits is complex. It’s important to understand that disability pension and Social Security Disability benefits often come into play when dealing with SIF cases. There is also medical and legal evidence that must be prepared and taken to court to support the SIBTF claim. At Arrowhead Evaluation Services, we work closely with application attorneys representing injured workers in SIBTF cases to create credible and defensible medical reports that can help resolve complex medical-legal issues.
Since 1987, Arrowhead Evaluation Services has been providing the most selective medical-legal services to attorneys throughout California. We’re dedicated to helping you and your claimant resolve claims quickly, so lives can move forward. Wondering what to know about SIFs before handling an injured worker’s case? Need help with getting objective and independent medical evaluations or reliable testimony to support your case? Our friendly and knowledge staff is ready to assist you. Talk to us at (888) 888-0098.