CWCI Scorecard Examines Agriculture Claims in the California Workers’ Compensation System

CWCI Scorecard Examines Agriculture Claims in the California Workers’ Compensation System

This week, the California Workers' Compensation Institute issued its latest "Industry Scorecard" which provides detailed data on accident year (AY) 2000 to 2008 claims experience among agriculture workers in California. The new Scorecard is based on an analysis of nearly 133,000 work injury claims filed by workers in the state's agriculture sector, a fairly diverse employment group that encompasses everything from poultry raising to landscape gardening. Aggregate loss payments on these claims totaled more than $1.46 billion. The Scorecard notes that for the 8-year span ending in 2008, agriculture workers accounted for 5.5% of all California job injury claims and 5.9% of the state's workers' compensation benefit payments, though with the recent job losses in other employment sectors, those proportions have been growing, with the most recent data showing agriculture claims up to 7.7% of AY 2008 claims and 7.8% of the payments.

The three most common injury categories for these workers are medical back problems without spinal cord involvement (typically sprains and strains, which comprise nearly 21% of the claims but more than 30 percent of the paid losses in this sector); followed by minor wounds and injuries to the skin (20% of the claims, but only 2.8% of the payments); and shoulder, arm, knee and lower leg sprains (10.8% of the claims, 8.4% of the losses). Data from the pre-reform period of AY 2000-2003 shows nearly 42% of the agriculture claims resulted in lost-time, and these claims accounted for about 96% of loss payments in the sector; while post-reform data from a less developed subset of claims from AY 2004-2006 showed about 36% resulted in lost time, but these claims still accounted for almost 93% of total losses in the sector. The average amount paid on an agriculture claim did decline briefly following enactment of SB 899, though paid loss data for AY 2006 and AY 2007 show the average amounts paid at 12 and 24 months are again on the rise. For example, average first-year payments on a lost-time claim in the agriculture sector bottomed out at $8,851 ($5,132 medical + $3,719 indemnity) in AY 2005, but by AY 2007 the average had jumped more than 35% to $11,982 ($7,790 + $4,192).

The scorecard also includes a profile of agriculture claimants, claim distributions based on claimant job classification and county of residence, nature and cause of injury, primary diagnosis, and employer premium size. Claim closure rates at 12, 24 and 36 months post injury also are provided by accident year for all claims and for lost-time claims. Pre- and post-reform claim and payment distributions by type of claim (med-only, temporary disability, permanent disability, and death) are shown, as are pre- and post-reform attorney involvement rates for permanent disability claims, with comparative distributions shown for all California work injury claims.

The Industry Score Card Series and summary Bulletins are available to CWCI members and research subscribers who log on to CWCI's web site, www.cwci.org. Anyone wishing to subscribe may do so by visiting CWCI's online Store. The next Score Card will focus on claims from the durable goods manufacturing sector.