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Heart Presumption in CA: Labor Code 3212

Black man holding red heart on his chest

All California workers are guaranteed workers’ compensation coverage for injuries and illnesses that happen on the job. Obtaining coverage for certain conditions can be tricky, however; workers’ comp covers only work-related injuries and illnesses. Injuries that develop over time, or conditions that might result from causes outside of work, can be harder to connect to the job. California law provides additional protections for certain types of workers based on the understanding that certain conditions are more likely in some professions. California Labor Code section 3212, for example, affords special protection for public safety officers with what is known as the “heart presumption.” Continue reading to learn about California Labor Code section 3212, and speak with a knowledgeable Riverside workers’ comp benefits attorney for help filing your claim or appealing an improper claim denial.

What is Labor Code 3212?

California Labor Code section 3212 is a provision that protects public safety officers in the event that they suffer a heart condition in connection with their employment. Specifically, Labor Code 3212 provides that whenever covered public safety officers develop a heart condition during their employment, the injury will be presumed to be work-related for the purposes of workers’ compensation. The worker will not carry the burden of proving that their heart condition was caused by the performance of their law enforcement duties.

The protection afforded by Labor Code 3212 does not end the day the officer quits their job or retires. The law recognizes that heart conditions can develop over time and might not be detectable for months or years, even if they were already in existence. The presumption will be extended by three months for every year of the officer’s service, up to a maximum of 60 months, beginning with the last date worked. So, a retired officer who worked for the California Highway Patrol for 10 years, for example, would have 30 months from their last day on the job to file for workers’ comp based on a heart condition and still benefit from the heart presumption.

Who is Covered by Labor Code 3212?

Labor Code 3212 applies to a wide range of public safety officers employed by the State of California or cities, towns, and counties within the state. Covered employers include, among others:

  • California Highway Patrol
  • Sheriff’s offices
  • District Attorney’s offices
  • Police departments
  • Fire departments
  • Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Not all positions are covered by covered employers. For example, clerical workers who do not fall within the scope of active law enforcement are not covered. Talk to a workers’ comp attorney to find out if your office and your position are covered by the heart presumption.

What Heart Conditions Are Covered by the Heart Presumption?

Not every heart condition is covered by the presumption. There have been several legal cases fought over what constitutes a “heart injury” for the purposes of Labor Code 3212. For example, hypertension by itself is likely not covered. Many conditions have been found to be “heart injuries” covered by the presumption, including cardiomyopathy, enlarged heart, atrial fibrillation, and others. Talk to an experienced workers’ comp attorney about your condition to find out if the heart presumption does or may apply.

Are Heart Conditions Always Covered for Public Safety Officers?

The heart presumption in Labor Code 3212 is just that–a presumption. It’s a presumption in favor of workers, that the officer’s heart condition arises out of and in the course of their employment. The presumption is not, however, dispositive. Employers and workers’ comp insurance providers can rebut the presumption with evidence demonstrating that the officer’s heart condition arose from factors outside of the workplace.

For example, the employer might be able to demonstrate that the officer had a pre-existing heart condition (or a condition likely to lead to a heart condition, regardless of the officer’s conduct) before becoming a public safety officer. If their condition (or the precursor to their condition) pre-dated their service, then the employer could claim that the heart condition is not work-related. In such a case, workers’ comp benefits may be denied. However, even if the insurer rebuts the heart presumption, the worker can still turn around and continue pursuing their claim under the standard workers’ comp rules and show, for example, that their heart condition was exaggerated or accelerated by the employment.

If you or someone you love has been seriously hurt on the job in California, get help seeking the workers’ compensation benefits you’re owed by contacting the Riverside offices of Ochoa & Calderon for a consultation on your case.

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