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Report: Work comp claims at L.A. County Probation Department increase by 21 percent over last three years

Over the past few years, the largest municipal departments in Los Angeles County have all experienced either a reduction or only a slight increase in the number of work comp claims filed by injured employees. However, there is one county department that has seen such a dramatic increase in the number of work comp claims that authorities are beginning to wonder if possible employee fraud or an exceptional number of workplace hazards are to blame.

According to reports, employees of the Los Angeles Probation Department filed 931 work comp claims from 2010-2011, a 21 percent increase over the last three years.

In fact, of these 931 work comp claims, exactly 17 percent (160 claims) were from employees who claimed to have suffered serious injuries when they fell onto the floor of parking lots or facilities, while another 15 percent (137 claims) were from employees who claimed to have suffered work injuries pulling and/or pushing objects.

Interestingly, a recent report provided to the Board of Supervisors indicated that investigating officials were at something of a loss as to why the number of work comp claims had increased so dramatically in the Probation Department, calling many of the injuries "avoidable."

"CEO and probation risk management staff have walked these sites where the increased number of 'falls' were claimed and have not found any significant uplift, cracks or obvious reasons for the significant increase in falls," wrote CEO William Fujioka. "They are currently reviewing files to see if there are witnesses to these incidents or more information available to explain the number of falls."

In addition to an increase in the number of work comp claims, the Probation Department has seen a dramatic increase in the number of employees going on long-term leave due to workplace injuries.

(This can prove to be especially costly, as the county must pay full salaries to injured employees on long-term leave.)

The Board of Supervisors is now working with risk management analysts and officials from the Probation Department to determine why the rate of injuries has risen so dramatically over the last few years and to uncover any instances of employee fraud.

Still, officials were careful to point out that the assessment was more about learning how to prevent future injuries than about doling out punishment.

"What our risk management people are doing with the probation staff is going and looking at the cases in general, trying to find trends, and trying to figure out what needs fixing, whether we need to do training or whatever," said deputy county CEO Ellen Sandt.

Workers compensation fraud/employee fraud is a very serious crime. If you suspect that such a crime has been perpetrated against your organization, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced workers' comp defense attorney.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

Worker accidents probed (The Contra Costa Times)

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