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Lifeguard workers' compensation defense fueled legislation

Many California lifeguards stationed along the stretching coast are authorized to write tickets and make arrests just as California police officers, though their benefit structures vary dramatically. Previously, when an on-water emergency worker suffered injuries on the job, they faced a workers' compensation defense that provided little to no benefits for disability leave and medical costs. A serious of lifeguard workers' compensation defense fueled legislation change recently, permitting a true benefit structure to cover financial needs.

Recently, a lifeguard was dispatched to rescue climbers who had become distressed and stranded on a nearby cliff. As the lifeguard harnessed the group together and began to lower, the extreme weight resting across his knee caused a dislocated hip, ripped ligaments and a hernia, resulting in a surgical hip replacement. Because of a lack of insurance to cover lifeguards, he only received 60 percent of his pay and small assistance with medical expenses. After confronting the necessary public service authorities, the lifeguard was compensated additionally and the legislation to provide workers' compensation to lifeguards was presented.

It is reported that the regular denial of workers' compensation to California lifeguards has previously been supported and legal. The problem was described as an inappropriate interpretation of the California Labor Code 4850, which outlines compensation for work injuries. It specifies county lifeguards, not city, which had refused many lifeguards the right to disability benefits through workers compensation. The preliminary change in the law will ensure that these emergency workers are covered for any work related injuries they may receive, though independent workers' compensation defense may be necessary for certain situations.

Coastal emergency workers including police, fire fighters and ambulance personnel have extensive disability coverage to assist in a high risk, high injury profession. For years, California lifeguards have been denied their workers' compensation defense due to a tricky phrase of words in the state's labor code, possibly causing great financial concern to many employees. A recent lifeguard workers' compensation defense fueled legislative change, and could provide the courage for others who have suffered to seek what may rightfully be due.

Source:, Legislation protecting lifeguards injured on the job to take effect Jan. 1, Pat Sherman, Sept. 25, 2013

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