Labor Code 3212 & Heart Presumptions in California

What is the Labor Code 3212?

Labor Code Section 3212 provides for certain law enforcement providers and safety providers that “[t]he heart… trouble… so developing or manifesting itself in those cases shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment. This presumption is disputable and may be controverted by other evidence, but unless so controverted, the appeals board is bound to find in accordance with it. The presumption shall be extended to a member following termination of service for a period of three calendar months for each full year of the requisite service, but not to exceed 60 months in any circumstance, commencing with the last date actually worked in the specified capacity.”

In lay terms, it means that if one develops a heart problem during their employment as a law enforcement provider or safety provider, then the injury is considered to be work-related for workers’ compensation purposes.  This allows the individual to collect all of the workers’ compensation benefits should that problem arise.  Also, there is the non-attribution component of the presumption which eliminates apportionment to non-industrial causes and allows for the holder of the presumption to receive a greater permanent disability award than an individual who could have their award apportioned to non-industrial factors.

For law enforcement providers and safety providers, there are a number of questions that you should investigate if you develop heart problems.

Does my position at my employer have the heart presumption?

Certain agencies, even though they are law enforcement or safety, do not have the presumption applicable. It is important to check and verify that you have the presumption. Even if you do not have the presumption, you still are able to file and pursue a heart injury case.  The only difference is that you will have the regular burden of proof as opposed to those who benefit from the presumption.

Do I actually have a heart injury?

There is a variety of litigated cases as to what is a “heart injury.” For example, hypertension is generally not considered a heart injury. Therefore, an injury which is only hypertension without heart damage will not be subject to the presumption.  Again, the matter can still be pursued. The provision of benefits will not allow for the evidentiary benefits of the presumption. A heart injury will generally require some form of testing that will show that there is injury to the heart. For example, an echocardiogram or a 24 hour heart monitor would provide evidence of an injury to the heart.  Therefore, testing is important.

Can my presumption be rebutted?

If your employer can prove that the heart problem existed prior to the start of employment, then the presumption can be rebutted. Even if this was the case, a claim can still be pursued under regular workers’ compensation law on the basis that the pre-existing heart condition was aggravated or accelerated by the employment.

If I develop heart problems after I terminate my employment, do I still have the presumption?

The presumption extends for 3 calendar months for each year of service up to 60 months. Therefore, if you have 20 years or more of service, you have the presumption for the maximum period which is 5 years.