Restaurant Work Injury Claims Account for 4% of Calif. Workers’ Comp Benefit Payments
March 2, 2010

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Restaurant workers accounted for 6.1 percent of all California job injury claims, but only 4.1 percent of the state’s workers’ compensation benefit payments from 2000 to 2008, the California Workers’ Compensation Institute reported.

In its latest “Industry Scorecard,” which provides detailed data on claims filed by restaurant workers in California for job injuries that occurred between January 2000 through the end of 2008, CWCI analyzed 137,339 restaurant sector claims. The report noted more than 90 percent of claims were filed by employees working in restaurants and taverns, although other food and beverage service workers employed in facilities such as wineries, country clubs and hotels were also included in the sample. Total medical and indemnity benefit payments on these claims amounted to just under $1.1 billion. The Scorecard shows that with the ongoing job losses in other employment sectors, restaurant claims were up to 8 percent of 2008 claims and 5.6 percent of all claim payments.

AdvertisementThe No. 1 injury diagnosis for restaurant workers is minor wound/injury to the skin, the Scorecard said. These represent nearly 1 out of 3 restaurant claims, but only 4.4 percent of the loss payments, as they tend to be relatively inexpensive cases in which the worker is treated quickly and returns to work with no lost time. On the other hand, medical back problems without spinal cord involvement (typically sprains and strains) make up less than 1 in 5 restaurant claims but because they can require extended treatment and often result in lost time, they carry a much higher average cost and consume almost 1/3 of paid losses in this sector. Rounding out the top 5 injury categories among restaurant workers are shoulder, arm, knee and lower leg sprains (10.4 percent of the claims, 8.8 percent of paid losses); other injuries, poisonings and toxic effects (8.1 percent of the claims, 9.4 percent of the payments); and ruptured tendons, tendonitis, myositis and bursitis (3.8 percent of the claims, 6 percent of the payments). Notably, 2nd or 3rd degree burns, or burns over at least 20 percent of the body represent 3.6 percent of the restaurant claims, which is about 5 times the proportion found for all industries, though fortunately, many of these are relatively minor injuries, so burn injuries accounted for only 1.4 percent of the total dollars paid on restaurant claims.

The scorecard also features a profile of restaurant sector 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 and average benefit payments at 12, 24 and 36 months post injury also are provided by accident year. 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.