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Lookback Period California Workers Comp System Is Shorting Employers


Shorting Employers – California Workers Comp System Lookback Period

According to the California Workers Comp System rules,  the employers are being shorted.  We have been very fortunate to have a large amount of our premium and reserve review services in California. I feel the employers in the state are not necessarily being treated fairly. The reason is the look-back period has been shortened severely in California. This is unfortunate as CA policies seem to have the highest error rate.

Graphic Of Man Holding Magnifying Glass California Workers Comp System With Bar Graph

In California, the employer may only have their Workers Comp policies and audits reviewed for one year in the past. Most states allow a three year look-back period. I have had to explain this conundrum to more than a few aggravated California employers. Basically, when a mistake is found, that mistake may possibly be in triplicate in other states. A small error turns out to more significant when tripled.

The other side of the coin means carriers cannot audit beyond one year in the past.  However, I have rarely seen an premium auditor review more than one year in California.

Is it still worth the effort to review Workers Comp policies and premium audits in CA?  Yes, as once the error is found, it usually becomes a permanent fix for the future. Our largest single error was found in a California Workers Compensation audit.

2019 Update- The California Workers Comp system has not changed the lookback period length whatsoever.   The WCIRB changed many rating rules over the last three years.   Two years of premiums remains off the table in performing premium audit reviews.   I do not see this changing any time in the future unless a court case would redefine the audit scope length.

I will update this article if the situation changes in the future.

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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications


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