Changes in Workers' Compensation Laws during 2001; Workers' Compensation Coverage Was Extended to Certain Law Enforcement and Public Safety Officers, but Excluded from Some Sports Officials, Inmates, Musicians, and Horse Trainers. (Workers' Compensation, 2001).(united States)(Statistical Data Included)

Article excerpt

The issue of coverage under workers' compensation laws received a great deal of attention in 2001. For example, extending presumptions of coverage for certain diseases suffered by law enforcement officers or firefighters, or both, occurred in Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, and Virginia. On the other hand, sports officials, State prisoners and county inmates in Florida, musicians in Louisiana, horse trainers in Montana, and soccer referees in Oregon were excluded from coverage.

In gearing up for the Winter Olympic games, Utah is providing workers' compensation coverage for law enforcement/ public safety volunteers and paid officers who provide public safety services.

In Idaho, infectious hepatitis and tuberculosis are now considered "occupational diseases" in any occupation involving exposure to human blood or body fluids.

In Nevada, if a person contracts a contagious disease during the course and scope of his employment that results in a temporary or permanent disability or death, the disease is deemed to be an occupational disease and compensable if certain conditions are met.

In Georgia, the weekly maximum benefit for temporary total disability increased to $400 and the minimum to $40 (up from $375 and $37.50, respectively). Also in Georgia, the weekly maximum for temporary partial disability was increased to $268 from $250. In Louisiana, the amount of benefits paid to each surviving parent in a no-dependency death claim was increased to $75,000 from $20,000. In Wyoming, the amount of permanent total disability and death benefits awarded to dependent children was increased to $150 from $100 per month. Future payments are to be adjusted annually for inflation.

Maximum burial allowances increased to $3,500 in North Carolina.

The following is a State-by-State summary of significant changes to workers' compensation laws.

Arizona

Any party to a claim for partial disability and permanent total disability now has 90 days (previously 60 days) from the time the Commission mails a copy of its determination to all parties to request a hearing.

Any disease, infirmity, or impairment of a firefighter's health that is caused by brain, bladder, rectal or colon cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, or aden carcinoma or mesothelioma of the respiratory tract that results in disability or death is presumed to be an occupational disease and is deemed to arise out of the employment if certain requirements are met. Among them are that the firefighter must have passed a physical examination before employment and that the examination did not indicate evidence of cancer; the firefighter was assigned to hazardous duty for at least 5 years; and that the firefighter was exposed to a known carcinogen as defined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, informed the department of this exposure, and the carcinogen is reasonably related to the cancer.

Arkansas

Personnel assigned to the Workers' Compensation Fraud Investigation Unit, upon meeting the qualifications established by the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training, shall have the powers of specialized law enforcement officers of the State for the purpose of conducting investigations.

The burden of proof connecting employment with an occupational disease is now established by a "preponderance" of evidence rather than "clear and convincing" evidence.

A hospital, physician, or healthcare provider is prohibited from billing or attempting to collect any fee for services rendered to an employee due to a workers' compensation injury when a claim has been filed and notification of filed claim has been provided. Such provider is also prohibited from reporting to any credit reporting agency the employee's failure to make the payment. When an injury has been found to be noncompensable, any unpaid portion of a bill may then be pursued. …