Changes in Workers' Compensation during 1999
Whittington, Glenn, Monthly Labor Review
State enactments of workers' compensation laws varied widely, ranging from defining coverage for "volunteer workers" to increasing burial allowances
During 1999, several States focused on providing workers' compensation coverage to "volunteer" workers, while others addressed the issue of a claim being filed by an employee whose use of illegal drugs or alcohol contributed to his or her injury. Seven States also increased their maximum allowances for burial payments.
In Arizona, the rate of compensation for the surviving spouse was increased from 35 percent to 66-2/3 percent of the monthly wage of the deceased spouse in the case of a death claim in which there are no dependent children. In Colorado, permanent partial disability benefits were increased from $150 per week to $176 per week. In Georgia, the maximum weekly benefit for temporary total disability was increased from $325 to $350 and the minimum, from $32.50 to $35. The maximum weekly benefit for temporary partial disability was also increased from $216.67 to $233.33.
The maximum compensation in New Mexico was increased from 85 percent to 100 percent of the State's average weekly wage and in North Dakota, the maximum for temporary total and permanent total benefits was increased from 100 percent to 110 percent of the State's average weekly wage.
Maximum burial allowances were increased to $5,000 in Arizona, to $7,500 in Georgia, to $4,000 in Montana, to $7,500 in New Mexico, to $6,500 in North Dakota, to $7,500 in Tennessee, and to $6,000 in Texas.
In Oregon, as part of a collective bargaining agreement, an employer or groups of employers in the construction industry and a union (as the certified exclusive bargaining representative) may now establish an alternative dispute resolution system. This system may govern disputes in the areas of employer liability, compensation, and use of medical service providers.
In Arizona, if an employer has established and maintains a policy of drug testing or alcohol impairment testing, an employee's injury or death shall not be considered a personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment if the employee fails to pass or refuses to take a drug test or alcohol impairment test. In Colorado, an injured employee's nonmedical benefits shall be reduced by 50 percent if there is evidence that the employee was intoxicated or had nonmedically prescribed controlled substances in his or her system during working hours. In Utah, a rebuttable presumption was created. It states that the major contributing cause of an employee's injury is intoxication if a chemical test shows that any amount of an illegal substance or drags in excess of the prescribed therapeutic amounts or a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 grams or greater are in the employee's system.
In Delaware, State employees who are injured as a result of their official duties, even if off-duty and off the worksite, are now covered. In North Carolina, the term "employee" now includes members of the National Guard and State Guard while on State active duty under orders of the Governor. In Indiana, a school-to-work student is entitled to medical benefits and permanent partial impairment compensation if injured on the job and in Maryland, a volunteer police officer in Frederick County is a covered employee and is eligible for medical benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act. In Texas, a person who performs volunteer services for the State in a disaster or attends scheduled emergency response training under the direction of an officer or employee of the State is entitled to medical benefits for an injury sustained in the course of providing those services. In Virginia, the definition of "employee" now includes volunteer firefighters when engaged in firefighting activities under the supervision and control of the Department of Forestry. In Wyoming, workers' compensation coverage is now provided to volunteers assisting law enforcement agencies in conducting patrols, reporting suspicious activities, or controlling traffic and crowds. …