State Workers' Compensation: Legislation Enacted in 1987

By Tinsley, LaVerne C. | Monthly Labor Review, January 1988 | Go to article overview

State Workers' Compensation: Legislation Enacted in 1987


Tinsley, LaVerne C., Monthly Labor Review


State workers' compensation: legislation enacted in 1987

As of October 1, 1987, 232 amendments affecting State workers' compensation programs had been enacted by 38 States. Significant changes were made in workers' compensation statutes covering medical care and vocational rehabilitation in 18 States. Seven States revised occupational disease statutes; in Oregon, the statute of limitations for filing claims was reduced from 5 years to 1 year. Other laws were amended covering insurance, attorney fees, and penalties, and fines were established to cover violations.

Connecticut increased the percentage of the State average weekly wage upon which benefits are based for disability and death to 150 percent, formerly 100 percent. But New Mexico reduced the percentage of the State average weekly wage used in determining compensation for total disability from 100 percent to 85 percent. The freeze on benefits for disability and death was extended for an additional month in Maine. A new freeze was placed on 1987 compensation rates in Montana.

Several States now allow garnishment of compensation benefits for the support of dependent children of workers' compensation recipients.

Many study committees and commissions were continued, and new ones established to review and recommend possible changes that would improve the overall compensation system.

The 1987 legislative changes by State follow.

Alabama

Two self-insured employer groups or more may now pool their liabilities for obtaining excess or reinsurance coverage above the retention levels maintained by individual employer groups.

Arizona

Handicapped clients enrolled in vocational training programs offered by nonprofit organizations may now be covered for workers' compensation at the option of the organization.

Lump-sum compensation payments for certain cases of disability, or for death, may be received up to a maximum of $50,000 after June 30, 1987.

The Director of the Industrial Commission is required to employ an ombudsman to provide assistance to workers' compensation recipients concerning the State's workers' compensation program and the rules governing claims proceedings and methods used in determining benefits.

A definition for "loss of use" was added to the law for purposes of compensating partial disabilities.

Another new provision provides for a penalty of 25 percent based on any previously awarded benefits for charges of unfair claims processing or bad faith practices by an employer, insurer, or others who handle claims, and is in addition to any compensation awarded. Payments made by the State Compensation Fund will be reimbursed by the State Compensation Fund.

Arkansas

Coverage is broadened to include certain volunteer public safety workers. Group self-insurance programs which give credits against renewal premiums based on annual loss experience have been opened to local governments. The filing requirements for obtaining self-insurance or group self-insurance status (includes posting a surety bond, posting securities, or obtaining excess insurance) are no longer applicable.

Colorado

The maximum weekly benefit level for a "schedule" injury was increased from $84 to $150; and for a nonschedule injury from $84 to $120. Total maximum compensation payable is $37,560, previously $26,292. Indemnity payments for total disability and temporary partial disability will cease when the employee reaches maximum medical improvement, returns to work, or is capable of returning to work, refuses an offer of rehabilitation, or when payments are discontinued at the discretion of the Director of the Division of Labor.

Injured employees are newly entitled to receive unlimited vocational rehabilitation benefits from the Major Medical Insurance Fund. The time limit (52 weeks) on receipt of vocational rehabilitation benefits from the Fund has been eliminated. …

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