|Posted:||February 5, 2019 03:13 PM|
|From:||Representative Jim Cox|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Restoring Workers Compensation as the Exclusive Remedy for all Work Related Injuries|
|I am preparing to introduce legislation to provide workers’ compensation coverage for latent occupational diseases (ex. asbestos-related illnesses).
Workers’ compensation was always intended to be a “grand bargain.” The system makes it easy for workers to prove that they are entitled to compensation for an illness or occupational disease. On the flip side, employers who provide workers’ compensation benefits cannot be sued in court by the injured worker. In other words, workers’ compensation benefits provide more certainty for injured workers and employers alike.
Unlike the tort system, where recovery is by no means guaranteed and could take years to resolve, workers’ compensation claims are processed in a matter of days or weeks, and workers’ compensation is a no-fault system that is not mirrored in the civil tort system, thus providing more certainty that medical treatment and fair compensation will be available to the employee.
Currently, occupational diseases that manifest themselves more than 300 weeks after the last date of employment are not covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act and relevant case law. However, many occupational diseases, such as those associated with asbestos exposure (i.e., mesothelioma or asbestosis) often do not develop observable symptoms until many years, sometimes decades, after a worker has been last exposed - well outside the 300-week limitation. As a result, under the Act, these claims are barred. Therefore, a worker afflicted by one of these diseases must seek compensation by filing a lawsuit. This means that a worker’s ability to receive compensation is far from certain, and it places jobs at risk when employers are sued for millions of dollars they cannot afford to pay.
My legislation will restore the grand bargain for latent occupational diseases. Unless and until we amend the Workers’ Compensation Act as proposed with this legislation, workers diagnosed with an occupational disease will have only one recourse - to prove negligence on the fault of the employer in civil court. This is harmful to both the worker and the employer. If enacted, this legislation will again protect both the injured worker and employer under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Please note that this legislation will be substantially similar to HB 2207, which was introduced in the 2017-18 legislative session.
I hope you will join me as a cosponsor.
PRIOR CO-SPONSORS: MILLARD, GROVE, RADER, IRVIN, BERNSTINE, SIMMONS, and NELSON.
Introduced as HB1234