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Effective on March 2, 2016, the Governor signed a bill making several significant changes to the workers compensation law.   The changes include:

  1.  Reducing the statute of limitations for traumatic injuries from 12 years to 6 years
  2. Allowing apportionment of permanent disabilities between the work injury and non-work related causes
  3. For claims involving drug or alcohol use, the injured worker will not receive indemnity benefits if the alcohol/drug use caused the injury
  4. An employee is no longer entitled to temporary indemnity benefits if the employee is suspended or terminated from employment due to misconduct
  5. Maximum permanent partial disability (PPD) rate is increased to $342 in 2016 and $362 in 2017

The 12 year statute of limitations for traumatic injuries was the longest in the nation.   Even at six years, only one state has a longer time frame that allows claims related to a specific trauma.  In most states, the statute of limitations is between one and four years.   The statute of limitations was not changed for occupational disease claims, for which there is no time limitation as to when an employee can file for a hearing.

Allowing apportionment of PPD is a significant change in the law.   Previously, in absence of a prior PPD rating, the employer was liable for all the PPD following a work injury.   Under the new law, the employer will be liable only for the PPD directly attributed to the industrial incident.    The employer will not owe for pre-existing PPD or PPD related to other factors.

Regarding claims involving drug or alcohol use, the employee will receive only medical benefits if the drug or alcohol use caused the injury.   No benefits will be paid for lost time or other disabilities.  Under the old law, the indemnity benefits (payment for lost time or permanent disabilities) were reduced by 15%.

In workers compensation, an injured worker is entitled to temporary indemnity benefits for lost wages during the healing period.    The new law creates an exception to this rule.    An employee is no longer entitled to a wage supplement during the healing period if the employee is suspended or terminated from employment due to misconduct or substantial fault as defined in the unemployment insurance law.

The other significant change in the law is the raising of the maximum PPD rate from $322 per week to $342 in 2016 and $362 in 2017, a 6% increase each year.   The maximum temporary total disability (TTD) rate for lost wages was raised from $911 to $936, a 3% increase.