Workers CompensationCourt Cases and Legislative Changes
There are a good number of pending court cases and Legislative Bills currently introduced during the 2023 session with the possibility of positive, and potentially negative impact, to Workers Compensation in Texas.
The USHCA is aware of a number of current court cases involving litigation with undetermined impact to businesses or employees in the State. One such case has been filed by a previously injured worker who petitioned the courts to reopen a decades old Workers Compensation claim due to the injured party’s assertion the initial injury caused the current injury. Another involves an injured party’s attempt to pierce the veil of liability protection under an Owner Controlled Insurance Program in effort to file suit directly against the Project Owner.
In our Capital there are Workers Compensation Bills introduced to address a cost-of-living increase applicable to death benefits paid under the Workers Compensation system. Another does not prohibit the recovery of exemplary damages filed by a spouse, heir or estate of a deceased employee based upon a compensable death under the Texas Workers Compensation Act. Other introduced Bills provide for a cost-of-living increase applicable to death benefits paid under the Workers Compensation System and one to require the Workers Compensation policy to pay for one medical causation narrative requested by the injured employee in lieu of a “plain language” report. This action provides resources for the injured party to dispute the compensable language determination of the insurer.
Language introduced which impacts the solicitation and award of public and private construction contracts is the Bill introduced to limit the use of Workers Compensation insurance experience modifier values in making those decisions.
Of potential concern may be Bills introduced to require Workers Compensation insurance coverage for all employees of construction contractors and subcontractors. There is no language in this introduced version that allows for the fluctuation of consistency of our industry’s project availability, revenue generation, or even the size standards of contracts. Under this current language there is no minimum project size standard for this requirement.
Of interest is the introduced Bill which requires a minimum of 30 days leave for all employees with at least one year’s employment. The qualifying reasons for leave are extensive and include, but are not limited to employee, child, grandchild, spouse, sibling, parent, in-law and grandparent illness; birth or adoption of a child; victimization by violence, assault, trafficking, stalking and psychiatric counseling. This Bill does not require paid leave if the company does have provision for any type of compensation for absence but does require compensation if available. Independent contractors of the business are excluded from this provision.
Another interesting Bill introduces the requirement for trial courts to give preference to hearings and trials for appeals of final rulings and decisions of Workers Compensation claims and claims filed under the Federal Employers Liability Act and the Jones Act.
Of additional interest is an introduced version of a Bill relating to unfair settlement practices with respect to workers compensation claims. This Bill, if passed, will impact the Insurance Code yet there is little language to explain the intent of this Bill other than to say it “applies to claims by an insured or beneficiary under an insurance policy for Workers Compensation”.
Given the ever changing nature of potential Bills filed, the possibility for modifications to Bill language and how each progresses through the Legislative process, the USHCA will continue to closely monitor Workers Compensation Bills which may impact our businesses carrying both potentially positive and negative impacts.
We will provide necessary updates as required.