In November of 2017, the Alabama State Bar appointed a task force to review the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act and make recommendations for improvement. On October 17, 2018,the task force unanimously approved a proposed bill that contained substantial changes to the Act. Recently, the Alabama Council of Association Workers' Compensation Self Insurance Funds (Council) voted to oppose the proposed bill. The Council, which represents self-insurance funds providing workers' compensation coverage for 16,200 Alabama businesses employing 375,000 people, primarily objects to the proposal because it would raise legal fees for plaintiff attorneys by one-third and do nothing in the short run to reign in hospital, doctor, and other medical costs. It also more than doubles the cap on certain disability payments to injured workers and adds an inflationary adjustment.
"While the Council is always willing to work with any group to make meaningful and fair improvements to Alabama workers' compensation law, any such negotiation must include all parties", the statement said. The Council was not included in the ABA appointed committee that drafted and approved the proposed bill.
My Two Cents
Although the Alabama Legislature could consider changes to the law when its Regular Session begins in March, it is unlikely that anything will get passed committee in light of the recent Council opposition and the fact that the neither Alabama Bar Association or the Workers' Compensation Division of the Alabama Department of Labor are in a position to recommend the proposed bill or otherwise voice support. According to the ADOL, it is a state regulatory agency tasked with the responsibility of following and enforcing the laws put in place by the legislature. As the regulator, it typically does not comment on proposed legislation. However, it acknowledges that the current workers' compensation laws are not ideal and that amendments are needed that benefit both injured workers and employers. It will follow and enforce any changes that are made, if any.
If changes of this magnitude are to have any chance of success in committee, there must be a consensus of all interested parties. That is not to say that it cannot get done. It is just a little optimistic to think it can get done in the next few months.
About the Author
This blog submission was prepared by Mike Fish, an attorney with Fish Nelson & Holden, LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing self-insured employers, insurance carriers, and third party administrators in all matters related to workers' compensation. Fish Nelson & Holden is a member of the National Workers' Compensation Defense Network. If you have any questions about this submission or Alabama workers' compensation in general, please contact Fish by e-mailing him at email@example.com or by calling him directly at 205-332-1448.
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