One hundred years ago today, the Alabama Senate approved bill 26-1 which, when enacted into law the following month, became what is now known as the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act. Much of the original 33 page Act has remained unchanged in the last century. Here are a few items from the original Act that have changed:
It was called the Alabama Workmen's Compensation Act.
10% contingency fee for attorney representing employee.
Cost of settlement hearing not to exceed $2.00.
Cost of settlement hearing to be paid by employer.
Minimum compensation rate was $5.00.
Maximum compensation rate was $12.00 ($1.00 increase per dependent child up to 3).
The total amount of permanent and total benefits was not to exceed $5,000.00.
The compensation rate was 50% of the AWW (5% increase per dependent child up to 60%).
2 week waiting period.
1 year statute of limitations.
Burial expenses reimbursed up to $100.
A perjury conviction for offering false information in the Complaint required imprisonment for not less than 3 and not more than 20 years.
Portions of the Act could be declared unconstitutional without affecting the remaining portions of the Act.
While all of the above parts of the law have all changed over the years, according to at least one Jefferson County circuit judge, some of the changes have not kept pace with the times. A little over 2 years ago, we reported that an Alabama Circuit Court Judge issued an Order declaring the entire Alabama Workers' Compensation Act unconstitutional. Only 2 portions of the Act were actually deemed unconstitutional ($220 maximum weekly maximum for permanent partial benefits and the 15% contingency fee). However, our Act now contains a non-severability provision which means that if any portion of the Act is determined to be unconstitutional, then the entire Act is considered unconstitutional. Although the judge ended up staying the Order for 120 days to give the legislature more time to act, the case settled and the immediate threat was gone. That being said, the threat is certainly not gone and we can expect similar orders to be issued in the future at the state and possibly even the federal level if changes are not made soon.
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