Workers’ Compensation Laws, 2nd Edition

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June 1, 2009 Related Topics: Workers’ Compensation Laws

This resource, Workers’ Compensation Laws, 2nd Edition, is intended to represent workers’ compensation regulations and benefit levels in effect as of July 1, 2008 (unless a footnote indicates otherwise) in the United States and the Canadian and Australian jurisdictions that chose to participate in this project.

This survey builds on many years of valuable work by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) that pioneered the use of a standard set of tables to promote uniformity in responses across states and consistency in reports from year to year. For budgetary reasons, the USDOL suspended their production of their tables after the regulations in effect as of January 1, 2006. 

Based on popular demand for the continuation of these tables, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) and the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) agreed to work as partners in the continuation of this important resource. 

Caution To Users

It is inherently difficult to summarize complex laws with complete accuracy for all applications of that law. We have tried to strike a balance between the utility of summary data and complexity of application of the law. Several important caveats are important for users. 

In Australia, Canada and the United States, workers' compensation is entirely under the control of sub-national legislative bodies and administrative agencies. For this reason, jurisdictions tend to have highly individualistic approaches to administering workers' compensation and often use the same legal constructs but apply different terms to describe them. For example, “permanent partial disability,” seeks to provide a benefit to an injured worker for future wage losses resulting from an occupational occurrence. States use a variety of structures to attempt to accomplish this but often do not use the term “permanent partial disability” to describe them.

Workers' compensation is inherently complex both in terms of coverage and benefits. It is easy to misunderstand subtle differences between jurisdictional laws and regulations. The differences in law are magnified by agency interpretive bulletins and traditional practices. Additionally, case law is continually redefining interpretations and application and the laws are riddled with exceptions to the general rules. For example, the law may nominally call for universal coverage of all businesses with three or more employees, yet there could be a dozen exemptions from the universal coverage. 

The wording of the survey and table headings was also open to misinterpretation and inconsistency of responses. Even within the same agency, different people might respond to the survey with different answers. 

Given all the complexities cited above, some inconsistency is inevitable. So an additional level of quality assurance was added to this project to attempt to gain as much accuracy and consistency as possible, at least across U.S. jurisdictions.

Notwithstanding these limitations, the 2008 tables preserve a valuable tool for researching and understanding workers' compensation system differences. It is best used to understand macro-level differences and general tendencies across jurisdictions.

Examples of questions well suited for this survey data are:

  • How many states/provinces allow individual or group self insurance?
  • How do the maximum and minimum payments for temporary total and permanent total disability benefits vary?
  • How many states cover mental stress claims, hearing loss and cumulative trauma?
  • How many jurisdictions allow the worker to chose the treating physician and how many allow the employer to do so?

Employer coverage responsibilities, coverage and benefit determinations, and other compliance issues must be based on a careful review of the laws in each jurisdiction. To illustrate, assume two jurisdictions each had three day waiting periods and paid 66 and 2/3 percent of lost wages for temporary total disability benefits. The actual indemnity benefit payable may be complicated by exceptions and qualifications on:

  • when the first day of disability begins
  • how intermittent periods of disability are treated
  • compensation that is included in determining the “wage”
  • period(s) over which the average wage is calculated
  • caps on wages earned by the injured worker
  • differences in the calculation of the compensation rate
  • reductions due to safety violations or additions due to the worker’s age or the fact they may be an apprentice
  • allowable attorney fees
  • government and/or pension offsets

We have encouraged jurisdictions to footnote their responses. In many cases the footnotes provide valuable insights and should be closely examined by the serious user of these tables. None of the information should be considered legal advice and anyone wanting to understand specific details about any particular jurisdiction should consult the actual statute and rules or seek legal counsel.

Workers' Compensation Laws, 2nd Edition. June 2009. WC-09-30.

Copyright: WCRI

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