Workers Compensation: Sole Proprietor Exemption, Attorney Fees
It was relatively quiet on the workers compensation front this legislative session, with two proposals defeated that would have eroded the system and increased costs.
First, two bills that passed:
SB 101 (P.A. 16-73; Effective 10.1.2016) exempts a sole proprietor contracting with the state or municipality from the requirement proving they have workers compensation insurance as long as they are a party to the contract and:
- Do not use a subcontractor or lower tier subcontractor to perform the contract;
- Are not a principal employer (i.e., does not have any employees);
- Have not opted in to the workers compensation system;
- Have liability insurance instead of workers compensation insurance.
HB 5262 (P.A. 16-10; Effective 2.1.2017) creates a firefighters’ cancer relief account and a firefighters’ cancer relief program to provide wage replacement benefits to eligible paid and volunteer firefighters diagnosed with cancer.
A new cancer relief subcommittee of the Connecticut State Firefighters Association will also be established to award benefits under the program.
The account will be funded through a diversion of money from the enhanced emergency 9-1-1-program, funded through a monthly subscriber fee that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority imposes on phone service.
Under the bill, the definition of firefighter includes any:
- Local fire marshal, deputy fire marshal, fire investigator, fire inspector, and other classes of inspectors and investigators for whom the State Fire Marshal and the Codes and Standards Committee have jointly adopted minimum qualification standards;
- Uniformed member of a paid municipal, state, or volunteer fire department.
Receiving benefits under the bill cannot be used as evidence for or an acknowledgement of liability under the workers compensation law.
It also specifies that receiving benefits under the bill cannot be used as evidence for or an acknowledgement of liability under the workers compensation law.
It also makes technical and conforming changes.
SB 102 would have required a health insurer to transfer 20% of any amount rightfully recovered from a workers compensation carrier in a contested case to a claimant with no deduction for attorneys fees.
The bill would have disrupted subrogation, undermined a fair and equitable resolution between parties in a workers compensation case, and provided a windfall for a plaintiff.
HB 5449 ignored the workers compensation act provision related to the exclusive remedy for injuries sustained by an employee during the course of employment and would have overturned the Supreme Court decision DeOliviero v. Liberty Mutual.
It also would have allowed an individual seeking compensation for a workers compensation claim to bring a cause of action against an employer or insured that “unreasonably” contested liability or delayed payment.
Penalties for this conduct already exist under the Workers Compensation Act.
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