State governments continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of different ways that impact businesses and employers. Workers compensation has been a much-discussed topic within this context. In September of 2020, California enacted a new law that codified previous executive orders the created rebuttable presumptions relating to employees who test positive for COVID-19. In addition to the rebuttable presumption, the law created a number of reporting requirements for employers and their workers compensation carriers and administrators.
Workers compensation is often defined as an exclusive remedy for employees injured on the job. Like with all laws however, there are exceptions. Intentional injuries have long existed as one of those exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule for workers’ compensation. Now, a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma has the potential to substantially expand that exception, leaving certain safety-indifferent employers facing greater exposure to lawsuits when an employee is injured.
Workers compensation is supposed to protect employers from lawsuits brought by their employees. In exchange for a system of a no fault liability for on the job injuries, employers secure freedom from negligence lawsuits brought by employees that might yield much higher payouts. This protection, however, is not absolute. Like with any rule, there are exceptions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration uses Compliance Safety and Accountability scores to assess the safety of trucking companies and target the most at-risk companies for additional interventions. The CSA scores are composed of seven BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) which attempt to use data available to the FMCSA to pinpoint trucking companies with inadequate safety procedures.
Ransomware continues to be a popular tool among hackers and cyber criminals. By locking users out of their own systems, these cyber criminals can extort significant payments from companies who risk losing way more money due to the interruption to their business. Traditionally, the number one target of ransomware attacks has been the healthcare industry due to the incredibly time-sensitive nature of their business. Recently however, hackers have focused their attacks on industrial businesses which is bad news for product manufacturers and physical plants.
The opioid epidemic, besides its unfathomable human costs, has had large economic costs for businesses and governments who must manage workers compensation costs. Opioid prescriptions in the wake of workplace injuries have been linked to higher workers compensation payouts and longer layoffs before injured employees return to work. Facing the bill for these costs, government, citizens, and private entities have filed a veritable avalanche of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for their manufacture and marketing of opioid based painkillers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new rule requiring the use of electronic logbooks goes into effect on December 18, 2017. The rule has inspired protests from owner-operators and was the subject of last minute attempts to secure an override in the House of Representatives despite the support of the American Trucking Association.
To combat the growing epidemic of opioid abuse, the Center for Disease Control issued guidelines aimed at limiting the prescription of opioids in ways that might lead to ongoing addiction. Studies have shown that approximately 75% of new heroin users stated that they started their addiction with prescription opioids. Via various methods; obtained themselves with a prescription or from someone else. State governments and the insurance industry have been heavily involved in trying to reduce opioid prescriptions as a way of combating the epidemic, while also aiming to lower the costs of workers compensation claims which can increase exponentially when pain leads to addiction.
On August 1, 2017, OSHA launched its web portal to accept the submissions of recordkeeping forms per the requirements in the final rule; to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses.” As we had advised earlier this year, under this rule, which was enacted in May 2016.
Waivers of subrogation present interesting issues in most contracts, but they can pose particular problems within the context of worker’s compensation. Companies who are not careful with how they manage their contracts can find themselves between a rock and a hard place, with the rock being their own employees and the hard place being companies who contract for their services.