2005 Regular Session
By: Representative Guice, Formby
AN ACT TO DISQUALIFY CERTAIN INCARCERATED WORKERS' COMPENSATION CLAIMANTS FROM ENTITLEMENT TO BENEFITS; TO AMEND SECTION 71-3-7, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT PREEXISTING CONDITIONS DO NOT HAVE TO BE OCCUPATIONALLY DISABLING FOR APPORTIONMENT TO APPLY IN A WORKERS' COMPENSATION CLAIM; TO AMEND SECTION 71-3-15, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT CERTAIN MEDICAL INFORMATION SHALL BE EQUALLY ACCESSIBLE BY EMPLOYEES AND EMPLOYERS IN WORKERS' COMPENSATION CASES; TO AMEND SECTION 71-3-25, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE AN EMPLOYER THE RIGHT TO REQUIRE AN AUTOPSY IN CERTAIN DEATH CASES AT THE EXPENSE OF THE EMPLOYER UNDER THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAWS; TO AMEND SECTION 71-3-35, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT WHEN AN EMPLOYEE RESIGNS, HIS EMPLOYMENT IS TERMINATED OR HE IS LAID OFF, A COMPENSABLE CLAIM MAY BE MAINTAINED ONLY IF THE EMPLOYER HAS RECEIVED NOTICE OF THE INJURY BEFORE THE TERMINATION DATE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter to the contrary, an injured worker is not eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits or medical expenses for periods of time during which the worker is incarcerated for the commission of a crime unless the injured worker is receiving a structured settlement due to a permanent and total loss of wage-earning capacity which was attributable to the work-related injury.
(2) As used in this section, an individual is not "incarcerated" if the individual is on parole or work release status.
(3) If upon appeal such conviction is overturned, the benefits suspended during the period of incarceration shall be reinstated.
SECTION 2. Section 71-3-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
71-3-7. Compensation shall be payable for disability or death of an employee from injury or occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment, without regard to fault as to the cause of the injury or occupational disease. An occupational disease shall be deemed to arise out of and in the course of employment when there is evidence that there is a direct causal connection between the work performed and the occupational disease.
Where a preexisting physical handicap, disease, or lesion is shown by medical findings to be a material contributing factor in the results following injury, the compensation which, but for this paragraph, would be payable shall be reduced by that proportion which such preexisting physical handicap, disease, or lesion contributed to the production of the results following the injury. The preexisting condition does not have to be occupationally disabling for this apportionment to apply.
(a) Apportionment shall not be applied until the claimant has reached maximum medical recovery.
(b) The employer or carrier does not have the power to determine the date of maximum medical recovery or percentage of apportionment. This must be done by the attorney-referee, subject to review by the commission as the ultimate finder of fact.
(c) After the date the claimant reaches maximum medical recovery, weekly compensation benefits and maximum recovery shall be reduced by that proportion which the preexisting physical handicap, disease, or lesion contributes to the results following injury.
(d) If maximum medical recovery has occurred before the hearing and order of the attorney-referee, credit for excess payments shall be allowed in future payments. Such allowances and method of accomplishment of the same shall be determined by the attorney-referee, subject to review by the commission. However, no actual repayment of such excess shall be made to the employer or carrier.
No compensation shall be payable if the intoxication of the employee was the proximate cause of the injury, or if it was the willful intention of the employee to injure or kill himself or another.
Every employer to whom this chapter applies shall be liable for and shall secure the payment to his employees of the compensation payable under its provisions.
In the case of an employer who is a subcontractor, the contractor shall be liable for and shall secure the payment of such compensation to employees of the subcontractor, unless the subcontractor has secured such payment.
SECTION 3. Section 71-3-15, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
71-3-15. (1) The employer shall furnish such medical, surgical, and other attendance or treatment, nurse and hospital service, medicine, crutches, artificial members, and other apparatus for such period as the nature of the injury or the process of recovery may require. The injured employee shall have the right to accept the services furnished by the employer or, in his discretion, to select one (1) competent physician of his choosing and such other specialists to whom he is referred by his chosen physician to administer medical treatment. Referrals by the chosen physician shall be limited to one (1) physician within a specialty or subspecialty area. Except in an emergency requiring immediate medical attention, any additional selection of physicians by the injured employee or further referrals must be approved by the employer, if self-insured, or the carrier prior to obtaining the services of the physician at the expense of the employer or carrier. If denied, the injured employee may apply to the commission for approval of the additional selection or referral, and if the commission determines that such request is reasonable, the employee may be authorized to obtain such treatment at the expense of the employer or carrier. Approval by the employer or carrier does not require approval by the commission. A physician to whom the employee is referred by his employer shall not constitute the employee's selection, unless the employee, in writing, accepts the employer's referral as his own selection. Should the employer desire, he may have the employee examined by a physician other than of the employee's choosing for the purpose of evaluating temporary or permanent disability or medical treatment being rendered under such reasonable terms and conditions as may be prescribed by the commission. If at any time during such period the employee unreasonably refuses to submit to medical or surgical treatment, the commission shall, by order, suspend the payment of further compensation during such time as such refusal continues, and no compensation shall be paid at any time during the period of such suspension; provided, that no claim for medical or surgical treatment shall be valid and enforceable, as against such employer, unless within twenty (20) days following the first treatment the physician or provider giving such treatment shall furnish to the employer, if self-insured, or its carrier, a preliminary report of such injury and treatment, on a form or in a format approved by the commission. Subsequent reports of such injury and treatment must be submitted at least every thirty (30) days thereafter until such time as a final report shall have been made. Reports which are required to be filed hereunder shall be furnished by the medical provider to the employer or carrier, and it shall be the responsibility of the employer or carrier receiving such reports to promptly furnish copies to the commission. The commission may, in its discretion, excuse the failure to furnish such reports within the time prescribed herein if it finds good cause to do so, and may, upon request of any party in interest, order or direct the employer or carrier to pay the reasonable value of medical services rendered to the employee.
(2) Whenever in the opinion of the commission a physician has not correctly estimated the degree of permanent disability or the extent of the temporary disability of an injured employee, the commission shall have the power to cause such employee to be examined by a physician selected by the commission, and to obtain from such physician a report containing his estimate of such disabilities. The commission shall have the power in its discretion to charge the cost of such examination to the employer, if he is a self-insurer, or to the insurance company which is carrying the risk.
(3) In carrying out this section, the commission shall establish an appropriate medical provider fee schedule, medical cost containment system and utilization review which incorporates one or more medical review panels to determine the reasonableness of charges and the necessity for the services, and limitations on fees to be charged by medical providers for testimony and copying or completion of records and reports and other provisions which, at the discretion of the commission, are necessary to encompass a complete medical cost containment program. The commission may contract with a private organization or organizations to establish and implement such a medical cost containment system and fee schedule with the cost for administering such a system to be paid out of the administrative expense fund as provided in this chapter. All fees and other charges for such treatment or service shall be limited to such charges as prevail in the same community for similar treatment and shall be subject to regulation by the commission. No medical bill shall be paid to any doctor until all forms and reports required by the commission have been filed. Any employee receiving treatment or service under the provisions of this chapter may not be held responsible for any charge for such treatment or service, and no doctor, hospital or other recognized medical provider shall attempt to bill, charge or otherwise collect from the employee any amount greater than or in excess of the amount paid by the employer, if self-insured, or its workers' compensation carrier. Any dispute over the amount charged for service rendered under the provisions of this chapter, or over the amount of reimbursement for services rendered under the provisions of this chapter, shall be limited to and resolved between the provider and the employer or carrier in accordance with the fee dispute resolution procedures adopted by the commission.
(4) The liability of an employer for medical treatment as herein provided shall not be affected by the fact that his employee was injured through the fault or negligence of a third party, not in the same employ, provided the injured employee was engaged in the scope of his employment when injured. The employer shall, however, have a cause of action against such third party to recover any amounts paid by him for such medical treatment.
(5) An injured worker who believes that his best interest has been prejudiced by the findings of the physician designated by the employer or carrier shall have the privilege of a medical examination by a physician of his own choosing, at the expense of the carrier or employer. Such examination may be had at any time after injury and prior to the closing of the case, provided that the charge shall not exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) and shall be paid by the carrier or employer where the previous medical findings are upset, but paid by the employee if previous medical findings are confirmed.
(6) Medical and surgical treatment as provided in this section shall not be deemed to be privileged insofar as carrying out the provisions of this chapter is concerned. All findings and opinions pertaining to a medical, psychological or surgical examination or treatment obtained in accordance with this chapter shall be reported on commission forms and shall be equally accessible by the employee and the employer or their representatives. This section shall not be interpreted so as to prohibit or limit either the employee or employer from discussing with any medical provider who treats or evaluates an employee for an injury or medical condition for which claim is made any information that is necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter. However, any information obtained under this section shall not be disseminated by the employer to any parties for purposes inconsistent with this chapter unless authorized in writing by the employee or his duly authorized representative or as otherwise required to do so by a court or administrative body of competent jurisdiction. All findings pertaining to an independent medical examination by order of the commission shall be reported as provided in the order for such examination.
(7) Any medical benefits paid by reason of any accident or health insurance policy or plan paid for by the employer, which were for expenses of medical treatment under this section, are, upon notice to the carrier prior to payment by it, subject to subrogation in favor of the accident or health insurance company to the extent of its payment for medical treatment under this section. Reimbursement to the accident or health insurance company by the carrier or employer, to the extent of such reimbursement, shall constitute payment by the employer or carrier of medical expenses under this section. Under no circumstances, shall any subrogation be had by any insurance company against any compensation benefits paid under this chapter.
SECTION 4. Section 71-3-25, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
71-3-25. (1) If the injury causes death, the compensation shall be known as a death benefit and shall be payable in the amount and to or for the benefit of the persons following:
(a) An immediate lump sum payment of Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00) to the surviving spouse, in addition to other compensation benefits.
(b) Reasonable funeral expenses not exceeding Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000.00) exclusive of other burial insurance or benefits.
(c) If there be a surviving spouse and no child of the deceased, to such surviving spouse thirty-five percent (35%) of the average wages of the deceased during widowhood or dependent widowhood and, if there be a surviving child or children of the deceased, the additional amount of ten percent (l0%) of such wages for each such child. In case of the death or remarriage of such surviving spouse, any surviving child of the deceased employee shall have his compensation increased to fifteen percent (l5%) of such wages, provided that the total amount payable shall in no case exceed sixty-six and two-thirds percent (66-2/3%) of such wages, subject to the maximum limitations as to weekly benefits as set up in this chapter. The commission may, in its discretion, require the appointment of a guardian for the purpose of receiving the compensation of a minor dependent. In the absence of such a requirement, the appointment of a guardian for such purposes shall not be necessary, provided that if no legal guardian be appointed, payment to the natural guardian shall be sufficient.
(d) If there be a surviving child or children of the deceased but no surviving spouse, then for the support of each such child twenty-five percent (25%) of the wages of the deceased, provided that the aggregate shall in no case exceed sixty-six and two-thirds percent (66-2/3%) of such wages, subject to the maximum limitations as to weekly benefits as set up in this chapter.
(e) If there be no surviving spouse or child, or if the amount payable to a surviving spouse and to children shall be less in the aggregate than sixty-six and two-thirds percent (66-2/3%) of the average wages of the deceased, subject to the maximum limitations as to weekly benefits as set up in this chapter, then for the support of grandchildren or brothers and sisters, if dependent upon the deceased at the time of the injury, fifteen percent (15%) of such wages for the support of each such person; and for the support of each parent or grandparent of the deceased, if dependent upon him at the time of injury, fifteen percent (15%) of such wages during such dependency. But in no case shall the aggregate amount payable under this subsection exceed the difference between sixty-six and two-thirds percent (66-2/3%) of such wages and the amount payable as hereinbefore provided to surviving spouse and for the support of surviving child or children, subject to the maximum limitations as to weekly benefits as set up in this chapter.
(f) The total weekly compensation payments to any or all beneficiaries in death cases shall not exceed the weekly benefits as set up in this chapter and shall in no case be paid for a longer period than four hundred fifty (450) weeks or for a greater amount than the multiple of four hundred fifty (450) weeks times sixty-six and two-thirds percent (66-2/3%) of the average weekly wage for the state.
(g) All questions of dependency shall be determined as of the time of the injury. A surviving spouse, child or children shall be presumed to be wholly dependent. All other dependents shall be considered on the basis of total or partial dependence as the facts may warrant.
(2) The employer shall have the right to require an autopsy at the expense of the employer unless autopsies are against the religious beliefs of the deceased or the family of the deceased.
SECTION 5. Section 71-3-35, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
71-3-35. (1) No claim for compensation shall be maintained unless, within thirty (30) days after the occurrence of the injury, actual notice was received by the employer or by an officer, manager, or designated representative of an employer. If no representative has been designated by posters placed in one or more conspicuous places, then notice received by any superior shall be sufficient. Absence of notice shall not bar recovery if it is found that the employer had knowledge of the injury and was not prejudiced by the employee's failure to give notice. Regardless of whether notice was received, if no payment of compensation (other than medical treatment or burial expense) is made and no application for benefits filed with the commission within two (2) years from the date of the injury or death, the right to compensation therefor shall be barred.
(2) If a person who is entitled to compensation under this chapter is mentally incompetent or a minor, the limitation for filing application for benefits shall not be applicable so long as such person has no guardian or other authorized representative, but shall be applicable in the case of a person who is mentally incompetent or a minor from the date of appointment of such guardian or other representative, or in the case of a minor, if no guardian is appointed before he becomes of age, from the date he becomes of age.
(3) Where recovery is denied to any person, in a suit brought at law or admiralty to recover damages in respect of injury or death, on the ground that such person was an employee and that the defendant was an employer within the meaning of this chapter and that such employer had secured compensation to such employee under this chapter, the limitation upon filing application for benefits shall begin to run only from the date of termination of such suit.
(4) When an employee resigns, his employment is terminated or he is laid off, no claim for physical injury shall be maintained unless actual notice of the injury was received by the employer on or before the date of the resignation, termination or layoff.
SECTION 6. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.