An Act Increasing Workers' Compensation Benefits.
An Act Increasing Workers' Compensation Benefits.
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General Assembly

Raised Bill No. 66

February Session, 2000

LCO No. 110

Referred to Committee on Labor and Public Employees

Introduced by:

(LAB)

An Act Increasing Workers' Compensation Benefits.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Subdivision (2) of subsection (a) of section 31-306 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(2) To those wholly dependent upon the deceased employee at the date of [his] the deceased employee's injury, a weekly compensation equal to [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the average weekly earnings of the deceased calculated pursuant to section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, after such earnings have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act made from such employee's total wages received during the period of calculation of the employee's average weekly wage pursuant to said section 31-310, as of the date of the injury but not more than the maximum weekly compensation rate set forth in section 31-309 for the year in which the injury occurred or less than twenty dollars weekly. (A) The weekly compensation rate of each dependent entitled to receive compensation under this section as a result of death arising from a compensable injury occurring on or after October 1, 1977, shall be adjusted annually as provided in this subdivision as of the following October first, and each subsequent October first, to provide the dependent with a cost-of-living adjustment in [his] the dependent's weekly compensation rate as determined as of the date of the injury under section 31-309. If the maximum weekly compensation rate, as determined under the provisions of said section 31-309 [,] to be effective as of any October first following the date of the injury, is greater than the maximum weekly compensation rate prevailing at the date of the injury, the weekly compensation rate which the injured employee was entitled to receive at the date of the injury or October 1, 1990, whichever is later, shall be increased by the percentage of the increase in the maximum weekly compensation rate required by the provisions of said section 31-309 from the date of the injury or October 1, 1990, whichever is later, to such October first. The cost-of-living increases provided under this subdivision shall be paid by the employer without any order or award from the commissioner. The adjustments shall apply to each payment made in the next succeeding twelve-month period commencing with the October first next succeeding the date of the injury. With respect to any dependent receiving benefits on October 1, 1997, with respect to any injury occurring on or after July 1, 1993, and before October 1, 1997, such benefit shall be recalculated to October 1, 1997, as if such benefits had been subject to recalculation annually under this subparagraph. The difference between the amount of any benefits which would have been paid to such dependent if such benefits had been subject to such recalculation and the actual amount of benefits paid during the period between such injury and such recalculation shall be paid to the dependent not later than December 1, 1997, in a lump-sum payment. The employer or [his] the employer's insurer shall be reimbursed by the Second Injury Fund, as provided in section 31-354, for adjustments, including lump-sum payments, payable under this subparagraph for deaths from compensable injuries occurring on or after July 1, 1993, and before October 1, 1997, upon presentation of any vouchers and information that the Treasurer shall require. (B) The weekly compensation rate of each dependent entitled to receive compensation under this section as a result of death arising from a compensable injury occurring on or before September 30, 1977, shall be adjusted as of October 1, 1977, and October 1, 1980, and thereafter, as provided in this subdivision to provide the dependent with partial cost-of-living adjustments in [his] the dependent's weekly compensation rate. As of October 1, 1977, the weekly compensation rate paid prior to October 1, 1977, to the dependent shall be increased by twenty-five per cent. The partial cost-of-living adjustment provided under this subdivision shall be paid by the employer without any order or award from the commissioner. In addition, on each October first, the weekly compensation rate of each dependent as of October 1, 1990, shall be increased by the percentage of the increase in the maximum compensation rate over the maximum compensation rate of October 1, 1990, as determined under the provisions of section 31-309 existing on October 1, 1977. The cost of the adjustments shall be paid by the employer or [his] the employer's insurance carrier who shall be reimbursed therefor from the Second Injury Fund as provided in section 31-354 upon presentation of any vouchers and information that the Treasurer shall require.

Sec. 2. Subsection (a) of section 31-307 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) If any injury for which compensation is provided under the provisions of this chapter results in total incapacity to work, the injured employee shall be paid a weekly compensation equal to [seventy-five] eighty per cent of [his] such employee's average weekly earnings as of the date of the injury, calculated pursuant to section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, after such earnings have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act made from such employee's total wages received during the period of calculation of the employee's average weekly wage pursuant to said section 31-310; but the compensation shall not be more than the maximum weekly benefit rate set forth in section 31-309 for the year in which the injury occurred. No employee entitled to compensation under this section shall receive less than twenty per cent of the maximum weekly compensation rate, as provided in section 31-309, provided the minimum payment shall not exceed [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the employee's average weekly wage, as determined under section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, and the compensation shall not continue longer than the period of total incapacity.

Sec. 3. Section 31-307b of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

If any employee who receives compensation under section 31-307, as amended by section 2 of this act, returns to work after recovery from [his] such employee's injury and subsequently suffers total or partial incapacity caused by a relapse from the recovery from, or a recurrence of, the injury, the employee shall be paid a weekly compensation equal to [seventy-five] eighty per cent of [his] such employee's average weekly earnings as of the date of the original injury or at the time of [his] such employee's relapse or at the time of the recurrence of the injury, whichever is the greater sum, calculated pursuant to section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, after such earnings have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act made from such employee's total wages received during the period of calculation of the employee's average weekly wage pursuant to said section 31-310, but not more than (1) the maximum compensation rate set pursuant to section 31-309 if the employee suffers total incapacity, or (2) one hundred per cent, raised to the next even dollar, of the average weekly earnings of production and related workers in manufacturing in the state, as determined in accordance with the provisions of section 31-309, if the employee suffers partial incapacity, for the year in which the employee suffered the relapse or recurrent injury and the minimum rate under this chapter for that year, and provided (A) the compensation shall not continue longer than the period of total or partial incapacity following the relapse or recurrent injury and (B) no employee eligible for compensation for specific injuries set forth in section 31-308, as amended by section 4 of this act, shall receive compensation under this section. The employee shall also be entitled to receive the cost-of-living adjustment provided in accordance with the provisions of section 31-307a commencing on October first following the relapse or recurrent injury which disables [him] said employee. If the injury occurred originally prior to October 1, 1969, the difference between the employee's original weekly compensation rate and the rate required by this section and the cost-of-living adjustment, if any, thereafter due shall be paid initially by the employer or [his] the employer's insurance carrier who shall be reimbursed for such payment from the Second Injury Fund as provided by section 31-354 upon presentation of any vouchers and information that the Treasurer shall require. In no event shall the employee receive more than the prevailing maximum compensation.

Sec. 4. Section 31-308 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) If any injury for which compensation is provided under the provisions of this chapter results in partial incapacity, the injured employee shall be paid a weekly compensation equal to [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the difference between the wages currently earned by an employee in a position comparable to the position held by the injured employee before [his] such employee's injury, after such wages have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act in accordance with section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, and the amount [he] such employee is able to earn after the injury, after such amount has been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act in accordance with section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, except that when (1) the physician attending an injured employee certifies that the employee is unable to perform [his] the employee's usual work but is able to perform other work, (2) the employee is ready and willing to perform other work in the same locality and (3) no other work is available, the employee shall be paid [his] the employee's full weekly compensation subject to the provisions of this section. Compensation paid under this subsection shall not be more than one hundred per cent, raised to the next even dollar, of the average weekly earnings of production and related workers in manufacturing in the state, as determined in accordance with the provisions of section 31-309, and shall continue during the period of partial incapacity, but no longer than five hundred twenty weeks. If the employer procures employment for an injured employee that is suitable to [his] such employee's capacity, the wages offered in such employment shall be taken as the earning capacity of the injured employee during the period of the employment.

(b) With respect to the following injuries, the compensation, in addition to the usual compensation for total incapacity but in lieu of all other payments for compensation, shall be [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the average weekly earnings of the injured employee, calculated pursuant to section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, after such earnings have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act made from such employee's total wages received during the period of calculation of the employee's average weekly wage pursuant to said section 31-310, but in no case more than one hundred per cent, raised to the next even dollar, of the average weekly earnings of production and related workers in manufacturing in the state, as determined in accordance with the provisions of section 31-309, or less than fifty dollars weekly. All of the following injuries include the loss of the member or organ and the complete and permanent loss of use of the member or organ referred to:

T1

T2

MEMBER

INJURY

WEEKS OF COMPENSATION

T3

Arm

T4

T5

    Master arm

Loss at or above elbow

208

T6

T7

    Other arm

Loss at or above elbow

194

T8

Hand

T9

T10

    Master hand

Loss at or above

wrist

168

T11

T12

    Other hand

Loss at or above

wrist

155

T13

T14

One leg

Loss at or above

knee

155

T15

T16

One foot

Loss at or above

ankle

125

T17

Hearing

T18

Both ears

104

T19

One ear

35

T20

One eye

T21

T22

T23

T24

T25

T26

T27

Complete and

permanent loss of

sight in, or

reduction of sight

to one-tenth or

less of normal

vision

157

T28

Thumb*

T29

On master hand

63

T30

On other hand

54

T31

Fingers **

T32

First finger

36

T33

Second finger

29

T34

Third finger

21

T35

Fourth finger

17

T36

Toes ***

T37

Great toe

28

T38

Other toes

9

T39

T40

T41

T42

T43

T44

T45

Back

Number of weeks which the proportion of incapacity represents to a maximum of 374 weeks

T46

Heart

520

T47

Brain

520

T48

Carotid artery

520

T49

Pancreas

416

T50

Liver

347

T51

Stomach

260

T52

Loss of bladder

233

T53

Speech

163

T54

Lung

117

T55

Cervical spine

117

T56

Kidney

117

T57

Rib cage

Bilateral

69

T58

Testis

35

T59

Mammary

35

T60

Nose

Sense and respiratory

function

35

T61

Jaw

Mastication

35

T62

Penis

35-104

T63

Coccyx

Actual removal

35

T64

Sense of smell

17

T65

Sense of taste

17

T66

Spleen

In addition to scar

13

T67

Gall bladder

13

T68

Tooth

Minimum

1

T69

T70

T71

T72

Loss of drainage duct of eye

(If corrected by prosthesis)

17 for each

T73

T74

T75

T76

Loss of drainage duct of eye

(If uncorrected by prosthesis)

33 for each

T77

Pelvis

percentage

of back

*The loss or loss of use of one phalanx of a thumb shall be construed as seventy-five per cent of the loss of the thumb.

**The loss or loss of use of one phalanx of a finger shall be construed as fifty per cent of the loss of the finger. The loss of or loss of use of two phalanges of a finger shall be construed as ninety per cent of the loss of the finger.

***The loss or loss of use of one phalanx of a great toe shall be construed as sixty-six and two-thirds per cent of the loss of the great toe. The loss of the greater part of any phalanx shall be construed as the loss of a phalanx and shall be compensated accordingly.

If the injury consists of the loss of a substantial part of a member resulting in a permanent partial loss of the use of a member, or if the injury results in a permanent partial loss of function, the commissioner may, in [his] the commissioner's discretion, in lieu of other compensation, award to the injured employee the proportion of the sum provided in this subsection for the total loss of, or the loss of the use of, the member or for incapacity or both that represents the proportion of total loss or loss of use found to exist, and any voluntary agreement submitted in which the basis of settlement is such proportionate payment may, if otherwise conformable to the provisions of this chapter, be approved by the commissioner in [his] the commissioner's discretion. Notwithstanding the provisions of this subsection, the complete loss or loss of use of an organ which results in the death of an employee shall be compensable pursuant only to section 31-306, as amended by section 1 of this act.

(c) (1) In addition to compensation for total or partial incapacity or for a specific loss of a member or use of the function of a member of the body, the commissioner, not earlier than one year from the date of the injury and not later than two years from the date of the injury or the surgery date of the injury, may award compensation equal to [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the average weekly earnings of the injured employee, calculated pursuant to section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, after such earnings have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act made from such employee's total wages received during the period of calculation of the employee's average weekly wage pursuant to said section 31-310, but not more than one hundred per cent, raised to the next even dollar, of the average weekly earnings of production and related workers in manufacturing in the state, as determined in accordance with the provisions of section 31-309, for up to two hundred eight weeks, for any permanent significant disfigurement of, or permanent significant scar on, (A) the face, head or neck, or (B) on any other area of the body which handicaps the employee in obtaining or continuing to work. The commissioner may not award compensation under this subsection when the disfigurement was caused solely by the loss of or the loss of use of a member of the body for which compensation is provided under subsection (b) of this section or for any scar resulting from an inguinal hernia operation or any spinal surgery.

(2) In making any award under this subsection, the commissioner shall consider [(1)] (A) the location of the scar or disfigurement, [(2)] (B) the size of the scar or disfigurement, [(3)] (C) the visibility of the scar or disfigurement due to hyperpigmentation or depigmentation, whether hypertrophic or keloidal, [(4)] (D) whether the scar or disfigurement causes a tonal or textural skin change, causes loss of symmetry of the affected area or results in noticeable bumps or depressions in the affected area, and [(5)] (E) other relevant factors.

(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of this subsection, no compensation shall be awarded for any scar or disfigurement which is not located on (A) the face, head or neck, or (B) any other area of the body which handicaps the employee in obtaining or continuing to work. In addition to the requirements contained in section 31-297, the commissioner shall provide written notice to the employer prior to any hearing held by the commissioner to consider an award for any scar or disfigurement under this subsection.

(d) Any award or agreement for compensation made pursuant to this section shall be paid to the employee, or in the event of the employee's death, whether or not a formal award has been made prior to the death, to [his] the employee's surviving spouse or, if [he] the employee has no surviving spouse, to [his] the employee's dependents in equal shares or, if [he] the employee has no surviving spouse or dependents, to [his] the employee's children, in equal shares, regardless of their age.

Sec. 5. Subsection (a) of section 31-308a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) In addition to the compensation benefits provided by section 31-308, as amended by section 4 of this act, for specific loss of a member or use of the function of a member of the body, or any personal injury covered by this chapter, the commissioner, after such payments provided by said section 31-308 have been paid for the period set forth in said section, may award additional compensation benefits for such partial permanent disability equal to [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the difference between the wages currently earned by an employee in a position comparable to the position held by such injured employee prior to [his] such employee's injury, after such wages have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act in accordance with section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, and the weekly amount which such employee will probably be able to earn thereafter, after such amount has been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act in accordance with section 31-310, as amended by section 6 of this act, to be determined by the commissioner based upon the nature and extent of the injury, the training, education and experience of the employee, the availability of work for persons with such physical condition and at the employee's age, but not more than one hundred per cent, raised to the next even dollar, of the average weekly earnings of production and related workers in manufacturing in the state, as determined in accordance with the provisions of section 31-309. If evidence of exact loss of earnings is not available, such loss may be computed from the proportionate loss of physical ability or earning power caused by the injury. The duration of such additional compensation shall be determined upon a similar basis by the commissioner, but in no event shall the duration of such additional compensation exceed the lesser of (1) the duration of the employee's permanent partial disability benefits, or (2) five hundred twenty weeks. Additional benefits provided under this section shall be available only to employees who are willing and able to perform work in this state.

Sec. 6. Section 31-310 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) For the purposes of this chapter, the average weekly wage shall be ascertained by dividing the total wages received by the injured employee from the employer in whose service [he] the employee is injured during the fifty-two calendar weeks immediately preceding the week during which [he] the employee was injured, by the number of calendar weeks during which, or any portion of which, the employee was actually employed by the employer, but, in making the computation, absence for seven consecutive calendar days, although not in the same calendar week, shall be considered as absence for a calendar week. When the employment commenced otherwise than at the beginning of a calendar week, that calendar week and wages earned during that week shall be excluded in making the computation. When the period of employment immediately preceding the injury is computed to be less than a net period of two calendar weeks, the employee's weekly wage shall be considered to be equivalent to the average weekly wage prevailing in the same or similar employment in the same locality at the date of the injury except that, when the employer has agreed to pay a certain hourly wage to the employee, the hourly wage so agreed upon shall be the hourly wage for the injured employee and [his] the injured employee's average weekly wage shall be computed by multiplying the hourly wage by the regular number of hours that is permitted each week in accordance with the agreement. For the purpose of determining the amount of compensation to be paid in the case of a minor under the age of eighteen who has sustained an injury entitling [him] such minor to compensation for total or partial incapacity for a period of fifty-two or more weeks, or to specific indemnity for any injury under the provisions of section 31-308, as amended by section 4 of this act, the commissioner may add fifty per cent to [his] such minor's average weekly wage, except in the case of a minor under the age of sixteen, the commissioner may add one hundred per cent to [his] such minor's average weekly wage. When the injured employee is a trainee or apprentice receiving a subsistence allowance from the United States because of war service, the allowance shall be added to [his] such trainee's or apprentice's actual earnings in determining the average weekly wage. Where the injured employee has worked for more than one employer as of the date of the injury and the average weekly wage received from the employer in whose employ [he] such employee was injured, as determined under the provisions of this section, [are] is insufficient for [him] such employee to obtain the maximum weekly compensation rate from the employer under section 31-309, prevailing as of the date of the injury, [his] such employee's average weekly wages shall be calculated upon the basis of wages earned from all such employers in the period of concurrent employment not in excess of fifty-two weeks prior to the date of the injury, but the employer in whose employ the injury occurred shall be liable for all medical and hospital costs and a portion of the compensation rate equal to [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the average weekly wage paid by [him] the employer to the injured employee, after such earnings have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contribution Act made from such employee's total wages received from such employer during the period of calculation of such average weekly wage, but not less than an amount equal to the minimum compensation rate prevailing as of the date of the injury. The remaining portion of the applicable compensation rate shall be paid from the Second Injury Fund upon submission to the Treasurer by the employer or the employer's insurer of such vouchers and information as the Treasurer may require. In cases which involve concurrent employment and in which there is a claim against a third party, the injured employee or the employer in whose employ the injury was sustained or the employer's insurer shall advise the custodian of the Second Injury Fund if there is a third party claim, and the employee, employer or employer's insurer shall pursue its subrogation rights as provided for in section 31-293 and shall include in its claim all compensation paid by the Second Injury Fund and shall reimburse the Second Injury Fund for all payments made for compensation in the event of a recovery against the third party.

(b) Each August fifteenth, the chairman of the Workers' Compensation Commission, in consultation with the advisory board, shall publish tables of the average weekly wage and [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the average weekly wage after being reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act, to be effective the following October first, except that not later than June thirtieth, the chairman, in consultation with the advisory board, shall publish tables of the average weekly wage and [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the average weekly wage after being reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act, to be effective during the period July 1, 1993, to October 1, 1993. Such tables shall be conclusive for the purpose of determining [seventy-five] eighty per cent of the average weekly earnings of an injured employee after such earnings have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act made from such employee's total wages received during the period of calculation of the employee's average weekly wage for purposes of sections 31-306, as amended by section 1 of this act, 31-307, as amended by section 2 of this act, and 31-308, as amended by section 4 of this act.

Statement of Purpose:

To increase workers' compensation benefits from seventy-five per cent to eighty per cent of average weekly earnings.

[Proposed deletions are enclosed in brackets. Proposed additions are indicated by underline, except that when the entire text of a bill or resolution or a section of a bill or resolution is new, it is not underlined.]