The Arizona House of Representatives took a break from crazy gun legislation and birther bills today to introduce a bill that, if passed, would significantly impact workers compensation claimants. HB 2617, introduced by Rep. McLain and Tobish, would allow a full and final settlement of a workers compensation claim, making it ineligible for reopening or rearrangement. At present, an injured worker can settle out his or her entitlement to permanent benefits and even his supportive medical care, but up to now, settlements involving future active medical care have generally not been approved by the Industrial Commission of Arizona. The right to reopen a workers compensation claim has been one of the unique features of Arizona Workers Compensation law.
The workers comp community has been somewhat split on the issue and I see both advantages and disadvantages to the proposed change. On the plus side, injured workers should be free to contract away their rights if they so choose - I've always felt that denying them that choice is somewhat patronizing. Many of our clients, for example, are from other countries where receipt of future active medical care is impossible anyways - they may as well get some value out of it. On the flip side, many clients will settle for the quick buck now without thinking of the future. If they need another surgery in 10 years and there isn't a carrier to pay for it, the taxpayers are usually left holding the bag. There will certainly be many good arguments on both sides. The two biggest players, the Industrial Commission of Arizona and the SCF Arizona (the state's largest workers comp insurance carrier), could take up opposing sides on the issue. Should be interesting to see it unfold.
Chad Snow, member of the Snow, Carpio, and Weekley lawyer group, is an attorney in Phoenix and Tucson who limits his practice to Workers (Workmans) Compensation issues. He has been active on many political issues in Arizona affecting the rights of injured workers. He can be reached at (602) 532-0700 or (520) 647-9000.