Arizona legislature shelves bill that could have harmed injured workers

When a worker is injured on the job or suffers from an occupational illness, workers' compensation benefits are available to pay for medical bills and partial wage replacement. Most Arizona employers provide workers' comp benefits through a workers' comp insurer.

Insurance companies are businesses that have profit as a motivator, and denying a higher proportion of workers' compensation claims means more revenue for insurers. When an insurer denies a workers' compensation claim, often it is for an arguably valid reason, but in some cases the denial is made in a systematic or bad faith fashion in order to pad the bottom line.

If an insurer denies your workers' comp claim in bad faith, the denial can be the subject of a lawsuit that ultimately provides supplemental compensation in addition to the workers' comp benefits to which you are entitled. A bill recently introduced in the Arizona legislature sought to eliminate the cause of action for bad faith workers' comp lawsuits. However, it recently became clear that the legislation is not going anywhere, at least for this year.

HB 2455 would have capped payments for wrongful denial or delay of workers' comp claims

HB 2455 seemed to be moving swiftly though the Arizona House of Representatives in early 2014. Heavily backed by business groups, the bill sailed through the House Committee on Insurance and Retirement and reached the Rule Committee in late February.

Under HB 2455, workers' compensation bad faith claims would have been exclusively handled by the Industrial Commission of Arizona. Fines for companies that denied a claim in bad faith would have been capped at $5,000 payable to the injured worker, and $10,000 payable to the state. Under current law, there are no such caps for damages in a bad faith workers' comp lawsuit.

This bill could have had serious consequences for employees whose workers' compensation claims were wrongfully denied. However, under serious pressure from the firefighters union, Arizona work injury lawyers and other groups, supporters of HB 2455 in the legislature agreed to table the measure for 2014. Republican Representative Karen Fann has pledged to hold meetings prior to the 2015 legislative session in an attempt to revamp the bill and reach middle ground.

Contact an Arizona workers' compensation lawyer if you have been harmed at work

The tabling of HB 2455 is beneficial to those whose workers' comp claims were improperly denied or delayed. However, it could be back again in a future legislative session, making it all the more important to pursue your workers' comp case in a timely fashion.

As soon as possible after suffering a workplace injury or succumbing to a work-related illness, you should contact an Arizona workers' comp attorney to discuss your legal options. Getting in touch with a lawyer quickly gives you the best odds of securing a quick, favorable resolution. If you have been harmed on the job, call an Arizona workers' compensation lawyer today to ensure you receive the full benefits to which you are entitled.