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Jerome, Gibson, Stewart, Stevenson, Engle & Runbeck, P.C.
Helping Injured Workers In Arizona Since 1973

Will Arizona need workers' compensation reform next?

With one of its western neighbors passing a workers' compensation reform law, an important Arizona business association has weighed in as to what changes, if any, this state should make to its workers' compensation system.

In a bipartisan effort, California expanded worker's compensation benefits by $740 million and also ensured that employers would avoid what some anticipated would be an 18 percent rate hike in workers' compensation insurance premiums, according to the Los Angeles Times. It would appear that only a handful of groups opposed the proposal.

On the other hand, more groups in Arizona seem content to maintain the system's status quo. The state's status quo, however, may or may not be good for those suffering from workplace injuries.

For example, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce opposes expanding "presumptions of compensability," claiming that they circumvent the normal claims process. This situation arises when a worker has a medical condition that administrators will assume is related to the patient's employment. However, reform in this respect may benefit injured workers.

In theory, a worker entitled to a presumption of compensability navigates the claims process more quickly, perhaps because that worker enjoys the benefit of the doubt that the condition is work-related.

On the other side of the same coin, authorities will deny a worker's claim for compensation if that worker cannot prove that the condition is related to work. The worker must present enough proof to satisfy those who oversee Arizona's workers' compensation system. However, when it is well-known that the worker's condition is related to his or her occupation, not having to go through the process of gathering this proof saves the injured person time and unnecessary stress.

States reform their workers' compensation systems from time to time. Should the Arizona Legislature follow California's recent example and re-examine workers' compensation, employees should pay careful attention to the proposed changes. Hopefully, when the next round of reform comes to Arizona, lawmakers will fully protect a worker's right to fair compensation for workplace injuries.

Source: Arizona Chamber of Commerce, "2012 Business Agenda"

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