District of Columbia Council Resolution PR24-0783, “Parity in Workers’ Compensation Recovery Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2022”

Historically, under the District of Columbia’s Official Code § 32-1503(a-1), an injured worker could not receive any workers’ compensation benefits in the District of Columbia, if the worker had ever received benefits for the same accidental injury or death, in another state.

However, on June 6, 2022, new legislation was introduced to the Council of the District of Columbia, seeking to amend the District of Columbia’s Workers’ Compensation Act of 1979. The purpose of this legislation is to permit an employee access to workers’ compensation benefits in the District of Columbia, even if the injured worker has applied for and received benefits in another state.  The basis for this proposed legislation was that the current legislative scheme, which bans an injured worker from recovering in the District of Columbia if they have received benefits in another state, was problematic for injured workers since workers’ compensation laws in the District of Columbia are more favorable to the injured workers than in neighboring states, i.e., Maryland and Virginia.  The legislation included a comment that the injured worker would not be able to “double dip,” meaning that the court would be required to reduce damages based on the amount of compensation recovered in another state.

The legislation was put forth on an emergency basis, relying on the justification that an injured worker should not be prevented from accessing the full compensation and benefits provided under the District of Columbia law.  The proposed legislation was approved by the Council on June 7, 2022, and was sent to Mayor Bowser for ratification.

On June 17, 2022, opponents of the proposed legislation drafted a letter to Mayor Bowser. In the letter, the opponents argued that the proposed legislation would cause a substantial increase in the number of claims in the District of Columbia, noting that the current jurisdictional rule prevents an injured worker from seeking benefits in the District of Columbia once their benefits end in another state.  Additionally, the opponents argued that an injured worker has the right to choose whether to file in the District of Columbia as opposed to another jurisdiction at the onset of their claim.  Finally, the opponents argued that the proposed legislation would result in multiple issues, including, but not limited to, the statute of limitations issues and the effect of orders issued by other jurisdictions.

Notwithstanding the opposition, Mayor Bowser signed the proposed legislation, thereby adopting PR24-0783. As a result, an injured worker can receive workers’ compensation benefits in the District of Columbia, even if the injured has applied for, or received, benefits in another state for the same accidental injury.  The emergency legislation expires on September 26, 2022.https://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/PR24-0783

Written by associate Marleigh Davis.

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