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Category: Worker

Workers' Compensation Advisory Council okays combined trial lawyer proposal

Thursday, September 6, 2012
I've been at meetings of the South Dakota Retirement System's board of trustees and the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council over the last couple days. Actions taken at both meetings will ultimately end up as proposed legislation. I'll do an SDRS recap later, as it's fairly dense, complicated material. However, the Workers' Compensation Advisory Council recap is fairly short.

Workers' Compensation Advisory Council (agenda)
  • Last legislative session, HB 1054 was introduced. HB 1054 failed to pass committee during the last session. It was a State Bar Association bill. It had a few parts. The Bar said it was a "package deal," in that if all the parts weren't included in the legislation, the Bar didn't want the bill to continue (usually, when an outfit or person is the key behind a bill, the "understanding" is that the bill must not be modified, at least without that entity's support). One part was an increase in the notice an employee must give to an employer when injured on the job, from 3 days to 7 days. During the legislative session, in committee, a boatload of business people and business lobbyists testified against that portion of HB 1054. Lots of those same folks testified the same before the Council today. The Council later today decided to pass that part, 4-2. Another part would allow "out-of-state practitioner[s]" to be used in Workers' Compensation cases. The rationale the Bar used today was that there is a shortage of doctors in the state, doctors that can provide the kind of testimony that can be useful for insurers in claims filed against them by employees who claim their injury occurred due to work. One proponent indicated doctors were giving so much testimony that they were contradicting themselves in different court cases, leading to impeaching themselves as witnesses. (Has the impeaching of doctors as witnesses led to a shortage of South Dakota doctors willing to testify for workers' compensation insurers in certain cases? Or has it simply made the case that honesty is always the best policy, regardless of who's paying the bill?) I testified against the issue today, stating, among other things, that any "lack" of South Dakota doctors was not really backed with any facts, and that South Dakota Workers' Compensation should be kept in South Dakota. Another point I made is that this proposed change wasn't limited to geographic areas or medical specialties where a lack of doctors would make out-of-state doctors useful. Another person, from a South Dakota medical organization, also opposed the issue. It passed 4-2. So, expect to see a bill with those two things in it at the next legislative session. One difference this time will be that the bill actually has the Council's support this time. HB 1054 was introduced without the approval of the Council at the last session, a fact that probably guaranteed it wouldn't go anywhere. The bill will have the Council's support next go-round.

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