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2013 Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Legislation

SiebenCarey attorneys supported the new measure, which includes improved benefits

During the 2013 session, the Minnesota Legislature passed a new workers' compensation act that provides positive benefit changes for Minnesota's injured workers.  This bill was signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton on May 16, 2013, and applies to injuries occurring on or after October 1, 2013.

First, the maximum compensation rate for temporary total disability benefits (the benefit payable to injured workers while off work due to a work related injury) has been increased from its current rate of $850.00 per week to 102% of the statewide average weekly wage (published every December 31) of the proceeding year.  Currently, for injuries occurring on or after October 1, 2013, the new maximum weekly benefit will be $963.90 for temporary total disability benefits.  As importantly, for injuries occurring next year on or after October 1, 2014, there will be an automatic increase in the maximum compensation rate without further legislative action and for every year thereafter.

Second, cost of living adjustments on weekly workers' compensation benefits will become effective on the third year anniversary date of injury versus the four year anniversary date of injury under the previous law.  Again, this applies to on the job injuries on or after October 1, 2013.  The annual cost of living adjustments are limited to a maximum of 3% per year where under the previous law these were limited to 2% per year.  Also, under the new law, there can never be a negative cost of living adjustment thereby resulting in a reduction of weekly disability benefits.

Third, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can now be a covered work related condition.  Since 1981, due to a Minnesota Supreme Court decision, the Lockwood case, mental health conditions have only been covered if related to a physical injury.  The new law carves out an exception to this rule where the diagnosis is PTSD.  For PTSD to be a covered condition under the new law, a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist must render the diagnosis utilizing the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (V.) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Fourth, the attorney fees statutory provisions were altered in the 2013 legislation.  Attorney fees payable from disputed benefits awarded to an injured worker are now based on a straight 20% formula and this applies to injuries on or after October 1, 2013.  Under the previous law attorney fees on disputed benefits were based on 25% of the first $4,000.00 recovered and 20% thereafter. Also, the process for obtaining judicial approval of awards of attorney fees was simplified.

Fifth, and finally, the new law places limitations on the length of rehabilitation assistance and, specifically, the amount of job search an assigned rehabilitation provider can render.  Job development services cannot exceed 26 weeks.