State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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Public Act No. 97-205

An Act Restoring Workers' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustments for Widows, Widowers, Orphans and Totally Disabled Workers and Including Certain Activities Within the Definition of Injury Under Workers' Compensation


Signed by Governor John G. Rowland
on June 24, 1997
Effective
October 1, 1997

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Subparagraph (B) of subdivision (16) of section 31-275 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof: (B) "Personal injury" or "injury" shall not be construed to include: (i) An injury to an employee which results from his voluntary participation in any activity the major purpose of which is social or recreational, including, but not limited to, athletic events, parties and picnics, whether or not the employer pays some or all of the cost of such activity; (ii) A mental or emotional impairment, unless such impairment arises from a physical injury or occupational disease; [or] (iii) A mental or emotional impairment which results from a personnel action, including, but not limited to, a transfer, promotion, demotion or termination; OR (iv) NOTWITHSTANDING THE PROVISIONS OF CLAUSE (i) OF THIS SUBPARAGRAPH, "PERSONAL INJURY" OR "INJURY" INCLUDES INJURIES TO EMPLOYEES OF LOCAL OR REGIONAL BOARDS OF EDUCATION RESULTING FROM PARTICIPATION IN A SCHOOL-SPONSORED ACTIVITY BUT DOES NOT INCLUDE ANY INJURY INCURRED WHILE GOING TO OR FROM SUCH ACTIVITY. AS USED IN THIS CLAUSE, "SCHOOL-SPONSORED ACTIVITY" MEANS ANY ACTIVITY SPONSORED, RECOGNIZED OR AUTHORIZED BY A BOARD OF EDUCATION AND INCLUDES ACTIVITIES CONDUCTED ON OR OFF SCHOOL PROPERTY AND "PARTICIPATION" MEANS ACTING AS A CHAPERONE, ADVISOR, SUPERVISOR OR INSTRUCTOR AT THE REQUEST OF AN ADMINISTRATOR WITH SUPERVISORY AUTHORITY OVER THE EMPLOYEE.

Sec. 2. Subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of section 31-280 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof: (1) Establish workers' compensation districts and district offices within the state, [and] assign compensation commissioners to the districts to hear all matters arising under this chapter within the districts AND MAY REASSIGN COMPENSATION COMMISSIONERS ONCE EACH YEAR, EXCEPT THAT WHEN THERE IS A VACANCY, ILLNESS OR OTHER EMERGENCY, OR WHEN UNEXPECTED CASELOAD INCREASES REQUIRE, THE CHAIRMAN MAY REASSIGN COMPENSATION COMMISSIONERS MORE THAN ONCE EACH YEAR.

Sec. 3. Subsection (a) of section 31-306 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof: (a) Compensation shall be paid to dependents on account of death resulting from an accident arising out of and in the course of employment or from an occupational disease as follows: (1) Four thousand dollars shall be paid for burial expenses in any case where the employee died on or after October 1, 1988. If there is no one wholly or partially dependent upon the deceased employee, the burial expenses of four thousand dollars shall be paid to the person who assumes the responsibility of paying the funeral expenses. (2) To those wholly dependent upon the deceased employee at the date of his injury, a weekly compensation equal to seventy-five per cent of the average weekly earnings of the deceased calculated pursuant to section 31-310, after such earnings have been reduced by any deduction for federal or state taxes, or both, and for the federal Insurance Contributions Act made from such employee’s total wages received during the period of calculation of the employee's average weekly wage pursuant to said section 31-310, as of the date of the injury but not more than the maximum weekly compensation rate set forth in section 31-309 for the year in which the injury occurred or less than twenty dollars weekly. (A) The weekly compensation rate of each dependent entitled to receive compensation under this section as a result of death arising from a compensable injury occurring on or after October 1, 1977, [and before July 1, 1993,] shall be adjusted annually as provided in this subdivision as of the following October first, and each subsequent October first, to provide the dependent with a cost-of-living adjustment in his weekly compensation rate as determined as of the date of the injury under section 31-309. If the maximum weekly compensation rate, as determined under the provisions of said section 31-309, to be effective as of any October first following the date of the injury, is greater than the maximum weekly compensation rate prevailing at the date of the injury, the weekly compensation rate which the injured employee was entitled to receive at the date of the injury shall be increased by the percentage of the increase in the maximum weekly compensation rate required by the provisions of said section 31-309 from the date of the injury to such October first. The cost-of-living increases provided under this subdivision shall be paid by the employer without any order or award from the commissioner. The adjustments shall apply to each payment made in the next succeeding twelve-month period commencing with the October first next succeeding the date of the injury. WITH RESPECT TO ANY DEPENDENT RECEIVING BENEFITS ON THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS ACT WITH RESPECT TO ANY INJURY OCCURRING ON OR AFTER JULY 1, 1993, AND BEFORE THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS ACT, SUCH BENEFIT SHALL BE RECALCULATED TO THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS ACT AS IF SUCH BENEFITS HAD BEEN SUBJECT TO RECALCULATION ANNUALLY UNDER THIS SUBPARAGRAPH. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE AMOUNT OF ANY BENEFITS WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN PAID TO SUCH DEPENDENT IF SUCH BENEFITS HAD BEEN SUBJECT TO SUCH RECALCULATION AND THE ACTUAL AMOUNT OF BENEFITS PAID DURING THE PERIOD BETWEEN SUCH INJURY AND SUCH RECALCULATION SHALL BE PAID TO THE DEPENDENT NOT LATER THAN DECEMBER 1, 1997, IN A LUMP-SUM PAYMENT. THE EMPLOYER OR HIS INSURER SHALL BE REIMBURSED BY THE SECOND INJURY FUND, AS PROVIDED IN SECTION 31-354, FOR ADJUSTMENTS, INCLUDING LUMP-SUM PAYMENTS, PAYABLE UNDER THIS SUBPARAGRAPH FOR DEATHS FROM COMPENSABLE INJURIES OCCURRING ON OR AFTER JULY 1, 1993, AND BEFORE THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS ACT, UPON PRESENTATION OF ANY VOUCHERS AND INFORMATION THAT THE TREASURER SHALL REQUIRE. (B) The weekly compensation rate of each dependent entitled to receive compensation under this section as a result of death arising from a compensable injury occurring on or before September 30, 1977, shall be adjusted as of October 1, 1977, and October 1, 1980, and thereafter, as provided in this subdivision to provide the dependent with partial cost-of-living adjustments in his weekly compensation rate. As of October 1, 1977, the weekly compensation rate paid prior to October 1, 1977, to the dependent shall be increased by twenty-five per cent. The partial cost-of-living adjustment provided under this subdivision shall be paid by the employer without any order or award from the commissioner. In addition, as of October 1, 1980, and on each subsequent October first, the weekly compensation rate of each dependent be increased to provide further cost-of-living adjustments in his weekly compensation rate. If the maximum weekly compensation rate as determined under the provisions of said section 31-309 existing on October 1, 1977, to be effective as of any October first following October 1, 1979, is greater than the compensation rate prevailing on October 1, 1979, the weekly compensation rate shall be increased by the percentage of the increase in the maximum compensation rate over the maximum compensation rate of October 1, 1979, as determined under the provisions of said section 31-309 existing on October 1, 1977. The cost of the adjustments shall be paid by the employer or his insurance carrier who shall be reimbursed therefor from the Second Injury Fund as provided in section 31-354 upon presentation of any vouchers and information that the Treasurer shall require. (3) If the surviving spouse is the sole presumptive dependent, compensation shall be paid until death or remarriage. (4) If there is a presumptive dependent spouse surviving and also one or more presumptive dependent children, all of which children are either children of the surviving spouse or are living with the surviving spouse, the entire compensation shall be paid to the surviving spouse in the same manner and for the same period as if the surviving spouse were the sole dependent. If, however, any of the presumptive dependent children are neither children of the surviving spouse nor living with the surviving spouse, the compensation shall be divided into as many parts as there are presumptive dependents. The shares of any children having a presumptive dependent parent shall be added to the share of the parent and shall be paid to the parent. The share of any dependent child not having a surviving dependent parent shall be paid to the father or mother of the child with whom the child may be living, or to the legal guardian of the child, or to any other person, for the benefit of the child, as the commissioner may direct. (5) If the compensation being paid to the surviving presumptive dependent spouse terminates for any reason, or if there is no surviving presumptive dependent spouse at the time of the death of the employee, but there is at either time one or more presumptive dependent children, the compensation shall be paid to the children as a class, each child sharing equally with the others. Each child shall receive compensation until the child reaches the age of eighteen or dies before reaching age eighteen, provided the child shall continue to receive compensation up to the attainment of the age of twenty-two if unmarried and a full-time student, except any child who has attained the age of twenty-two while a full-time student but has not completed the requirements for, or received, a degree from a postsecondary educational institution shall be deemed not to have attained age twenty-two until the first day of the first month following the end of the quarter or semester in which he is enrolled at the time, or if he is not enrolled in a quarter or semester system, until the first day of the first month following the completion of the course in which he is enrolled or until the first day of the third month beginning after such time, whichever occurs first. When a child’s participation ceases, his share shall be divided among the remaining eligible dependent children, provided if any child, when he reaches the age of eighteen years, is physically or mentally incapacitated from earning, his right to compensation shall not terminate but shall continue for the full period of incapacity. (6) In all cases where there are no presumptive dependents, but where there are one or more persons wholly dependent in fact, the compensation in case of death shall be divided according to the relative degree of their dependence. Compensation payable under this subdivision shall be paid for not more than three hundred and twelve weeks from the date of the death of the employee. The compensation, if paid to those wholly dependent in fact, shall be paid at the full compensation rate. The compensation, if paid to those partially dependent in fact upon the deceased employee as of the date of the injury, shall not, in total, be more than the full compensation rate nor less than twenty dollars weekly, nor, if the average weekly sum contributed by the deceased at the date of the injury to those partially dependent in fact is more than twenty dollars weekly, not more than the sum so contributed. (7) When the sole presumptive dependents are, at the time of the injury, nonresident aliens and the deceased has in this state some person or persons who are dependent in fact, the commissioner may in his discretion equitably apportion the sums payable as compensation to the dependents.

Sec. 4. Section 31-307a of the general statutes is amended by adding subsection (c) as follows: (NEW) (c) On and after the effective date of this act, the weekly compensation rate of each employee entitled to receive compensation under section 31-307 as a result of an injury sustained on or after July 1, 1993, which totally incapacitates the employee permanently, shall be adjusted as provided in this subsection as of October 1, 1997, or the October first following the injury date, whichever is later, and annually on each subsequent October first, to provide the injured employee with a cost-of-living adjustment in his weekly compensation rate as determined as of the date of injury under section 31-309. If the maximum weekly compensation rate, as determined under the provisions of said section 31-309, to be effective as of any October first following the date of the injury, is greater than the maximum weekly compensation rate prevailing as of the date of injury, the weekly compensation rate which the injured employee was entitled to receive as of the date of injury shall be increased by the percentage of the increase in the maximum weekly compensation rate required by the provisions of said section 31-309 from the date of the injury to such October first. The cost-of-living adjustments provided under this subdivision shall be paid by the employer without any order or award from the commissioner. The adjustments shall apply to each payment made in the next succeeding twelve-month period commencing with the effective date of this act or the October first next succeeding the date of injury, whichever is later. With respect to any employee receiving benefits on the effective date of this act with respect to any such injury occurring on or after July 1, 1993, and before the effective date of this act or with respect to any employee who was adjudicated to be totally incapacitated permanently subsequent to the date of his injury or is totally incapacitated permanently due to the fact that the employee has been totally incapacitated by such an injury for a period of five years or more, such benefit shall be recalculated to the effective date of this act, to the date of such adjudication or to the end of such five-year period, as the case may be, as if such benefits had been subject to recalculation annually under the provisions of this subsection. The difference between the amount of any benefits which would have been paid to such employee if such benefits had been subject to such recalculation and the actual amount of benefits paid during the period between such injury and such recalculation shall be paid to the dependent not later than December 1, 1997, or thirty days after such adjudication or the end of such period, as the case may be, in a lump-sum payment. The employer or his insurer shall be reimbursed by the Second Injury Fund, as provided in section 31-354, for adjustments, including lump-sum payments, payable under this subsection for compensable injuries occurring on or after July 1, 1993, and before the effective date of this act, upon presentation of any vouchers and information that the Treasurer shall require.

Sec. 5. Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes to the contrary, no employee who received compensation under section 31-307 of the general statutes or dependent who received compensation under section 31-306 of the general statutes shall be required to reimburse the Second Injury Fund for any overpayment in cost-of-living-adjustments determined by the State Treasurer in accordance with the decision in Karyn Gil v. Courthouse One et al., 239 Conn. 676 (1997).

Sec. 6. This act shall take effect October 1, 1997.


State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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