Workers’ Compensation – In 2012, the Mississippi Legislature enacted significant changes to the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Law which favor employers. The new law is effective for injuries that occur after July 1, 2012 (S.B. 2576). The most noteworthy changes in the legislation are:
- The new law gives employers the right to administer drug and alcohol testing to injured employees. If the employee tests positive for a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater, for any amount of an illegal drug, or for any amount of a prescription medication taken contrary to doctor’s orders, the law presumes that the use of drugs or alcohol was the proximate cause of the injury. If the claimant refuses the drug and alcohol test, same presumption arises. Once the presumption arises, the claimant bears the burden of proving that drug or alcohol use “was not a contributing cause of the accident.”
- The legislature eliminated the traditional assumption that workers’ compensation laws should be interpreted and applied to favor compensation for employees. Instead, Mississippi’s new law expressly states that the statute and the evidence in a workers’ compensation case “shall not be presumed to favor one party over another and shall not be liberally construed in order to fulfill any beneficent purposes.”
- The new law requires claimants to file medical records proving a direct causal connection between the work performed and the alleged injury in support of a petition to controvert in cases in which no benefits have been paid. If a claimant is unable to file supporting medical records at the time of filing the petition due to an impending statute of limitations, the claimant is given 60 days after filing the petition to file the required records.
- Claimants may not receive benefits for the effects that a preexisting medical condition have on a workplace injury. Instead, permanent disability and death benefits are reduced by the proportion to which a preexisting condition “contributed to the production of the results following the injury.”
The legislature also increased the benefits for certain claims:
- Facial or head disfigurements increased from $2,000 to $5,000; o Additional compensation for rehabilitation time increased from $10 to $25 per week, for a maximum of 52 weeks.
- The surviving spouse’s lump-sum payment in a death claim increased from $250 to $1,000;
- Funeral expenses in a death claim increased from $2,000 to $5,000.