2018 Workers’ Compensation Law Update

The Minnesota Senate and the Minnesota House passed a workers’ compensation bill unanimously in both chambers.  The bill was signed by Governor Dayton on May 20, 2018.

The new law imposes considerable changes into the Minnesota workers’ compensation system.  Unless otherwise stated, the new law changes are effective for employees with dates of injury on or after October 1, 2018.  Below are some important changes.

Permanent Total Disability under Minn.Stat. §176.101, Subd. 4

Presently, Permanent Total Disability (PTD) is presumed to end at age 67, although this presumption can be rebutted.  The new law extends PTD to age 72, but ends PTD at age 72, unless the employee is injured after age 67, in which case PTD will end five years after the injury.

For dates of injury on or after October 1, 2018, the potential PTD exposure in most cases will be increased by five years, but there is certainty as to when PTD will end.

Temporary Partial Disability under Minn.Stat. §176.101, Subd. 2

Presently, Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) payments end after 225 weeks of payments.   The new law extends TPD payments to 275 weeks for dates of injury on or after October 1, 2018.  TPD compensation remains at two-thirds of the difference between the Average Weekly Wage of the employee prior to the injury and the earnings of the employee after the injury.  The new law continues to state that in no event would TPD benefits be payable if it has been more than 450 weeks post-injury.

Permanent Partial Disability under Minn.Stat. §176.101, Subd. 2a

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) payments for injured body parts will also increase.  Currently, a person with a 5% PPD rating is paid $3,750 ($75,000 x .05).  For dates of injury on or after October 1, 2018, an employee with a 5% PPD rating will be paid $3,940 ($78,800 x .05).  At the other end of the range, a person with a 90% PPD rating is currently paid $373,500 ($415,000 x .90).  For dates of injury on or after October 1, 2018, an employee with a 90% PPD rating will be paid $392,220 ($435,800 x .90).

Mental Impairment for First Responders under Minn.Stat. §176.011, Subd. 15

The new law liberalizes the law for firefighters, law enforcement officers, and paramedics seeking workers’ compensation benefits for a mental impairment by presuming that the mental impairment is an occupational disease if there was no mental impairment diagnosis prior to the employee’s work in those professions.  The presumption is rebuttable by “substantial factors” but such “substantial factors” that are known by the employer or insurer shall be communicated to the employee on the denial of liability.  The mental impairment is not considered an occupational disease if it results from an action taken in good faith by the employer, such as a demotion, job transfer, disciplinary action, retirement or termination.

This is a substantial amendment to the workers’ compensation statute for claims involving first responders.  Discovery will be even more important to determine whether the employee had a mental impairment diagnosis prior to employment as a first responder.  Note, this section of the new workers’ compensation law does not become effective until January 1, 2019.

If you have any questions, please contact Kent Gravelle at kbg@mccollumlaw.com.

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