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Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Monday signed into law a comprehensive workers compensation bill that raises the maximum benefit for injured workers from 100% to 125% of the state average weekly wage at the time of injury, among other changes.
L.D. 756, introduced on Feb. 14 and unanimously passed by both House and Senate on June 14, also calls for adjustments of benefits “equal to the actual percentage increase or decrease in the state average weekly wage, as computed by the Department of Labor, for the previous year or 5%, whichever is less,” the law states.
The law also applies a 624-week limit to benefits, which may be extended by the state Workers’ Compensation Board, which may not review cases more often than every two years from the date an extension is granted.
Parents will also now be able to collect survivor benefits in the event of a worker dying if the worker does not have dependents. The benefits would equal 2/3 of the worker’s gross average weekly wage and would be capped at 500 weeks.
Employers and payers already have a 14-day deadline to pay benefits, but the law now provides leeway if the payer “cannot pay due to an act of God, to a mistake of fact or to unavoidable circumstances,” the enacted draft of the bill states, adding that “(a)n employer's failure to timely report an injury for which proper notice was given is not an excuse for the insurer.”
The law also puts a 10% cap on attorney’s fees, with reasonable fees deducted from the settlement, including medical examination costs, witness costs, court report services and appeals costs.
Eric Cioppa, superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance, said Tuesday the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc.’s proposal for an average loss cost decrease of 12% has been approved.