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Rhode Island bill revises third-party liability in workers comp

Rhode Island

Rhode Island lawmakers have filed legislation that would amend provisions in the state’s workers compensation law in cases involving third-party liability.  

House Bill 5508, introduced Friday, addresses cases in which workers become injured under circumstances involving legal liability in individuals other than employers, and the employee seeks recovery of damages against those parties.

The measure states that any money received by injured workers through judgments, settlements or awards for past or future pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of society, loss of wages and earning capacity or other damages not fully compensated by workers comp do not have to be reimbursed to third parties.

Current law states that employees who recover damages from third parties, and who are required to reimburse those parties, are entitled to withhold from reimbursement certain litigation costs.

That provision would remain in effect.

Currently, injured workers are required to reimburse third parties when their comp benefits exceed the amount of damages they recover from individuals other than employers who may be partially responsible for workplace injuries.   

The bill also contains a provision that says reimbursable compensation to third parties shall be reduced by any percentage of a worker’s comparative negligence.

Current law says insurers are entitled to suspend worker comp benefits when monetary damages recovered by employees exceed the compensation paid as of the date of the third-party judgment or settlement. That wording would remain in effect.  

Under the bill, any dispute regarding the appropriate reimbursement apportionment amount shall be addressed by the court handling the underlying third-party claim.