Virginia: Committee shoots down bill aimed at employees who suffer brain injuries
The bill, S.B. 821, was aimed at employees who suffer severe brain injuries and are unable to recall the relevant circumstances of the accident. Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland, developed the legislation after learning about Arthur Pierce, an employee of a trucking company who was found lying beside his vehicle in September 2006. Pierce had suffered a severe brain injury and was unable to communicate the details of the accident. Physicians told his family that his injuries were most likely the result of Pierce falling from his truck. However, no one witnessed the accident, and without Pierce's testimony, he was denied workers' comp benefits. Pierce remained in constant care until he died in January 2008.
Pierce's widow brought the case to the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission. The commission also denied the claims, saying that there was not enough evidence to show that Pierce's injury arose out of and in the course of his employment.
S.B. 821 attempted to bring state law in line with current rules that govern when an employee is found dead in the workplace. In those instances, when an employee is found dead at his place of work or in a nearby location where his duties may have called him during his hours on the job, his injuries are presumed to arise out of employment, unless such presumption is overcome by a preponderance of evidence.
However, opponents of the bill said that extending the presumption to individuals with severe brain injuries who are incapable of recalling the circumstances of the accident would increase the likelihood of workers' comp fraud. The bill, according to members of the Committee on Commerce and Labor, could have led to employees faking brain injuries to secure benefits.
February 10, 2009
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