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Workmen's Compensation Legislation of 1931

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F THE 44 States having workmen's compensation laws, the

legislatures of all met in regular session during 1931 with the exception of three (Kentucky, Louisiana, and Virginia). Of the 41 States whose legislatures so met, 33 acted on the subject of workmen's compensation either directly or indirectly. Of the 4 States (Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, and South Carolina) still without the benefits of workmen's compensation, the legislatures of all but Mississippi met in regular session but took no definite action toward adopting a State workmen's compensation law. Extra sessions were also held in approximately 20 States, but in none of these special sessions was the subject of compensation acted upon.

The third session of the Seventy-first Congress of the United States was also held during the spring of 1931, but made no change in the basic compensation laws applicable to Federal employees, longshoremen and harbor workers, and private employees in the District of Columbia.

Four Territorial legislatures met in regular legislative session in 1931. Alaska made no change in its workmen's compensation law, while Hawaii, Porto Rico, and the 1930 legislature of the Philippine Islands made several changes, mainly of minor importance.

Of the eight Canadian Provinces, five (British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan) acted on the subject during the legislative year of 1931. A new law was enacted in Quebec similar in many respects to the Ontario law; thus, the law provides for a system of collective insurance in a provincial fund and for administration by the workmen's compensation commission. The Nova Scotia compensation act amended the definition of a "workman" to include a person who has entered into or works under a contract of service. The workmen's compensation board was authorized to extend compensation for spinal injuries, and the benefit of a doubt existing in any injured employee's case has been granted the employee. In Ontario, liberalization of compensation to blind workmen was effected, so that the act now provides that $50 of the compensation shall be paid by the industry and the entire remaining cost shall be paid from the provincial public fund; jurisdiction is vested exclusively in the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. The Ontario act was also amended by the removal of miner's phthisis from the schedule of industrial diseases.

A résumé of the amendments to the workmen's compensation laws made by the 1931 legislatures in the 33 States of the United States which acted upon the subject follows:

Alabama The only legislation in Alabama relating to the workmen's compensation law was Act No. 357, providing a penalty of double compensation for all minors illegally employed at the time of the injury.

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SEVERAL amendments were made to the workmen's compensation law of California by the legislature of 1931. The coverage of the act was amended by chapter 1021, so as to exclude any person engaged in selling, delivering, etc., newspapers, magazines, or periodicals where the title to such article has passed to the person engaged in such enterprise. The compensation act by the provisions of chapter 955 no longer applies to agricultural work, etc., if the pay roll of the employer has not exceeded $500 for the preceding calendar year. By chapter 1120, the failure to give to an employer 30 days' notice of an injury is no longer a bar to recovery if the employer was not in fact misled or prejudiced by such failure; formerly it was necessary to show that there was no intention to mislead the employer. To meet a court objection in third-party suits, section 26 of the compensation law was amended by chapter 1119, and now a release against a third party is valid only with the consent of both the employer and employee;

several other changes, mainly of a procedural nature, were also made i by this chapter. To recover against an employer for his misconduct

a claim must be filed within 12 months under chapter 1121. Chapter 944 extends the time for the filing of proceedings for compensation where a release or a compromise agreement has not been approved by the industrial commission. Chapter 945 provides that the burden of proof shall be upon the employer to show compliance with the provisions of the compensation act; formerly the commission was required to furnish proof of noncompliance, but this method proved unsatisfactory. Licensed contractors in the future are required (by ch. 771) to report to the registrar of contractors, within 10 days, the name and address of the insurance carrier, and penalties are provided for failure to do so. Under chapter 139, the State, as a political entity, must hereafter insure in the State insurance fund.

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The coverage of the Colorado workmen's compensation law was enlarged, by chapter 175, so as to include sheriffs and their deputies regularly employed and any person called to serve upon any posse; the rate of compensation of possemen is based upon $125 a month, or upon the average earnings in their regular employment, whichever rate is higher. Under chapter 174, a grandchild is now considered an actual dependent under the act, grandsons, however, must prove incapacity or actual disability. Several changes were also made in procedure. Thus, a petition for a review of referee's order must be made within 15 days instead of 10 days (ch. 177), while the court record of a case must be transmitted to the commission within 25 days instead of 20 days (ch. 178).

In cases of benefits increased because of the failure of an employer to comply with the provisions of the act, it is now provided (by ch. 176) that a copy of such award may be filed at any time after the order of the referee, but upon a reversal the judgment must be vacated and any execution thereon must be recalled.

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The only changes affecting in any way the workmen's compensation law of Connecticut were of a minor and supplementary nature. To remove any doubt as to whom satisfactory proof must be furnished of an employer's ability to pay directly to an injured employee, the act now specifies (ch. 9, p. 253) that such must be made to the compensation commissioner. A supplemental law (ch. 132, p.254) places the liability on the employer for compensation when an employee is lent to or employed by another. Another supplemental law (ch.145 p. 173) provides that information obtained by the State department of health in the investigation of occupational disease cases can not be used as evidence in any action at law or under the workmen's compensation law.


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The Legislature of Delaware, at the 1931 session, made several changes in the compensation law, the most important of which may be said to be the reduction made (by ch. 239) in the waiting period from two weeks to one week and the paying of compensation on the eighth day after incapacity, instead of on the fifteenth day as formerly. This chapter also increases the medical benefits, etc., from $100 to $150 and provides that compensation shall be paid for a subsequent injury only where the injury proves to be permanent, but if injuries occur under the same employer and in the same work classification as the first injury, compensation shall then be payable as though “both such injuries were the result of one accident, less an amount equal to the compensation fixed in this act for the previous injury.” Finally, chapter 239 provides that in addition to requiring a security from a selfinsurer for the payment of compensation, the industrial board may require such under any or all cases. The coverage of the act was enlarged by chapters 100 and 240, giving the city of New Castle and Levy Court of Sussex County the power to place certain officers and employees (nonelective) under the act. The salaries of the members of the industrial board were increased (by ch. 241) to $3,000.

Georgia The only act affecting the workmen's compensation law of Georgia was that (No. 298) abolishing the industrial commission, and transferring its powers, duties, etc., to the directors of the newly created department of industrial relations.


BY THE provisions of Act No. 93, an employee is no longer required to make a report of an injury if the employer has already reported the same to the board or insurance carrier, within the specified period, namely, three months after the injury or death. Another act (No. 16) was passed providing that a dependent may no longer maintain an action against the employer under the “death by wrongful act" statute, if such dependent has a remedy under the compensation act.

Idaho SEVERAL amendments to the Idaho act were made by chapter 222. Employments excluded under the act are enlarged so as to include those not carried on by the employer for pecuniary gain. The periods of compensation are also extended for many of the injuries in the specific indemnity schedule. Hearings may now be held by the full board as well as by a single member, and application for modification of any awards on the ground of change in conditions must be made within four years from the date of the accident causing the injury. Provisions for accident prevention are enlarged and the powers of the industrial board for the extension of safety measures are increased. For violation of any order of the industrial board, penalties of $1 a day for each employee are provided; and for failure to comply with an order for 10 days or more, an injunction may be issued against the employer.

Illinois ONE act (pp. 576–596) was adopted by the 1931 Illinois Legislature amending the workmen's compensation law in several respects. Employers are given the privilege of electing to cover any employees other than those engaged in the usual course of the business. An illegally employed minor may file a rejection of his right to compensation within six months of injury and may sue for damages; however, upon approval by the commission of any payment of compensation, the right to reject is barred. The maximum amount in death cases is increased from $3,750 to $4,000, and the minimum from $1,650 to $2,500. The minimum and maximum amounts, in the case of a widow with one or more children under 16 years of age, are increased to the following amounts: One child, minimum $3,000, maximum $4,450; two children, minimum $3,100, maximum $4,800; three or more children, minimum $3,200, maximum $5,500. Benefits to a nonresident alien dependent (not including a Canadian) are now limited to 50 per cent of the compensation. Lump-sum payments may be determined by any member of the industrial commission as well as by the whole commission. Any member of the commission may also grant an extension of time for a review of an arbitrator's decision. In the prosecution of an employer who fails to secure compensation, jurisdiction is given to the attorney general; this right was formerly vested in the State's attorneys of the several counties.

By senate joint resolution (No. 20, p. 920) the Illinois Department of Labor and the Industrial Commission were delegated by the legislature to investigate the subject of occupational diseases, and submit a report to the next session of the legislature.

Iowa CHAPTER 22 provides for the payment of the unpaid part of any compensation to a trustee for the benefit of the dependent offspring in cases in which the surviving spouse remarries, provided the offspring were dependent at the time of the injury. The taking of depositions is authorized by chapter 24, which provides that either party to a case may take the testimony of a witness living within 100 miles of the place of hearing, provided such testimony shows the physical condition of the injured party or the cause of the injury.


The two most important changes made in the workmen's compensation law of Kansas (by ch. 217) were the increase in the amount of medical, surgical, and hospital treatment in extreme cases to $500, and the limitation of compensation for the permanent partial loss of the use of a member to an amount not to exceed that payable for the total loss of the member, exclusive of the healing period. Reduced death benefits (limited to $750) are now made applicable only to dependents who are neither citizens nor residents of the United States.

Maine The

Maine workmen's compensation law was amended by chapter 160. The computation of the "average wage" for seasonal occupations is no longer specially provided, but is to be based presumably upon the methods provided for other part-time labor. Compensation in death cases is now clearly defined to extend from the date of death for a period of 300 weeks from the date of the accident. Hereafter, compensation payable to a dependent child ceases upon reaching the age of 18 years or upon marriage, unless such child is incapacitated. The time limit for the filing of any petition is extended from 7 to 10 years after an accident. The typographical or clerical error inadvertently made in the first sentence of section 4, chapter 55 (1930 Revised Statutes) has been corrected by chapter 225, section 4 (p. 242) and reads as follows: "The provisions of section 3 shall not apply to employers who employ five or less workmen or operatives regularly in the same business.


The workmen's compensation law of Maryland was amended in several respects. By chapter 363 the maximum weekly compensation for permanent total, temporary total, and temporary partial disability was increased from $18 to $20; an injured employee may now, in the event of a second injury, waive any right to compensation to which he would be entitled because of a preexisting disability; where a disability is due in part to the injury and in part to a preexisting disease, the industrial commission must determine the proportion attributable to each, and compensation is payable only for the disability caused by the injury; compensation for hernia is now allowed only upon proof satisfactory to the commission. A claim for compensation must now be filed by an employee within one year after disability. (Ch. 339.) Upon approval by the State industrial accident commission a claimant or a dependent may agree to compromise and settle any and all claims. (Ch. 364.) All questions concerning legal services may now be heard by the commission, and an attorney may be ordered to refund any portion of an excessive charge. (Ch. 404.) Application to modify a final award must be made within one year following such award. (Ch. 342.) In appeal cases the law now provides that the appeal shall be based on the record made before the commission, or upon an agreed stipulation of facts by the parties, and questions of fact submitted to a jury are limited to those disclosed by such record or stipulation. (Ch. 406.) The authority

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