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House denies fix for comp presumption

The House of Delegates Wednesday squelched a legislative effort to help injured workers who cannot recall the circumstances of their accident.

The House rejected a proposal by Gov. Bob McDonnell to clarify that a presumption in favor of coverage applies when a workers’ compensation claimant has no memory of the accident, even if he can testify to other matters. A deputy workers’ compensation commissioner recently interpreted the law to require the worker be medically unable to testify at all for the presumption to apply.

As The Roanoke Times reported, the ruling denied benefits for a Southwest Virginia construction worker. Even though the claimant could testify about his name, age and address, he could not recall the details of the accident.

The deputy commissioner ruled that, because the claimant was able to testify, he was not entitled to a presumption that his accident was work related.

McDonnell’s proposed amendment would have limited to inquiry to whether the worker could testify about “the circumstances of the accident.”

“This is simply clarifying language that enacts what we intended last year,” said Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, on the House floor Wednesday.

Insurance interests opposed a “fix” for the presumption because the language had been explicitly carved out in negotiations last year. Opponents said any such change in the language of Va. Code § 65.2-105 would upset the “peace in the valley” achieved by the 2011 compromise.

By Peter Vieth

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