And this is a blog dedicated to Mississippi Workers' Compensation
'Tis the season...for fines
I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I traveled to Orange Beach to spend some time with my in-laws, which meant laying on the couch in stretchy pants after overindulging for several days. Of course, this Thanksgiving was a little different as their home is filled with kids running around everywhere, mine included. Sawyer, my two-year-old son, is also in the middle of potty training, so between meals of fried turkey and dressing, I spent a large portion of my time celebrating “tee tee in the potty.” My 18-year-old self would not understand the person I have become.
When we returned to Madison after our trip, we decided it would be a good idea to pick out our Christmas tree and begin our decorations. This is our first Christmas with both kids walking, so we let the kids help pick out some of our decorations, including the tree. Stephanie and I turned our heads for a split second, and as we glanced back, Sawyer had clearly marked our tree. Needless to say, we bought this one....
In addition to the new developments in my home, there have been developments at the Commission lately as well, which many of you are now seeing. As you will recall, there was a February 22, 2016, Memorandum submitted by the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission (listed under the USEFUL LINKS tab). Therein, the Commission noted that, due to technical improvements and their ability to monitor the compliance of the employer/carriers’ and self-insurers’ obligations to timely report injuries and pay/suspend benefits, they would be actively pursuing new measures to make improvements in compliance.
What is the best way to make employers and carriers comply? The Commission has decided to start fining employers and carriers $100.00 for each offense. The Memorandum was to serve as a “fair warning”. In fact, the Memorandum specifically states the Commission would not penalize employers and carriers for instances of non-compliance prior to this Memorandum, or the date it was submitted on February 22, 2016, unless specifically ordered on individual claims by the Commission or the Administrative Law Judge.
There are multiple issues to address here. First, this is not new. Miss. Code Ann. Section 71-3-59 allowed for such fines up to $10,000.00 dating back to the last revision on April 13, 1993. However, the Memorandum placed everyone on notice that they were making plans to begin implementing said sanctions for $100.00 per sanction.
Most importantly, the Commission is instituting MANDATORY ATOS filings beginning on January 1, 2018. As a result thereof, and their dedication to moving towards an electronic system, they are putting the pressure on the employers and carriers the best way they know how.....by hitting their pocketbook.
The most often-asked question I receive is some derivative of: “what improper filing can be fined?” The short answer would be that any document improperly or untimely filed could be sanctioned. Such examples could include not timely filing your B-18 when benefits are changed, untimely filing your First Report of Injury (FROI), late filing of your Answer, etc. From speaking with some of my clients, the fines are just now being assessed, so we are still learning what is being sanctioned more than others, but I have seen a variety of fines thus far.
Additionally, the fines appear to be coming in waves. While a client may receive a sanction on one file, that certainly has no impact on the others. It seems as though the Commission is systematically going through their records and assessing fines on a case-by-case scenario. It is of utmost importance that your filing system is in place to adequately instate these new measures and that employers are timely notifying carriers of injuries. Also, be conscious that you must timely pay the fines assessed within 20 days, or there could be further consequences.
Finally, there are situations where the sanction should be appealed. A copy of an example from a notice received by one of our clients is included in the USEFUL LINKS tab. As you will see, this particular client had six different offenses and were charged a total of $600.00. If you feel one needs to be appealed, fill in the information in the blank and timely return that for consideration. If you are still told you owe a fine in response to your appeal, you may need to contact an attorney. In fact, I am working a particular claim with the Commission to try and resolve an issue without necessitating the penalty which is currently being owed. Please let me know if you have any issues that need addressing.
11/30/2017 09:15:05 am
Very good, sir. Little Saw just had to let you know which one he wanted.
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Attorney with Markow Walker in Ridgeland, MS