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District of Columbia Amends the Workers’ Compensation Act in Instances Where Third Parties are Liable

June 2, 2015 By Jennifer L. Rowlett

Recently, the District of Columbia’s Workers’ Compensation Act received a noteworthy amendment.  Prior to the amendment, if a person was injured while in the scope of his employment and the injury came at the hands of a third party, the injured worker’s acceptance of a worker’s compensation award marked the start date for the running of the injured worker’s statute of limitations to make a claim against the third party wrongdoer.  If the injured worker failed to bring the claim against the third party wrongdoer within 6 months of the date of the acceptance of the award, the Act automatically created an assignment to the employer of all rights of the injured worker against the wrongdoer.

Effective February 26, 2015 the Workers’ Compensation Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2014 adds that if the employer “fails to commence an action against such third person within 90 days after the cause of action is assigned under this section, the right to bring the action shall revert to the person entitled to compensation.”  The Act specifically indicates that the amendment does not toll the statute of limitations applicable to general personal injury actions (3 years in the District of Columbia).

It is important for employers to make note of this change as D.C. Code § 32-1535 has created a very short timeline for the assignment of the claim and a clear expiration date of the employer’s right to seek reimbursement from the third party wrongdoer.