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Rising Burdens of Proofs and The Grand Bargain of Workers' Compensation Laws

Andy Yuan, Price V. Fishback

NBER Working Paper No. 26980
Issued in April 2020
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics, Labor Studies

Nearly every state has amended workers’ compensation laws in the last two decades and the national averages of cash and medical benefits paid per covered worker have declined. As a result, writers have suggested that the states might be cutting back on workers’ compensation benefits. We show that measures of the statutory benefits have been rising over time, a trend that work against the declining trend in average payouts per covered worker. A decline in accident rates at the national level has contributed to the decline in payouts. We then investigate the impact of specific state laws related to burdens of proof and limits on medical coverage after developing an annual panel data set for all states between 1997 and 2016. The results show that state laws that ban liberal construction of the rules and apportion benefits based on pre-existing conditions contribute to sharp declines in the states where they are enacted.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26980

 
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