Workers' Compensation is national in scope and benefits for injured and exposed oil spill workers should be no exception according to the President Obama's oil spill paymaster, Kenneth Feinberg. Feinberg remarked on national television today that he will interpret benefits based on local State law and that the existing limit of $20 Billion for the Fund may be inadequate to pay all claims.
Two specific scenarios apply in workers' compensation actions that will allow the oils spill compensation fund to make benefits. First is the US Supreme Court's interpretation that workers' compensation claims may be allocated among several jurisdictions. In other words, the three basic benefits: temporary, medical and permanent disability may be divided in accordance with three separate jurisdictions to provide the highest possible benefit to the injured worker. Industrial Commission of Wisconsin v. McCartin, 330 U.S. 622, 67 S.Ct. 886, 91 L.Ed. 1140 (1947), U.S.C.A. Const. art. IV, Sec. 1.
Secondly, the oil spill compensation fund will look to the law of the individual State that governs to determine validity. If the claim is valid in that jurisdiction then it will be allowed. Feinberg said, "One thing we learned from the 9/11 fund, you'll recall, Congress passed that law and said that when it comes to whether or not a financial injury was caused by the terrorist attack, look to the local law of the state where you leave." "So if a Boston restaurant says, 'We're losing business in our restaurant because we can't get shrimp from the Gulf,' let's take a look at Massachusetts law. Would Massachusetts law recognize that claim? If it would, I will. If it wouldn't, I won't. That's what Congress suggested and that might work here."
Workers employed and hired through national corporations may have multiple legal options available in choosing the right state law to apply. Those selections will need to be chosen wisely.
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