Doyle LLP Partner Patrick Dennis Testifies Before Texas House of Representatives Committee on Business and Industry regarding workers’ compensation proceedings.
On Monday, April 10, 2017, Doyle LLP partner Patrick Dennis was called to testify before the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Business and Industry regarding a proposed bill to modify the attorney client privilege in workers’ compensation proceedings. The video of Mr. Dennis’ testimony, including responses to various questions asked by members of the committee starts at 1:37:45 at http://tlchouse.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=40&clip_id=13450.
The bill at issue is HB 1678. The proposed bill (full text is available at https://legiscan.com/TX/text/HB1678/2017) seeks to expand the attorney client privilege in workers’ compensation proceedings to allow an injured worker’s employer to engage in secret communications with a workers’ compensation insurer and the workers’ compensation insurer’s lawyer. The bill also would overturn the Texas Supreme Court’s 2012 decision In re XL Specialty Insurance Company (opinion available at http://caselaw.findlaw.com/tx-supreme-court/1604917.html), which confirmed that communications between an injured worker’s employer and a workers’ compensation insurer or the workers’ compensation insurer’s lawyer are not entitled to protection by the attorney client privilege.
Mr. Dennis’ testimony focused on the fact that the bill could have a chilling effect on the workers’ compensation system. The Texas workers’ compensation system is designed to be a “no fault” and non-adversarial process to allow prompt payment of income and medical benefits to injured workers. For that reason, the employer is not a party at any Texas Department of Insurance – Division of Workers Compensation proceedings. Allowing secret communications between an employer and workers compensation insurer would deprive the injured worker of the ability to gain relevant information about his/her claim and could result in giving employers a secret way of encouraging and assisting workers’ compensation insurers to wrongfully deny or delay workers’ compensation claims. This risk is especially present in the bill since it seeks to protect employers with high-deductible workers’ compensation policies, who may have a financial incentive to deny or delay payment of workers’ compensation benefits.
Doyle LLP is proud to be part of the effort in Texas to protect the rights of Texas workers, especially those who have suffered work injuries. If you or someone you know has suffered an injury due to negligence of another or has been wrongfully terminated following a workplace injury, the lawyers at Doyle LLP can assist in advising of your legal rights.