Three types of laws impact the Workers’ Compensation process. They are:
- Regulations, and
- Appellate decisions.
In addition, the Workers’ Compensation Commission develops specific policies that guide them but do not bind them.
The starting point for workers’ compensation is statutory law. A statute is a written law. If it is not covered by a statute, it cannot be done, no matter how unfair something may seem to you.
Statutes start as “bills”. They are written and voted on by the Maryland Legislature. If both the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate approves the “bill” it goes to the Governor. If the Governor signs it, the “bill” becomes law.
Before the legislature votes, testimony is taken from both those in favor of the bill and those against it. This occurs in designated House and Senate Committees and often preliminarily in front of a designated Legislative Oversight Committee.
Lobbyists and special interest groups are heavily involved in the process. As a result, changes often take years.
The Workers’ Compensation Commission has the authority to create mandatory regulations. It is the purpose of a regulation to identify and determine precisely how the intent of a statute will be carried out. A regulation cannot create new law. It can only clarify a statute and provide procedures for its implementation.
Before a regulation is enacted, it must be circulated to the general public and hearings are held where anybody may speak in favor or against it. Regulations usually take several months to travel from an idea to reality. As with statutes, lobbyists and special interest groups are heavily involved in the process.
Appellate law is created by the Court of Special Appeals, which must hear every appeal, and the Court of Appeals which only hears appeals it chooses to be worthy of consideration (almost always only after the Court of Special Appeals has heard the case). Appellate decisions interpret statutes, regulations, the Constitution and other Appellate cases. The Courts may not create new law (although some criticize them for seemingly doing so), they may only interpret existing law.
By Clifford Sobin, Esq.