Reopening Closed Work Injury Claim In Arizona

In Adkins v. Industrial Commission, 95 Ariz. 239, 244, 389 P.2d 118, 121 (1964), the Arizona Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of a 1953 amendment that made it more difficult for some injured workers to reopen their previously-closed claims. Prior to 1953, an injured worker who had been awarded permanent partial disability and who suffered a further decline in earning capacity could reopen to seek additional disability compensation without having to prove a change in physical condition. Id. at 244-45, 389 P.2d at 121. Demonstrating a change in earning capacity was sufficient. Id. After the 1953 amendment, a loss of earning capacity award was "subject to change only in the event of a subsequent change in the physical condition of the injured employee resulting from the injury and affecting his earning capacity." Id. The supreme court held that the amendment requiring a change in physical condition "reduces the amount of compensation to which an injured workman might otherwise have been entitled under House Bill No. 227" without having been submitted to the electorate as an initiated or referred measure. Id. at 245, 389 P.2d at 121. The court concluded: As such it reduces the amount of compensation due in all those cases where the claimant's earning capacity rather than his physical condition is the determining factor. Under the plain language of Article 18, 8, Arizona Constitution, this is precisely what the legislature cannot do. Subsection F of A.R.S. 23-1044 is unconstitutional and void. Id. at 246, 389 P.2d at 122.