CHAPTER 84

FORMERLY

SENATE BILL NO. 147

AS AMENDED BY SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 3

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 19, TITLE 18, TITLE 29, AND TITLE 30 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO WORKERS' COMPENSATION.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1. Amend Title 19 of the Delaware Code by repealing Chapter 21 in its entirety.

Section 2. Amend Chapter 23, Title 19, Delaware Code, by adding the following new sections thereto:

"§ 2301A. Industrial Accident Board.

(a) The Industrial Accident Board is continued. It shall consist of ten members, each of whom shall be appointed by the Governor for a term of six years and confirmed by the State Senate. The appointments shall be made so that there shall always be on the Board two residents of New Castle County outside of the City of Wilmington, one resident of the City of Wilmington, two residents of Kent County, two residents of Sussex County and three members at-large residents of any of the subdivisions of the State, and not more than six of said members shall be of the same political party.

(b) Each member of the Board shall receive an annual salary of fifteen thousand dollars except for the chairperson, who shall receive an annual salary of eighteen thousand dollars. The members of the Board shall receive from the State their actual and necessary expenses while traveling on the business of the Board, but such expense shall be sworn to by the person who incurred the expense, and any such person falsely making any such report shall be guilty of perjury and punishable accordingly. The salary of the members of the Board shall be paid in the same manner as the salaries of state officers are paid.

(c) A majority of the members of the Board shall constitute a quorum for the exercise of any of the powers or authority conferred on the Board, except for hearings conducted pursuant to this title, in which case two members of the Board, shall constitute a quorum and a sufficient panel to decide such hearings. Any disagreement involving a procedural issue arising before or after a hearing may be decided by one member of the Board.

(d) The Board, any Board panel, or any Board member empowered to decide any matter pursuant to Part II of this title shall act in conformity with applicable provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act set forth in chapter 101 of title 29, including, but not limited to, § 10129 of title 29. Lawyers representing clients before the Board shall act in conformity with applicable provisions of The Delaware Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct, including, but not limited to, Rule 3.5 thereof. Disputes regarding pre-hearing or post-hearing matters shall be presented by written motion and decided by written order.

(e) The Governor shall appoint the Board's Chairperson from among the Board's Members and the Chairperson shall serve at the Governor's pleasure in such capacity.

(f) The Administrator of the Office of Workers' Compensation shall perform all the administrative duties of the Board, including but not limited to scheduling the docket, maintaining the Board's records, and providing the liaison between the public and the Board members. The Department may employ such clerical and other staff as it deems necessary.

(g) The Board shall have a seal for authentication of its orders, awards and proceedings, upon which shall be inscribed the words -- 'Industrial Accident Board -- Delaware -- Seal.'

(h) The Governor may at any time, after notice and hearing, remove any Board member for gross inefficiency, neglect of duty, malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office.

(i) The Board shall have jurisdiction over cases arising under Part II of this title and shall hear disputes as to compensation to be paid under Part II of this title. The Board may promulgate its own rules of procedure for carrying out its duties consistent with Part II of this title and the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act. Such rules shall be for the purpose of securing the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every petition pursuant to Part II of this title. The rules shall not abridge, enlarge or modify any substantive right of any party, and they shall preserve the rights of parties as declared by Part II of this title.

§ 2301B. Hearing Officers.

(a) There is hereby created within the Department of Labor the full-time position of Hearing Officer. With respect to cases arising under Part II of this title, the Hearing Officers shall have:

(1) powers and duties conferred or imposed upon such Hearing Officers by law or by the Rules of Procedure for the Industrial Accident Board;

(2) power to administer oaths and affirmations;

(3) power, with consent of the parties, to hear and determine any pre-hearing matter pending before the Board. In such circumstances, the Hearing Officer's decision has the same authority as a decision of the Board and is subject to judicial review on the same basis as a decision of the Board;

(4) power, with consent of the parties, to conduct hearings, including any evidentiary hearings required by Part II of this title, and to issue a final decision determining the outcome of such hearings. In such circumstances, the Hearing Officer's decision has the same authority as a decision of the Board and is subject to judicial review on the same basis as a decision of the Board;

(5) Hearing Officer shall have the responsibility for advising the Board regarding legal issues and writing the Board's decision with respect to any hearing conducted by the Board at which such Hearing Officer has been assigned by the Department. The Hearing Officer shall not participate in the deliberations of the Board with respect to the determination of matters before the Board or vote on any matter to be decided by the Board but may be present during such deliberations for the purpose of providing legal advice.

(6) respect to any matter to which they are assigned responsibility in accordance with Part II of this title, the same authority as the Board would have to conduct or dispose of such matter in accordance with Part II of this title and the Board's Rules of Procedure. In such circumstances, any reference in Part II of this title or the Board's Rules of Procedure to the Board shall also refer to the Hearing Officer when such Hearing Officer is assigned responsibility in accordance with Part II of this title.

(b) Hearing Officers shall be appointed by the Secretary of Labor and shall serve for a term of five years; provided, however, that the initial Hearing Officers may be appointed to terms shorter than five years but not less than three years to ensure staggered term expirations. Appointees shall be residents of the State, shall be duly admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of this State, and shall not engage in the practice of law nor any business, occupation, or employment inconsistent with the expeditious, proper, and impartial performance of their duties. The number of Hearing Officers from 1 major political party shall not exceed a majority of 1. Individuals appointed as Hearing Officers shall under this section shall take the oath or affirmation prescribed by Article XIV, § I of the Delaware Constitution before they enter upon the duties of their office.

(c) Hearing Officers shall report to and be supervised by a Chief Hearing Officer, who shall be designated by the Secretary of Labor. Reappointments shall be at the discretion of the Secretary of Labor. The salary of a Hearing Officer shall not be reduced during the term being served below the salary fixed at the beginning of that term.

(2) The removal of a Hearing Officer by the Secretary of Labor, after consultation with the Chairperson of the Board, during the term of appointment may be made for just cause. For the purposes of this subsection only, 'just cause' shall be defined as including, but not limited to, reduction in force, inefficiency, or unsatisfactory performance of duties. The employee may contest the removal and file for binding arbitration and an arbitrator will be appointed jointly by the Chairperson of the Merit Employees Relations Board and the State Personnel Director to determine the matter.

§ 2301 C. Workers' Compensation Specialist.

There is hereby created within the Department of Labor the classified full-time position of Workers' Compensation Specialist. The Specialist shall assist unrepresented injured employees by providing information so that such employees can understand, assert, and protect their rights under Part II of this title. In addition, the Specialist may assist the Department in expediting the processing of petitions. However, assistance provided under this section shall not include representing claimants in hearings or offering legal advice.

§ 2301 D. Annual Review of Industrial Accident Board Case Management.

(a) The General Assembly intends for the Industrial Accident Board, and the Hearing Officers thereof, to manage its caseload in a manner which recognizes the importance of determining matters before the Board in a speedy, efficient, and just manner. To that end, the General Assembly intends for the Board and the Hearing Officers thereof to cooperate closely with the Department of Labor, which is the Executive Branch agency responsible for the effective administration of the Board's activities pursuant to Part II of this title, in developing procedures and processes which accomplish that important purpose.

(b) To ensure public accountability for the speedy, efficient, and just determination of the matters before the Board, the Department of Labor shall conduct an annual review of the effectiveness of the management of the Board's caseload. Such annual review should be published on or before February 15 of each year, and the Board shall be involved in the development of such annual review. The review shall include:

1) An analysis of the caseload pending before the Board, including, but not limited to, an analysis of dispositional speed, caseload backlog, number of continuances granted and the grounds therefor, number of appeals and the reversal rate of the Board, and compliance with hearing and decisional deadlines set forth in Part II of this title or in Board rules, to ensure that the performance of the Board as a whole can be evaluated by the General Assembly, the Governor, and the public at large;

2) An analysis of the caseload pending before the Board, particularized as to the individual Hearing Officers of the Board to ensure that the performance of such Hearing Officers can be evaluated;

3) Departmental recommendations regarding methods, including, but not limited to, legislative action and Board rule changes, to improve the performance of the Board and Department in ensuring the speedy, efficient, and just determination of matters before the Board.

(c) To ensure that the annual review considers the perspectives of the diversity of Delawareans interested in the effective performance of the Board, an advisory group is hereby established to consult with the Department in its development of the Department annual review. Such advisory group shall be appointed by the Governor, shall be convened by the Secretary of Labor or his or her designee, and shall consist of: the two Chairpersons of the respective Labor Committees of each House of the General Assembly or their designees; three representatives of Delaware's business community; three representatives of labor; two representatives of the Delaware Bar, one of whom shall be primarily engaged in the representation of claimants before the Board and one of whom shall be primarily engaged in the representation of employers before the Board; and two members of the Board. The members shall be appointed for a term of three years. Members shall receive no compensation."

Section 3. Amend Title 19, Delaware Code, Chapter 23 by striking the word "Board" as it appears in §§ 2303, 2313(a) and (d), 2344, 2372, 2374, 2375, 2376, 2377, 2391, the final paragraph of § 2392(c)(4), § 2392(d), and § 2395, and inserting the word "Department" in its place.

Section 4. Amend § 2301, Title 19, Delaware Code by inserting a new subsection (18) as follows: "'Department' means the Department of Labor."

Section 5. Amend § 2301, Title 19, Delaware Code to add a new subsection (19) to read as follows: "'Hearing Officer' means a Hearing Officer appointed pursuant to § 2301B. of this title."

Section 6. Amend § 2307, Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the figure "$300" as it appears therein, and inserting the words "seven hundred and filly dollars" in lieu thereof;

Section 7. Amend § 2312, Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the words "Industrial Accident Board" as they appear therein and inserting the word "Department " in lieu thereof.

Section 8. Amend the title of Subchapter V., Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the words "Second Injury and Contingency Fund" as they appear therein and inserting the words "Workers' Compensation Fund" in lieu thereof.

Section 9. Amend §§ 2313(c), 2327, 2347, 2362, 2365, and 2395, Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the words "Industrial Accident Board Second Injury and Contingency Fund" as they appear therein, and inserting the words "Workers' Compensation Fund" in lieu thereof.

Section 10. Amend § 2313(d), Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the words "in making recommendations to the General Assembly as provided in § 2121 of this title".

Section 11. Amend Chapter 23, Title 19, Delaware Code by adding a new § 2320 to Subchapter Ito read as follows:

"§ 2320. Subpoena of witnesses; oaths; service of process; medical examination and testimony, various fees.

(a) At the request of any party, the Department shall issue subpoenas and the Board may administer oaths in any proceeding and in all other cases where it is necessary in the exercise of its powers and duties. The Board may examine persons as witnesses, take evidence, require the production of documents and do all other things conformable to law which are necessary to effectively discharge the duties of office.

(b) Any subpoena, process, or order of the Department or any notice or paper requiring service may be served by any sheriff, deputy sheriff, constable or any employee of the Department and return thereof made to the Department. Such officer shall receive the same fees as are provided by law for like service in civil actions, except that if service is made by an employee of the Department, the employee shall not receive any fee but shall be paid the employee's actual expenses.

(c) If any person, in proceedings before the Board disobeys or resists any lawful order or process, misbehaves during a hearing or so near the place thereof as to obstruct the hearing, neglects to produce alter having been ordered to do so any pertinent document, refuses to appear alter having been subpoenaed or upon appearing, refuses to take the oath as a witness or, alter having taken the oath, refuses to be examined according to law, the Board shall certify the facts to any Judge of the Superior Court, who shall thereupon hear the evidence as to the acts complained of. If the evidence so warrants the Judge shall punish such person in the same manner and to the same extent as for a contempt committed before the Superior Court, or shall commit such person upon the same conditions as if the doing of the forbidden act had occurred with reference to the process of or in the presence of the Superior Court.

(d) The Board may in any case, upon the application of either party or on its own motion, appoint a disinterested and duly qualified physician to make any necessary medical examination of the employee and testify in respect thereto. The physician will be allowed a reasonable fee subject to the approval of the Board, which fee shall be taxed as costs.

(e) Witness fees and mileage shall be computed at the rate allowed to witnesses in the Superior Court. Costs legally incurred may be taxed against either party or apportioned between parties at the sound discretion of the Board, as the justice of the case may require.

(f) Fees of physicians for services under Part II of this title shall be subject to the approval of the Board.

(g) Attorney's fee.

(1) A reasonable attorney's fee in an amount not to exceed thirty percent of the award or $2,250, whichever is smaller, shall be allowed by the Board to any employee awarded compensation under Part II of this title and taxed as costs against a party.

(2) In the event an offer to settle an issue pending before the Industrial Accident Board is communicated to the claimant or the claimant's attorney in writing at least 30 days prior to the trial date established by the Board on such issue, and the offer thus communicated is equal to or greater than the amount ultimately awarded by the Board at the trial on that issue, the provisions of paragraph (1) of this subsection shall have no application. If multiple issues are pending before the Board, said offer of settlement shall address each issue pending, and shall state explicitly whether or not the offer on each issue is severable. The written offer shall also unequivocally state whether or not it includes medical witness fees and expenses, and/or late cancellation fees relating to such medical witness fees and expenses.

(h) Except as otherwise provided in Part II of this title, all money or income received by the Department or the Board from taxes, fees and/or operations and all other sources whatsoever, directly or indirectly, shall be deposited to the credit of the State Treasurer and shall be credited to the General Fund of the State."

Section 12. Amend § 2327, Title 19, Delaware Code, by designating the existing § 2327 as subsection (a) and adding a new subsection (b) to read as follows:

"(b) This section shall apply only to employers insured by insurance carriers. It shall not apply to self-insured employers who shall be responsible for payment of their own claims under this section and who shall not be eligible for further reimbursement for payments made under this section after the effective date of the Workers' Compensation Improvement Act of 1997. Awards to self-insureds for reimbursements under this section are revoked as of the effective date of the Workers' Compensation Improvement Act of 1997."

Section 13. Amend § 2344, Title 19, Delaware Code by designating the existing § 2344 as subsection (a) and adding a new subsection (b) to read as follows:

"(b)(1) At the time of agreement, the employer shall obtain from the employee an agreement as to compensation, signed by the parties in interest, in such detail and form as the Department prescribes, stating the eligibility for workers' compensation benefits pursuant to § 2324 and § 2325. The agreement as to compensation shall require the employee to indicate any change in employment status which may affect benefits pursuant to § 2324 and § 2325. The agreement as to compensation shall include a clear recitation of the legal requirements for eligibility for benefits and shall require the claimant's acknowledgment of and agreement to abide by such requirements. This form, which shall bear a notarized signature of the employee or the signature of a witness, shall accompany the agreement and shall be filed with the Department of Labor for approval.

(2) For all payments of total or partial disability to claimants under this chapter, the insurance carrier or self-insured shall cause to be printed upon the reverse side of the check, above the endorsement, the following language: 'Your acceptance of this check for total or partial disability is a representation by you that you are legally entitled to such payment and a false representation is punishable under federal and state laws.' The negotiation of a check for total or partial disability by an attorney or an agent of the attorney on behalf of a client is a representation that the attorney has printed the language set forth in this subsection for printing on claimant checks on checks distributed by the attorney to the attorney's clients.

(3) Any person who makes a false statement or misrepresentation with regard to his or her eligibility for workers' compensation benefits, or any attorney who makes a false representation pursuant to subsection (b)(2) of this section, is punishable pursuant to Title 18, Delaware Code, Chapter 24, and/or Title 11, Delaware Code, Section 913.

(4) If the Department or Board has reason to believe that any person is committing or has committed an act of insurance fraud, the Department or Board shall notify the Fraud Prevention Bureau of the Delaware Insurance Department.

(5) The provisions of this Section shall also apply to Workers' Compensation payments made pursuant to § 2347 and § 2327."

Section 14. Amend § 2345 and § 2346, Title 19, Delaware Code by striking said sections in their entirety and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

"§ 2345. Hearing upon disagreement on amount of compensation or benefits.

If the employer and employee, or the employee's dependents in the case of the employee's death, fail to reach agreement in regard to compensation under this chapter, or if after they reach such an agreement the Board shall refuse to approve the same, either party may notify the Department of the facts and the Department shall thereupon notice the time and place of hearing which shall be served on all parties in interest personally or by registered mail. The Board, or a Hearing Officer with consent of the parties, shall hear and determine the matter in accordance with the facts and the law and state its conclusions of fact and rulings of law.

§ 2346. Hearing upon disagreement on charges for medical and other services and benefits.

If any person charged with the payment of medical and other services and the provider to whom said payment is due fail to reach an agreement in regard to such charges, any interested party may notify the Department of the facts. The Department shall thereupon notice the time and place of hearing sent by registered mail to all parties in interest. The Board shall hear and determine the matter. No party to the proceedings shall have any liability for the payment of charges in excess of the amount deemed reasonable and necessary provided that the provider is subject to the jurisdiction of the Board and made a party to the proceedings. As provided in § 2320(d), the Board may, in any case, appoint a disinterested and duly-qualified physician to make any necessary medical examination of the employee and testify in respect thereto."

Section 15. Amend § 2347, Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the word "Board" as it appears in the third, sixth, and seventh sentences and inserting the word "Department" in its place. Further amend § 2347 by striking the words "by the Board" as they appear in the eighth and ninth sentences and inserting the words "by the Department" in lieu thereof. Further amend § 2347 by adding a new final paragraph to read as follows: "The first two sentences of the fifth paragraph of this section shall apply only to employers insured by insurance carriers. Nor shall they apply to self-insured employers who shall be responsible for payment of their own claims under this section."

Section 16. Amend § 2348, Title 19, Delaware Code, by striking it in its entirety and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

"§ 2348. Hearings: notice of awards; evidence.

(a) In all hearings before the Board, the Board shall make such inquiries and investigations as it deems necessary. Unless otherwise stipulated by counsel and approved by the Department, the hearings shall be held in the Division of Industrial Affairs Office nearest the site where the injury occurred or, if the accident occurred out of the State, in any county designated by the Department as convenient for the parties.

(b) In a controversy as to the responsibility of an employer or the employer's insurance carrier for the payment of compensation and other benefits under Part II of this title, any party in interest may petition the Board in writing for a hearing and award. The petition shall be sent to the Department's offices in Wilmington and shall set forth the reason for requesting the hearing and questions in dispute which the applicant expects to be resolved.

(c) The Department shall schedule a hearing by fixing its time and place, subject to review by the Board upon written objection by a party. The notice shall be given in hand or by certified mail, return receipt requested. Hearings pursuant to §§ 2324, 2325, and 2347 of this chapter shall be heard as expeditiously as practicable, but, absent compliance with subsection (h) hereof, in no case more than one hundred twenty (120) days from the date of Notice of Pre-Trial Conference to be issued by the Department. Unless excused for good cause shown, failure of any or all parties in interest to appear at a duly scheduled hearing or to petition for a continuance shall bar such parties from any further action concerning an adverse decision, a decision by default, or a dismissal of a petition for hearing and award.

(d) The Superior Court shall, in accordance with such rules as the Court may make, provide for the obtaining of evidence outside of the State to be used in hearings before the Board. Subject to the approval of a Hearing Officer, the parties in interest in any cause may agree upon different methods of taking such evidence.

(e) Subpoenas provided for in accordance with this chapter shall be effective throughout the State.

(f) Whenever a cause shall be remanded to the Board for a rehearing, all evidence theretofore taken before the Board in a previous hearing or hearings, shall become part of the evidence in the hearing upon remand.

(g) In those instances where an expedited hearing is requested, the petition for hearing shall set forth the facts in sufficient detail to support the request for an expedited hearing. If such a request is uncontested, the request shall be granted by the Department. If such a request is contested, the Board shall determine the matter.

(h) Requests for continuance may be granted only upon good cause shown by the party requesting the continuance. Good cause shall be set forth in the Rules of Procedure of the Industrial Accident Board. A request for continuance, may be granted or denied by the Department. If a party objects to the Department's decision or another party's motion, it may, by motion, seek Board review, and the Board shall determine the matter.

1. With respect to any extension of the one hundred twenty day hearing deadline established by subsection (c ) hereof, a written motion requesting the continuance shall be filed setting forth the basis for a good cause continuance pursuant to the Rules of Procedure of the Industrial Accident Board which, in the movant's opinion, justify such relief. With respect to such an extension request, the Board shall issue a written order specifying that good cause for such an extension exists under a specific Rule of Procedure of the Industrial Accident Board.

2. With respect to any request for an extension of a hearing beyond one-hundred eighty (180) days from the date of the petition, the party seeking the continuance must demonstrate that good cause for such an extension exists under a specific Rule of the Industrial Accident Board and extraordinary circumstances exist which warrant the award of such continuance in the interests of justice. If such extension is to be granted, the Board's order shall be accompanied by the following:

a. A specific finding stating that good cause for such an extension exists under a Rule of Procedure of the Industrial Accident Board, and stating the reasons why a continuance, rather than the use of other case management measures (including but not limited to, precluding the presentation of certain witnesses or other evidence by the party responsible for the delay), is necessary in the interests of justice;

b. In any instance where such a continuance is sought by the petitioner, a specific finding that the petitioner has demonstrated that the petitioner has prosecuted its petition with due diligence; and

c. With respect to any party whose lack of diligence caused the need for a continuance, an order of such remedial action as is consistent with Rules of Procedure of the Board and is just under the circumstances.

Where a petitioner's or respondent's lack of diligence has caused the motion for a continuance, to remedy such lack of diligence and to ensure a speedy, efficient, and just resolution of the matter, the Board shall consider dismissing the petition or provisionally awarding the relief sought by the petition.

(i) At such hearing, it shall be incumbent upon all parties to present all available evidence and the Board shall give full consideration to all evidence presented. In addition, the Board may examine all witnesses. If either party or the Board seeks to utilize the medical testimony of an expert, it may do so provided that prompt and adequate notice to the opposing party or parties is given. Medical testimony of an expert may be presented by: deposition; by live testimony at the hearing; by telephonic testimony at the hearing; or by videotape.

(j) The Board may recess the hearing to a date certain and direct the parties, or any of them, to provide such further information as may be necessary to decide the matter.

(k) No later than fourteen days after a hearing, the Board shall render a written decision that succinctly and clearly states its findings of fact and conclusions of law. To that end, where appropriate, the Board may render a decision at the hearing and read such decision into the record for its incorporation in the hearing transcript. Each Board decision shall be filed among the Board's records, and a copy thereof shall be served personally on or sent by certified mail to each of the parties in interest or to the attorneys representing the parties, if such parties are represented by counsel. In any instance where a decision cannot be reached within fourteen days, the Board shall provide the parties with a written estimate of when the decision will be rendered. Such additional time shall not exceed an additional fourteen days."

Section 17. Amend § 2361(b), Title 19, Delaware Code by striking it in its entirety and substituting, in lieu thereof, the following:

"(b) Where payments of compensation have been made in any case under an agreement approved by the Board or by an award of the Board, no statute of limitation shall take effect until the expiration of 5 years from the time of the making of the last payment for which a proper receipt has been filed with the Department."

Section 18. Amend § 236I(c), Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the words "Secretary of the Board" as they appear therein and inserting the word "Department" in lieu thereof.

Section 20. Amend § 2392(c), Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the words "and the Board" as they appear in the first sentence;

Section 21. Amend § 2395, Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the words "Second Injury and Contingency Fund" as they appear in the title therein and inserting the words "Workers' Compensation Fund" in lieu thereof:

Section 22. Amend § 2395, Title 19, Delaware Code by striking the words 'and self-insureds' from the title of said section, striking subsection (b), changing the designation of subsection (c) to (b) and the designation of subsection (d) to (c), and adding new subsections (d) and (e) thereto to read as follows:

"(d) Should the Department subsequently determine that the amounts assessed are insufficient to meet the Fund's obligations during a calendar year, it may assess insurance carriers to cover any anticipated deficiency, based upon the allocations for that calendar year as determined pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.

(e) Should the Department subsequently determine that the amounts assessed are sufficient to meet the Fund's obligations during a calendar year, it shall not assess insurance carriers until a deficiency is projected based upon the anticipated expenditures for the next calendar year as determined pursuant to subsection (a) of this section."

Section 23. Amend § 2396, Title 19, Delaware Code by striking it in its entirety and substituting in lieu thereof a new section.

§ 2396. Workers' Compensation Fund. Reimbursement of carriers.

(a) The Workers' Compensation Fund is created for the purpose of making payments under § 2327, § 2334, or § 2347 of this title by any insurance carrier.

(b) The Department shall perform the administrative, ministerial, fiscal, and clerical functions of the Workers' Compensation Fund. The Fund shall be represented by a Deputy Attorney General in any proceedings that expose the Fund to liability. Any expenses incurred in defense of the Fund are payable from said Fund.

(c) With respect to payments made subject to reimbursement under subsection (a), insurance carriers, on or before December 15 and July 1 of each year, shall file with the Department a report setting forth the money expended for said payments during the previous six months. Reimbursement to such insurance carrier shall be made on the fifteenth day of January and the first day of August each year."

Section 24. Amend § 2397, Title 19, Delaware Code by striking it in its entirety.

Section 25. Amend § 507(2), Title 18, Delaware Code by striking the word "workmen's" as it appears therein and inserting the word "workers" in its place; further amend said section by striking the words "Industrial Accident Board; as they appear therein and inserting the words "Department of Labor" in lieu thereof.

Section 26. Amend § 6540(6), Title 18, Delaware Code by striking the word "workmen's" as it appears therein and inserting the word "workers" in its place.

Section 27. Amend § 8510(6), Title 29, Delaware Code by striking the numeral "21" as it appears therein and inserting the numeral "23" in its place.

Section 28. Amend §851 I (a), Title 29, Delaware Code by striking the words "Chapter 21 of as they appear therein.

Section 29. Amend §8511(b), Title 29, Delaware Code by striking the words "under Chapters 21 and 23" as they appear therein and inserting the words "under Chapter 23" in lieu thereof.

Section 30. Amend §2502(b)(3), Title 30, Delaware Code by striking the words "Industrial Accident Board" as they appear therein and inserting the words "Department of Labor" in lieu thereof.

Section 31. Amend §§ 2379-2385, Title 19, Delaware Code to delete them in their entirety.

Section 32. This Act, which is hereby denominated the Workers' Compensation Improvement Act of 1997, shall become effective one hundred and eighty days after its enactment into Law; provided, however, that the Hearing Officers provided for in section 2 of the Act may be appointed and may perform their duties consistent with the Act upon enactment of the Act into law, if authorization for such action is included in the annual appropriations act.

Approved June 26, 1997