Legislation Enacted Amending Statute of Limitations Applicable to Third-Person Negligence Claims Brought By Recipients of Workers’ Compensation

On February 26, 2015, the Workers’ Compensation Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2014 (Law 20-159) (the “Act”) became effective. By way of background, the District of Columbia Workers’ Compensation Act of 1979 (“WCA”) contains a statute of limitations stating that, in cases where a private-sector employee is injured due to the negligence of a third person, the acceptance of a workers’ compensation award “operate[s] as an assignment to the employer of all rights of the person entitled to compensation to recover damages against such third person unless [the person entitled to compensation] shall commence an action against such third person within 6 months after such award.” D.C. Code § 32-1535(b). The Act amends this statute of limitations by adding the following qualification: “If the employer fails to commence an action against such third person within 90 days after the cause of action is assigned under this section, the right to bring the action shall revert to the person entitled to compensation.” Law 20-159, § 2. This amendment applies “to causes of action for negligence for which the 3-year statute of limitations [generally applicable to negligence claims] has not yet expired.” Id. § 3.