Wash. State Workers’ Comp to Include Acts of Terrorism

March 25, 2003

Washington taxpayers and the State Fund will get significant financial relief from the federal government in the event of an act of terrorism that results in catastrophic losses to the workers’ compensation system.

The law requires that workers’ comp coverage include losses due to terrorism, and Washington’s workers and employers have always been covered. But under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, the federal government will now pay the bulk of a catastrophic loss that results from an act of foreign terrorism once the deductible has been paid.

Congress passed the act in response to what happened to the insurance industry following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. The attacks on the trade center have, so far, resulted in 5,000 workers’ comp claims in excess of $3.5 billion.

Following the attacks, a significant number of private insurers stopped writing workers’ comp coverage because of the risk, and because reinsurance became too expensive or non-existent. Reinsurance is the way public and private insurers protect themselves against catastrophic losses by diversifying the risk.

Under the new law, Washington’s State Fund is responsible for paying a deductible that would amount to about $51 million. Once that deductible is met, the federally guaranteed reinsurance fund will cover 90 percent of any losses above that. The expense would be spread among the other states and commercial insurers. In the event of an attack in another state, Washington would share in the cost of paying that claim.

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