Upcoming Changes To Georgia Workers’ Compensation Laws:
A Quick Summary
The Georgia Legislature is in the process of passing a law which would provide some changes to a claimant’s entitlement to certain workers’ compensation benefits, and although it is currently pending approval, it reportedly has a very strong chance of being enacted into law later this year. If passed, the following is a summary of some changes which would take place:
- Statutory Maximums For TTD/TPD Benefits
One of the more significant proposed changes involves the statutory maximum for TTD and TPD income benefits.
If the new law is passed in its current form, the statutory maximum for TTD benefits would increase from $575.00 to $675.00 per week [O.C.G.A. § 34-9-261]. Of course, the pending law would not change the minimum compensation rate, which would remain at $50.00. Likewise, the new proposed law would also increase the statutory maximum for TPD benefits from $383.00 to $450.00 per week [O.C.G.A. § 34-9-262].
- Death Benefits To Surviving Spouse As Sole Dependent
The new law would also impact a surviving spouse’s entitlement to additional death benefits. When a claimant’s work injury results in death, and when a surviving spouse is left as the sole dependent, the current law states the surviving spouse cannot collect more than $230,000.00 in death benefits; however, if the proposed law is passed, the surviving spouse would now be entitled to collect up to $270,000.00. [O.C.G.A. § 34-9-265(d)].
- Exclusion Of Certain Medical Benefits From The 400-Week Cap
Finally, the proposed law would also impact a claimant’s entitlement to certain medical benefits even if more than 400 weeks have passed since the date of the accident. For non-catastrophic claims, the Georgia law essentially states that an employer is not liable for ongoing medical treatment if more than 400 weeks have passed since the accident; however, if the new law is passed in its current form, certain medical benefits would be excluded from the 400-week time limitation.
Specifically, the 400-week cap would not apply to the “maintenance, repair, revision, or removal” of: (1) prosthetic devices; (2) spine cord stimulators; (3) intrathecal pump devices; (4) orthotics; (5) corrective eye glasses; (6) hearing aids; or other (7) durable medical equipment customarily used at a claimant’s home, such as wheelchairs, beds and mattresses, traction equipment, canes, crutches, walkers, oxygen, and nebulizers.
Thus, if the new law is passed, it may support a claimant’s argument that an employer is liable for the maintenance or removal related to the aforementioned medical benefits for his or her lifetime. Although the proposed law would also require that the treatment be prescribed by an authorized physician and furnished within the initial 400-week cap, this potential change would likely impact an employer’s future medical exposure and the finality of some claims when pushing cases towards resolution. As a result, we will definitely be monitoring the status of this law as it moves its way through the Georgia Legislature.