Thursday, February 28, 2019

2019 Georgia Worker's Compensation Legislation

The package of legislation dealing with changes to Georgia’s Worker’s Compensation system was finally introduced yesterday in the Georgia Senate. The bill is the SBWC sponsored package that came out of the Advisory Committee Process. This bill has, therefore been vetted by representatives of injured workers, employers, insurance companies, Medical personnel and Defense attorneys . As such, this represents as close to a consensus as we can get in contentious times. This bill will need to be passed by the Senate and by the House and then signed by the Governor in order to become law on July 1, 2019. The only forseeable impediment at this point is whether the Legislature has enough time left in the session to get the bill passed by both chambers. The changes to the Worker’s Compensation Act include: 1) Elimination of Director Emeritus position (a retirement benefit item and so just an “inside baseball” sort of thing) 2) Increasing the TTD maximum to $675.00 from the current $575.00 3) Increasing the TPD maximum to $450.00 from the current $383.00 4) Increasing the Death Benefit to $270,000.00 from the current $230,000.00 where the spouse is the sole surviving dependent; and 5) Amending OCGA §34-9-200 dealing with the 400 week cap on medical treatment for non-catastrophic injuries. The last item is the most significant change in the legislative package. The 400 week cap was intended to provide predictability for non-catastrophic claims, most especially in regards to settlement and potential MSA issues. The problem was that this limitation was unfair to employees who had injuries that required joint replacements, prosthetics, Spinal Stimulators and even eyeglasses, hearing aids or mattresses that have known and predictable expirations on their usefulness. For example current technology for a knee or hip replacement might be 20 years but for younger person needing such, they could expect to need 1 or two replacements over the course of their lives, long after the 400 week medical cap had expired. Assuming that the legislation is passed and signed into law, there will need to be an adjustment in expectations and exposures for injuries occurring on or after July 1. 2019. For those injuries which occurred prior to July 1, 2013, the 400 week cap never applied. For those injuries occurring on July 1, 2013 and through June 30, 2019, the 400 week cap applies regardless of the change. Those injury dates will need to qualify for catastrophic status to remove the cap so for that 6 year period, this will be the next area of contention. Look for more updates as the Legislative Session continues

"Skedsvold and White
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