Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Last week we provided to you a summary of legislation pending before the Georgia General Assembly pertaining to worker’s compensation in Georgia. That legislation is now one step closer to being law as it has passed the Georgia State Senate this afternoon and is now headed to the Georgia House of Representatives for consideration. As mentioned the legislation raises the maximum TTD rate to $675.00 per week, the Max TPD rate to $450.00 per week and the Death Benefit to $270,000.00. The most consequential change, however, is that relating to the 400 week cap on medical benefits. While the 400 week cap still applies, the legislation does carve out an exception for Durable Medical Equipment, joint replacements, etc. The wording of the statute, inserting a new provision specifically covering all injuries on or after July 1, 2013, would mean that the expansion of medical entitlement for these precise categories would operate retroactively. If, therefore, you have cases that would be affected by this legislation, you might wish to conclude them by stipulated settlement now. The average claim, will not, however be affected. Also of interest is House Bill 474 which would provide limits and administrative requirements on the Rulemaking powers of the SBWC. Currently O.C.G.A. §34-9-60 provides the statutory authority for the State Board of Worker’s Compensation to promulgate rules as to HOW the Board will operate and what is to be done pursuant to the Statutes. That rulemaking authority must be carried out consistent with the Statute or the rule is subject to challenge. In other words, the Statute controls. House Bill 474, similar to an effort passed by the legislature last year but vetoed by then-Governor Deal, would have made the Board subject to the Administrative Procedures Act. This effort would require publication of proposed rule, public comment and then review of the rule by legislative committees BEFORE any such rule could take effect. This is simply new packaging to last year’s rejected solution and is not likely to be passed. Instead, House Bill 474 is being sent to the Advisory Committee for comment. The entire purpose of the Advisory Committee structure is to assure that the Georgia Workers’ Compensation System being run by consultation and consensus. House Bill 474 would seem to be an effort to require advice and comment when such has already been given by the very parties who know what proposed changes would do to the system. We will let you know what becomes of this bill in the future. We do not expect it to be passed this year.

"Skedsvold and White
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