Workers compensation laws change. In Georgia, these changes usually happen once a year. This happens because the Georgia legislature passes new laws that affect what workers compensation benefits injured workers can receive.
Sometimes, these changes increase the amount of benefits you can receive. Other times, the changes may modify or take away rights that injured workers have. Understanding the workers compensation rules is very important to recovering from an injury at work.
What Georgia workers compensation benefit changes were made in 2023?
The Georgia legislature made several changes to the Georgia workers compensation laws in 2023. These changes affected the following areas:
- Temporary total disability benefit amounts
- Temporary partial disability benefit amounts
- Permanent partial disability benefit amounts
- Surviving spouse dependency benefit amounts
- Eligibility for dependency benefits
Temporary total disability benefits changes
One change made by the legislature affects the amount of temporary total disability benefits. Temporary total disability benefits are wage loss benefits which are paid when an injured worker is out of work as a result of an injury. These benefits are paid on a weekly basis.
The change made to temporary total disability benefits increased the maximum amount an injured worker can receive. The amount was increased from $725 per week to $800 per week.
There are a couple of important things to understand. First, this change just increased the maximum amount of temporary total disability. It does not mean that every injured worker will receive $800 per week. The amount of temporary total disability is based on an injured worker’s average weekly wage before the injury.
Also, this change only applies to injury that occur after June 31, 2023. So, if you were injured before July 1, 2023, the change does not affect your temporary total disability benefits. This is important to understand because the date of your injury can often have a large impact on the amount of your temporary total disability benefits.
Temporary partial disability benefits changes
A second change made affects the amount of temporary partial disability benefit checks. Temporary partial disability benefits are another type of wage loss benefit. These benefits are paid when an injured worker returns to work on work restrictions making less money than before the injury.
The maximum temporary partial disability benefit rate wage increased from $483 per week to $533 per week. Again, this increase only affects the maximum temporary partial disability amount. Also, the change only applies to injuries that occurred after June 31, 2023. So, if you were injured before July 1, 2023, the change does not affect your temporary partial disability benefits.
Permanent partial disability benefit changes
Permanent partial disability benefit payments changed as well. These changes occurred because permanent partial disability benefits are paid in the same amount as temporary total disability benefits in Georgia. So, when temporary total disability benefit amounts change, permanent partial disability benefit amounts do as well.
Surviving spouse dependency benefit changes
One of the benefits provided by Georgia workers compensation law is payment to certain dependents when an individual dies as a result of a work-related injury. The insurance company should pay this benefit weekly to eligible dependents.
One dependent who often receives this benefit is a surviving spouse. With regard to surviving spouses who are the sole dependent of an injured worker, Georgia law places limits on the total amount the surviving spouse can receive.
For injuries that occur after July 1, 2023, the maximum amount a surviving spouse can receive in weekly benefit payments was increased from $290,000 to $320,000. There are a few important things to be aware of with this increase:
- This limit only applies to surviving spouses who are sole dependents, so the limit may not apply to the surviving spouse if there are other dependents of the deceased worker other than the surviving spouse
- There are other limits on the surviving spouse’s eligibility for benefits including an age/weeks limit and events (remarriage or cohabitation continuously and openly in a relationship similar or akin to marriage)
- It is a maximum amount which means that many surviving spouses will receive less than that amount
Eligibility for dependency benefits
Another change to the workers compensation law affects some dependents. This change modified the language that determines who qualifies as a dependent and when dependency benefits stop. This change should have a small effect on who qualifies to receive dependency benefits.
When are the changes in Georgia workers compensation made each year?
There is no certain date that changes are made. Usually, the changes in the law get passed when the Georgia legislature is in session between January and April of the year. But, if there are special legislative sessions, changes could potentially be made at a different time.
Also, these changes in the law do not generally become effective immediately. Even if they do not get vetoed by the governor, most workers compensation law changes become effective on July 1 each year. However, this is just what usually happens. Changes could become effective at different times than what has traditionally been done.
One other thing to know about is that changes by the legislature are not the only changes in Georgia’s workers compensation rules. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation publishes rules that govern workers compensation claims. With regard to these rules, there is no certain time that the rules must become effective.
Will more Georgia workers compensation law changes be made next year?
No one knows. It is fairly common that some part of Georgia’s workers compensation law is changed each year.
Sometimes, these are changes to try to keep workers compensation benefits in line with wage growth such as the increases to the maximum benefit rates discussed above. Other times, the changes are more substantive and really change the benefits that injured workers can receive. An example of this is the change in the law in 2013 that changed the responsibility of insurance companies for medical treatment and limited it to 400 weeks in most cases.
These changes affect the rights of injured workers to get the treatment they need and receive the benefits they should while they recover from their injuries. Make sure you or an attorney representing you stays aware of changes to the workers compensation law so that you can receive the benefits you should while you recover from your injury.