Georgia workers’ compensation law changes almost every year. Sometimes, the changes are minor. Other times, the changes are much more significant.
We believe it is important for you to be aware of these changes in the law. We hope you never suffer a serious injury at work, but you need to have some knowledge of the law in case you do.
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act is contained in Chapter 9 of Title 34 of the Georgia Code. Usually, there is a single bill in the Georgia legislature that will make whatever workers’ compensation changes are going to be made each year.
In 2015, that bill was HB 412. As of March 31, 2015, that bill passed the Georgia House and the Georgia Senate. HB 412 makes several changes to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act:
1. HB 412 changes the language in the “exclusive remedy” statute to provide that it bars “all other civil liabilities whatsoever”
O.C.G.A. 34-9-11 is the part of the workers’ compensation law that says that you cannot file a tort (personal injury) lawsuit against your employer if you are injured on the job. The idea of workers’ compensation is that injured workers give up their right to sue for personal injury. In exchange, they get a system that only provides limited benefits but provides them more quickly and without worrying about who caused the injury.
This change in the law came about as a result of concerns over a case decided by the Georgia Supreme Court and Georgia Court of Appeals regarding a general contractor’s responsibility for a breach of contract claim on a construction site (read this blog article for additional information about construction site injuries). O.C.G.A. 34-9-8 law now bars “all other civil liabilities whatsoever”. However, there is an exception for situations where the employer agrees in writing to provide additional rights and remedies beyond those provided by the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act.
2. HB 412 increases the maximum weekly temporary total disability and permanent partial disability rate to $550
Georgia law provides that injured workers are paid two-thirds of their average weekly wage when they cannot work because of their injury. However, there is a maximum weekly rate that is specified by statute. The change in the law would increase the maximum rate to $550 per week.
3. HB 412 increases the maximum weekly temporary partial disability rate to $367
Temporary partial disability benefits are paid when injured workers are working but making less money than they were before their injury. They are generally paid two-thirds of the difference in their preinjury and postinjury wages. It also can affect injured workers when they are released to some sort of light duty work and the insurance company files a Form WC-104.
There is a maximum rate specified by statute. This bill would increase the maximum weekly rate to $367.
4. HB 412 deletes the conformed panel of physicians
No one uses the conformed panel of physicians anymore to provide medical treatment. Most medical treatment is provided through a traditional panel of physicians.
5. HB 412 increases the maximum amount available to the sole surviving spouse of a deceased worker
For many years, the maximum amount available a surviving spouse could receive after an injured worker’s death had not been increased. This law would increase that maximum to $220,000 which is 400 times the new maximum weekly temporary total disability rate.