Category Archives: Georgia Workers’ Compensation

Changes to State Board Rules Effective July 1, 2015

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The Georgia State Board of Workers Compensation has eliminated a requirement that the employer’s posted panel of physicians for work injuries include only “non-associated” physicians, effective July 1, 2015, by amending Rule 201(a)(1).  This change does not help injured workers, further limiting choices, and giving the employer even more control.  The practical implications are obvious.  If the injured worker is not satisfied with the selected doctor from such a panel, what are his or her options?  Too bad, you have to go see selected doctor’s partner or associate!

Another change to Rule 201 eliminates the conformed panel option, an option which was not being utilized.  We have not seen an employer using such a panel in years.

Other rule changes effective July 1st include a strange amendment to Rule 102(A)(6) prohibiting parties and attorneys from recording conference calls with judges, without permission:

“No party shall make any audio, video, photographic, electronic recording or court transcription of a Board proceeding, including any conference call with an Administrative Law Judge, unless expressly permitted by the Board. Any such request must be submitted to the Board at least 24 hours prior to proceeding or conference call with notice to all parties. This Rule does not apply to an official function of a law enforcement agency, the State Bar of Georgia, or the Judicial Qualifications Commission.”

So what about a conference call scheduled with a judge on short notice?  Should lawyers refuse to participate in such calls on less than 24 hours’ notice, or perhaps refuse to participate at all unless a court reporter is present?

The only amendment favorable to injured workers increases the base amount payable to the physician for a claimant’s independent medical examination to $1200.  See Rule 202(b).

The full text of the 2015 Rules can be reviewed by Clicking Here.

MAJOR CHANGE IN GEORGIA WORKERS COMPENSATION LAW COMING JULY 1, 2013.

By | Georgia Workers' Compensation | No Comments

Here is the big one – for injuries on-the-job covered under Georgia workers’ compensation and occurring July 1st or after, lifetime medical is no longer available, unless the injury is catastrophic.  For most injuries, medical care will only have to be provided by the employer and their insurer for 400 weeks from the date of injury (This is slightly less than eight years).  This is a major change that will impact people who have suffered back, neck and other spinal injuries, people suffering from chronic pain, people who need pain management, and people who need to have orthopedic hardware removed or joint replacements redone years after the original surgery.  For catastrophic injuries, however, the employer/insurer must continue to provide such medical treatments as “reasonably required and appear likely to effect a cure, give relief, or restore the employee to suitable employment,” without any time limitations, O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200.

There are only two changes in the law coming up that will actually benefit working people. One is an incremental change in the maximum workers’ compensation rate – it will increase from $500/week to $525/week for accidents occurring July 1st or after. The maximum temporary partial disability rate will also incrementally increase from $334/week to $350/week.  Georgia’s maximum workers’ compensation rate was already low so this change does little to improve an abysmally inadequate benefit structure.  The other change is a requirement that the insurer reimburse employees for medical travel expense (mileage) within 15 days after receipt of the documentation instead of 30 days. 

When an employee returns to work with restrictions, he or she has been given a grace period of 15 days to try the job and see if he or she can actually do the job, to see if it is really light duty, and to see if it is really what it was represented to be, O.C.G.A. § 34-9-264.  The new law amended this Code section to require that the employee try the light duty job for at least eight cumulative hours or one scheduled workday, whichever is greater, before taking advantage of the 15 day grace period.  The 15 day grace period requires disability benefits to be immediately reinstated if the employee is unable to perform the job for more than 15 days.  So he or she must try the job for at least eight cumulative hours or one scheduled workday or he/she will not entitled to automatic reinstatement of TTD benefits.  This is only a minor procedural change, and our law firm has always encouraged clients to try a light duty job for several days and to seek medical advice before walking away from a light duty job.  

To read the entire law, as passed by the Georgia legislature, see HB154.

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