“2019 Changes to Workers’ Compensation in Georgia"
In an article published on July 30, 2019 for Georgia CEO, Jeff Stinson discusses the recent changes to Georgia workers’ compensation laws that went into effect on July 1.
The most immediate change is the considerable increase in the maximum weekly benefits payable for lost time from work. Georgia law provides that when an employee is either completely disabled from work or their employer cannot provide them with suitable light duty work, they are entitled to temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, which are paid at a rate of two-thirds of their pre-injury average weekly wage. The maximum rate rose by $100 to $675 per week, which is the largest increase in 20 years, though this still puts Georgia’s disability rate among the lowest in the country. Additionally, consistent with the increase in the TTD rate, the maximum benefits payable to a surviving spouse in the event of a fatal accident also grew to $270,000. The maximum temporary partial disability (TPD) rate increased to $450, making an increase of $67 per week from the pre-July 1, 2019 rate.
Finally, there is a change related to payment of medical treatment and expenses to injured workers. In 2013, a major change limited the period in which injured workers were entitled to lifetime medical care, which has been challenged by advocates for the past six years. Effective July 1, 2019, an employee’s medical treatment is still capped at 400 weeks, unless the injury is deemed to be “catastrophic,” a designation reserved for the most serious of injuries. However, if the injured worker receives a durable medical decide or equipment, including a prosthetic, spinal cord stimulator or pain pump within the initial 400 weeks, they are entitled to replacement and maintenance of the item for life. The retroactive portion of the law has received the most attention, and generally speaking, laws considered to be procedural in nature can take effect retroactively, while those with a substantive impact may not be applied retroactively.
"In light of the significant impact of the retroactive application of this law, there may be litigation over whether the law is procedural or substantive in nature,” said Stinson. “However, pending any such action, this provision is in effect at this time.”