Catastrophic Does not Necessarily Mean Forever


In 2005, the Georgia State Legislature amended O.C.G.A 34-9-200.1 to include section (i). Pursuant to section (i), when a claimant has been deemed catastrophic, either by the employer or the State Board, it is possible to request new determination as to the catastrophic or non-catastrophic nature of the employee’s injury. The only requirement is that there be “reasonable grounds” to seek the new determination.

Presumably, 200.1(i) only applies to injuries occurring after its enactment. For injuries occurring prior to 2005, the only choice the Employer/Insurer had was to seek a change of condition under O.C.G.A. 34-9-104. This undertaking can prove challenging as there is no case law which states definitively that catastrophic designation is subject to a change of condition under 34-9-104.

To date, there has been no published case law discussing 200.1(i). However, it seems ripe for scrutiny by the Court of Appeals. What will most likely provide fodder for dispute is the fact that the language of 200.1(i) does not place any specific statute of limitations on filing for a new determination on catastrophic designation. The defense bar will certainly try to assert that operating under 200.1(i) is analogous to seeking a change of condition, and should therefore be subject to the two year time limit from the date the last weekly income benefits were paid. The claimants’ bar will certainly argue that since the legislature created an entirely different statute to control determinations of catastrophic designation, then the silence on a statute of limitations must have been intentional.