The 20113 Georgia Legislature is considering amending the Workers’ Compensation Act.
With regards to medical treatment, the proposed bill takes aim at limiting coverage to the injured workers. Currently, if you are injured on the job, you are entitled to lifetime medical treatment as it relates to that occupational injury (so long as your claim remains open and unsettled). Also, the desired medical treatment must continue to relate or be caused by the original accident. Under the proposed new law, the medical treatment will expire in about 7.6 years after the date of injury unless the case is deemed to be “catastrophic.” Therefore, if you suffer an injury that requires a knee replacement and you have to get the hardware replaced every 10 years, you will be responsible for the replacement and continued care after the 7.6 year mark.
The proposed bill also changes the return to work provisions under O.C.G.A. §34-9-240. Currently, if the employee (who was previously out of work) is properly offered a suitable light duty job, he is required to attempt the job. If he or she is unable to do that job, the Employer/Insurer was required to immediately restart benefits. This will change under the proposed bill. Under the new bill, the injured employee must attempt the job for eight (8) cumulative hours or one scheduled workday, (whichever is greater) before the benefits can be restarted. For example, let’s assume a forklift driver returns to work and attempts the light duty job. In the first hour, it becomes clear that he is unable to do the job. He must continue to labor for another 7 hours in a job he physically cannot do. If he fails to complete the additional 7 hours, he will not be entitled to immediate restart of his workers’ compensation benefits.
On a more positive note, the bill contemplates faster reimbursement times for mileage and other health care goods. Also, the maximum workers’ compensation rate may be raised to $525.00 per week for temporary total disability and $350.00 per week for temporary partial disability benefits.
A link to the current proposed law is found here.
These changes are schedule to be applied in July 2013 if enacted by the Legislature.