In 2013, Georgia Workers’ Compensation Laws were amended and it was not good for injured workers! As a result of the 2013 amendments in the law, injured workers in Georgia lost significant benefits. The most significant change was that medical benefits, which were previously provided for an injured worker’s lifetime, were capped at 400 weeks for non-catastrophic injuries. Now, instead of receiving medical care for the work injury for the rest of their lives, injured workers in Georgia who suffer non-catastrophic injuries can only receive medical care paid for by the Employer/WC Insurer for only 400 weeks (7.69 years).
Not only does this leave injured workers without much-needed medical care, it also significantly reduces the settlement value of their workers’ compensation claims. Now, when calculating the settlement value of an injured worker’s claim, the Employer/WC Insurer has to consider the value of only 400 weeks of medical care, rather than a lifetime of medical care.
Now that there is a 400 week cap on medical benefits, workers’ compensation insurance companies have an incentive to purposely delay authorization of medical care, or even worse, not authorize medical care at all, for the purpose of time-wasting so that injured workers receive less medical treatment during the 400 week time period. This purposeful delay in provision of medical benefits more often than not goes unpunished and rarely results in penalty to the workers’ compensation insurer. This bad behavior on the part of the insurance company results in significant cost savings to them because they ultimately pay less for medical treatment on behalf of the injured worker.
Other changes in the law in 2013 were as follows:
Employer/WC Insurers must reimburse mileage expenses in 15 days instead of 30 days. This was a minor change but was in favor of injured workers.
If a light-duty job is offered under the 240 process, an employee is required to attempt the light-duty job for eight cumulative hours or one scheduled workday, whichever is greater. Failure to attempt a light-duty job for this minimum amount of time may result in the suspension of the employee’s income benefits. Prior to this amendment, an injured worker did not have a set amount of time he or she had to attempt a light-duty job; if an injured worker attempted a light-duty job for only one hour and was unable to do the job, that was considered a sufficient attempt to perform the light-duty job. This change in the law was unfavorable to injured workers in Georgia, but it certainly was not as detrimental to injured workers as the 400 week cap on medical benefits.
For injuries occurring on or after July 1, 2013, the maximum TTD rate is raised from $500.00 per week to $525.00 per week. In addition, the maximum TPD rate is raised from $334.00 per week to $350.00 per week. In 2015, the maximum TTD rate was increased from $525.00 per week to $550.00 per week, and the maximum TPD rate was increased from $350.00 per week to $367.00 per week. Of course, an increase in TTD/TPD maximum payments is always beneficial to injured workers, but it would be a lot better if there was no cap on the compensation rates.
Injured workers and advocates for injured workers need to actively lobby the legislative committee in charge of implementing new laws to reverse detrimental legislative amendments and to enact legislation favorable to injured workers.