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2009 Legislative Updates

The following bill affecting workers' compensation passed during the 2009 session of the Georgia General Assembly.  For more information concerning this bill, please go to the Georgia General Assembly's web site at www.legis.ga.gov.

HB 330 (2009 Workers' Compensation Bill)

www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/sum/hb330.htm

O.C.G.A. §34-9-102(f):

(f) Decision of the administrative law judge. Within 30 days following the completion of evidence, unless the time for filing the decision is extended by the board, the administrative law judge shall determine the questions and issues and file the decision with the record of the hearing. At the time of the filing, a copy of the decision shall be sent to all parties and counsel of record at their addresses of record. Notice to counsel of record of a party shall constitute service of notice to the party, if a copy of the decision was sent to the address of record of said party. The decision of the administrative law judge shall be made in the form of a compensation award, appropriately titled to show its purpose and containing a concise report of the case, with findings of fact and conclusions of law and any other necessary explanation of the action taken. The administrative law judge may reconsider the official decision prior to its becoming final to correct apparent errors or omissions. The compensation award shall be final 20 days after issuance of notice of the award unless an appeal is filed in accordance with Code Section 34-9-103.

O.C.G.A. §34-9-103:

(a) Any party dissatisfied with a decision of an administrative law judge of the trial division of the State Board of Workers' Compensation may appeal that decision to the appellate division of the State Board of Workers' Compensation which shall have original appellate jurisdiction in all workers' compensation cases. An application for review shall be made to the appellate division within 20 days of issuance of notice of the award. The appellee may institute cross appeal by filing notice thereof within 30 days of the notice of the award. If a timely application for review, cross appeal, or both, is made to the appellate division, the appellate division shall review the evidence and shall then make an award with findings of fact and conclusions of law. A copy of the award so made on review shall immediately be sent to the parties and counsel of record at dispute at their addresses of record. Notice to counsel of record of a party shall constitute service of notice to the party, if a copy of the award was sent to the address of record of said party. Upon review, the appellate division may remand to an administrative law judge in the trial division any case before it for the purpose of reconsideration and correction of apparent errors and omissions and issuance of a new award, with or without the taking of additional evidence, or for the purpose of taking additional evidence for consideration by the appellate division in rendering any decision or award in the case. The findings of fact made by the administrative law judge in the trial division shall be accepted by the appellate division where such findings are supported by a preponderance of competent and credible evidence contained within the records.

O.C.G.A. §34-9-121:

(a) Unless otherwise ordered or permitted by the board, every employer subject to the provisions of this chapter relative to the payment of compensation shall secure and maintain full insurance against such employer's liability for payment of compensation under this article, such insurance to be secured from some corporation, association, or organization licensed by law to transact the business of workers' compensation insurance in this state or from some mutual insurance association formed by a group of employers so licensed; or such employer shall furnish the board with satisfactory proof of such employer's financial ability to pay the compensation directly in the amount and manner and when due, as provided for in this chapter. In the latter case, the board may, in its discretion, require the deposit of acceptable security, indemnity, or bond to secure the payment of compensation liabilities as they are incurred; provided, however, that it shall be satisfactory proof of the employer's financial ability to pay the compensation directly in the amount and manner when due, as provided for in this chapter, and the equivalent of acceptable security, indemnity, or bond to secure the payment of compensation liabilities as they are incurred, if the employer shall show the board that such employer is a member of a mutual insurance company duly licensed to do business in this state by the Commissioner of Insurance, as provided by the laws of this state, or of an association or group of employers so licensed and as such is exchanging contracts of insurance with the employers of this and other states through a medium specified and located in their agreements with each other, but this proviso shall in no way restrict or qualify the right of self-insurance as authorized in this Code section. Nothing in this Code section shall be construed to require an employer to place such employer's entire insurance in a single insurance carrier.

(b)(1) Any employer from another state engaged in the construction industry within this state with a workers' compensation insurance policy issued under the laws of such other state so as to cover that employer's employees while in this state shall be in compliance with subsection (a) of this Code section if:

(A) Such other state recognizes the extraterritorial provisions of Code Section 34-9-242; and

(B) Such other state recognizes and gives effect within such state to workers' compensation policies issued to employers of this state.

(2) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to void any insurance coverage.

(c) The board shall have the authority to promulgate rules and regulations to set forth requirements for third-party administrators and servicing agents, including insurers acting as third-party administrators or servicing agents, with regard to their management or administration of workers' compensation claims. All Title 33 regulations shall remain in the Insurance Department.

(d) Wherever a self-insurer has been required to post bond, should it cease to be a corporation, obtain other coverage, or no longer desire to be a self-insurer, the board shall be allowed to return the bond in either instance, upon the filing of a certificate certifying to the existence of an insurance contract to take over outstanding liability resulting from any presently pending claim or any future unrepresented claims; and the board shall be relieved of any liability arising out of a case where the injuries were incurred, or liability therefor, prior to the returning of the bonds.

O.C.G.A. §34-9-207:

(a) When an employee has submitted a claim for workers' compensation benefits or is receiving payment of weekly income benefits or the employer has paid any medical expenses, that employee shall be deemed to have waived any privilege or confidentiality concerning any communications related to the claim or history or treatment of injury arising from the incident that the employee has had with any physician, including, but not limited to, communications with psychiatrists or psychologists. This waiver shall apply to the employee's medical history with respect to any condition or complaint reasonably related to the condition for which such employee claims compensation. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, when requested by the employer, any physician who has examined, treated, or tested the employee or consulted about the employee shall provide within a reasonable time and for a reasonable charge all information and records related to the examination, treatment, testing, or consultation concerning the employee.

(b) When an employee has submitted a claim for workers' compensation benefits or is receiving payment of weekly income benefits or the employer has paid any medical expenses, the employee, upon request, shall provide the employer with a signed release for medical records and information related to the claim or history or treatment of injury arising from the incident, including information related to the treatment for any mental condition or drug or alcohol abuse and to such employee's medical history with respect to any condition or complaint reasonably related to the condition for which such employee claims compensation. Said release shall designate the provider and shall state that it will to whom the release is directed. If a hearing is pending, any release shall expire on the date of the hearing.

(c) If the employee refuses to provide a signed release for medical information as required by this Code section and, in the opinion of the board, the refusal was not justified under the terms of this Code section, then such employee shall not be entitled to any compensation at any time during the continuance of such refusal or to a hearing on the issues of compensability arising from the claim.

O.C.G.A. §34-9-223:

Whenever the board deems it expedient, any lump sum, subject to the provisions of Code Section 34-9-222, or final settlement, subject to the provisions of Code Section 34-9-15, shall be paid by the employer to some suitable person or corporation appointed by the superior court of the county wherein the accident occurred or the original hearing was held as trustee to administer such payment for the benefit of the person or persons entitled thereto in the manner provided by the board. The receipt by such trustees of the amount so paid shall discharge the employer or anyone else who is liable therefor.

O.C.G.A. §34-9-385(d):

(d) When a participant is determined to be an insolvent self-insurer, the board of trustees is empowered to and shall assume on behalf of the participant its outstanding workers' compensation obligations excluding penalties, fines, and claimant's attorneys' fees assessed pursuant to subsection (b) of Code Section 34-9-108 and shall take all steps necessary to collect, recover, and enforce all outstanding securities, indemnity, insurance, or bonds furnished by such participant guaranteeing the payment of compensation provided in this chapter for the purpose of paying outstanding obligations of the participant. The board shall convert and deposit into the fund such securities and any amounts received under agreements of surety, guaranty, insurance, or otherwise on behalf of the participant. Any amounts remaining from such securities, indemnity, insurance, bonds, guaranties, and sureties, following payment of all compensation costs and related administrative fees of the board of trustees including attorneys' fees, and following exhaustion of all amounts assessed and received pursuant to subsections (a) and (d) of Code Section 34-9-121 and any applicable rule of the board may be refunded by the fund as directed by the board of trustees, subject to the approval of the board, to the appropriate party one year from the date of final payment, provided no outstanding liabilities remain against the fund."