2023 Georgia Legislative
Session Starting to Take Shape
Partner, Levy, Sibley,
Foreman & Speir, LLC
As you know, workers’ compensation
is always in a state of change and it is incumbent on employers and
insurers to keep apprised of shifts in new caselaw, Board Rules and
Statutes. In varying degrees, our Legislature seems to bring
about some modifications to 34-9 annually and 2023 looks to be no
exception. Essentially, there are two Bills; HB 480 and SB 91, that
will likely impact Workers’ Compensation.
SB 91 essentially extends the
ongoing life of the Subsequent Injury Trust Fund for another two
years. This is an event that will continue until the open claims
dwindle to an acceptable level of handling. Beyond that, SB 91 has no
HB 480 does have some material
changes that should impact all of us. The Bill proposes;
1. A revision to Code Section 34-9-13(e) that
formerly allowed for the dependency of a surviving spouse to terminate with
remarriage of upon a finding of cohabitation in a meretricious relationship
with this latter language removed entirely. Replacing it will be a
cessation of dependency benefits upon determination by the board of
cohabitation continuously and openly in a relationship similar or akin to
marriage that includes support of economic value to the Claimant
Dependent. No consideration shall be given to payments made
exclusively for board and lodging or to any payment for financial support
for a period of less than three months.
2. A revision to Code Section 34-9-261
increasing the statutory maximum for TTD to $800.00 per week (nor less
than $50.00 per week) for dates of accident on or after July 1,
2023. This is an increase from $725.00 per week.
3. A revision to Code Section 34-9-262
increasing the statutory maximum for TPD to $533.00 per week up from
$483.00 per week.
4. A revision to Code Section 34-9-265
increasing the maximum amount paid to a surviving spouse with no dependent
from $290,000.00 to $320,000.00.
The most thought provoking changes
reference the new thresholds for suspending spousal dependency benefits in
circumstances where there is cohabitation but not remarriage and what must
be done from an accounting perspective to bear the employer’s
burden. At first glance, the evidence appears to require a full forensic
accounting to show a true commingling of household dollars in a manner that
would be expected to appear with married couples. This new standard is
a much greater hurdle to overcome than merely providing evidence that a
spouse/dependent is actively living with someone else and holding
themselves out as partners. One can expect an increase in litigation
along this area until some judicial guidelines are established.
Beyond that, these legislative
changes bring about little effect or impact on our system. Certainly
the continued increases in TTD and TPD in their regularity make those
changes almost expected and with inflation and cost of living issues, come
with little surprise. Be advised that Sine die is set for March 29th
and change is always a possibility. As always, we will attempt to keep
you informed of these proposed changes and any new information that impacts
Georgia’s employers and insurers in the area of workers’ compensation.