NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.
Select a state from the dropdown menu below to scroll through the state specific archives for updates and opinions on various workers’ compensation laws in your state.
Contact information for NWCDN members is also located on the state specific links in the event you have additional questions or your company is seeking a workers’ compensation lawyer in your state.
2021 has been a year of contrast in comparison to its predecessor. Our Board did continue with limited and restricted business at the beginning of 2021 and as we all adjusted to the use of “zoom” for depositions and hearings, court events and proceedings again gained some badly needed momentum. At present, in-person hearings have been reinstated with some continued restrictions and Zoom hearings and mediations have continued to play major roles in the handling of caseloads. To their credit, the Georgia SBWC has done an admirable job in maintaining vital safety standards while remaining open. Stunningly, claims between 2019 and 2020 were down only 3%, which is evidence of the efforts expended by all involved. As of 2021, our new Chairmen Ben Vinson, reported that as of 2021, legal proceedings with hearings, mediations and PMT calls are all up over 30% and that there are no case backlogs to report internally. Certainly, we expect for that trend to continue as we hopefully progress to a status quo similar to 2019.
From a legislative and revised Board Rule changes perspective, there is nothing to report. Although some proposals were reported, no new legislation emerged from the 2021 session that would impact our 34-9 statutes. Board Rule changes were limited to revisions to very nominal and minimal issues that require no further comment here. In sum, all smooth sailing to report on the legal front.
2021 has also brought about little in the way of reported caselaw of interest. In Baxter v. Tracie McCormick, 2021 WL 2701286 (July 1, 2021), the Georgia Court of Appeals provided further guidance on the Cap on Dependency benefits as referenced in O.C.G.A. 34-9-265. In Baxter, the insurer suspended benefits due to reaching the cap of $150,000.00 in payout. At the time of death, the deceased left a surviving spouse but no other minor children or other dependents. Baxter argued that her mother-in-law was a partial dependent and that this status should invalidate the cap in that regard. The Court of Appeals did not agree, finding that the mother-in-law was a partial dependent and could only receive dependency benefits if there were no persons wholly dependent. Of course, this finding further confirmed the long-standing rule that partial dependents may only recover in the absence of those that are wholly dependent.
In Sunbelt Plastic Extrusions Inc. et al. v. Paguia, A21A0867, Court of Appeals of Georgia (August 19, 2021), further guidance on the application of the change in condition two-year statute of limitations was provided. In Sunbelt, the Claimant was paid TTD through November 29, 201 and filed a WC 14/Request for Catastrophic Designation on November 20, 2018. The employer asserted a 34-9-104 Statute of limitations defense in that the last payment of TTD was “actually made” on November 15, 2016 and that the WC 14 was therefore filed after two years from that date. This issue had been previously addressed by the Court of Appeals in finding that the critical date to be determined was when the last payment was ‘mailed’ to the recipient. Unfortunately for the insurer, the evidence provided through adjuster’s testimony was not certain enough to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the last payment was “actually made” on November 15, 2016. It was the adjusters opinion that this was the date of mailing but further confirmed to lacking certainty of that fact. Moreover, in denying the application of the Statute of Limitations, the Court of Appeals further affirmed the Board’s finding that the underlying claim was, in fact, Catastrophic. The lesson for employers and insurers is to fully document the date that TTD payments are “actually made” with as much certainty as possible.