2023 Georgia Legislative Session Starting to Take Shape
» Posted March 21, 2023 Articles
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 case law, 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 further effect.
HB 480 does have some material changes that should impact all of us. The Bill proposes;
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.