On February 25, 2009, the House Committee on Industrial Relations offered a substitute to House Bill 330, which directly affects the current Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act (Chapter 9 of Title 34 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated).

The proposed law change:

(1) applies to certain provisions relating to the notice and service of administrative law judge and appellate division decisions;

(2) provides greater access to an employee’s records by instituting a broader waiver of confidentiality reaching claimant’s past medical history with respect to any condition or complaint related to the condition for which the employee claims compensation;

(3) provides the conditions where out-of-state employers engaged in the construction industry with workers’ compensation insurance coverage issued in other states shall be considered to be in compliance with Georgia’s workers’ compensation coverage requirements; and

(4) provides that final settlement payments may be paid by the employer to a person or corporation appointed by the superior court in certain circumstances.

The following outlines the specific proposed changes:

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-102 (f):

The current bill incorporates the ICMS email system as the “notice” and “service” vehicle for ALJ Awards.  The term “mailed” will be substituted with the term “sent”.  Such “sending” will constitute notice and service to the parties.  Also, the bill inserts that the award shall be final “20 days after issuance of the notice of the award.”

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-103:

The bill also contemplates the “issuance” of awards  via email will be recognized as notice and service to the parties for appellate matters.       

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-121:

The bill seeks to allow out-of-state construction companies greater leeway to comply with Georgia coverage requirements.  If the out-of-state construction company has Georgia projects but has a workers’ compensation policy issued under another state’s law to cover the employees working on the Georgia project , said policy shall be in compliance with the Code section provided that the other state recognizes the extra-territorial provisions of O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242 and it gives effect within such state to workers’ compensation policies issued to Georgia employers.

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-207:

The medical release adds the language:

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.”

Presumably, this language broadens the standard medical release to include almost all prior records including psychiatric records as long as there is a reasonable connection between the past condition and the current injury.  The release shall expire at the time of the hearing.  If the employee unjustifiably refuses to sign the WC-207, the claimant shall not be entitled to any compensation during the continuance of such refusal or to a hearing on the issues of claim compensability.

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-223:

In this trustee provision, the Code will be amended to incorporate final board settlements under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-15 in conjunction with O.C.G.A. § 34-9-222.