The Georgia Senate has passed a bill meant to tighten the exclusive-remedy portion of the state’s workers’ compensation law, sending the measure on a track to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.
The Senate passed House Bill 412 by a 46-0 vote. Rep. Mark Hamilton’s measure revises Section 34-9-11(a) to Georgia’s code, stipulating that an employer “may be liable to the employee for rights and remedies beyond those provided in this chapter by expressly agreeing in writing to specific additional rights and remedies,” but that “the use of contractual provisions generally relating to workplace safety, generally relating to compliance with laws or regulations, or generally relating to liability insurance requirements shall not be construed to create rights and remedies beyond those” the statute provides.
The bill was drafted in part to avoid breach-of-contract suits stemming from injured-worker cases such as a group of suits by a deceased worker’s family that the Georgia courts eventually upheld in Pitts v. City of Atlanta. Stakeholders viewed the Pitts decision as a loosening of exclusive remedy.
HB 412 also would mandate slight increases in Georgia’s weekly temporary total disability and temporary partial disability maximums; raise the maximum death benefit for a sole surviving spouse with no other dependent for one year or less after the injured worker’s death; and shift the property of the Subsequent Injury Trust Fund from the State Board of Workers’ Compensation to the state insurance department. Under the bill, the Subsequent Injury Trust Fund would end in 2020, rather than 2023. The fund stopped accepting new injury claims in 2006.
Information on HB 412 can be viewed here.