New Changes Under Georgia Workers' Compensation Act

Effective July 1, 2013, the following changes will go into effect under the Georgia Workers' Compensation Act:

(1) The maximum Temporary Total Disability rate will increase from $500.00 per week to $525.00 per week;

(2) The maximum Temporary Partial Disability rate will increase from $334.00 per week to $350.00 per week;

(3) An injured worker who returns to light-duty work pursuant to a Form WC-240 must attempt the light-duty work for at least eight (8) hours or one scheduled workday;

(4) Medical care will be capped at 400 weeks for non-catastrophic injuries; and

(5) The interest rate for calculating present value on advances will be five percent (5%).

If you are looking for a Georgia workers' compensation attorney, please contact one of our Georgia workers' compensation attorneys for a free consultation. Call 404.917.9174

House Bill 154 Would Change Workers' Compensation Benefits

The Georgia Legislature is considering a new law that would make significant changes to the benefits that injured workers receive in this state.

Some of the proposed changes would be beneficial to injured workers. For instance the bill would raise the cap on weekly income benefits (also known as TTD Benefits) from $500.00 to $525.00. In addition, the bill would require insurance companies to reimburse injured workers for mileage expenses within 15 days of being notified of the same. 

However, the biggest change proposed in the bill, known as House Bill 154, would limit the time period in which an injured worker can receive medical treatment. Under the proposed change any worker whose injury is not deemed "catastrophic" will only be entitled to medical treatment for a maximum of 400 weeks from the date of the injury. Under current law, injured workers can continue to receive medical treatment for their lifetimes, as long as that treatment is related to their original work injuries.

Read the text of House Bill 154 here:


 

2007 Workers' Compensation Statutes

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1 Definitions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2 Applicability of chapter to employers and employees ---- Generally
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2.1 Exemption of corporate officers; limitation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2.2 Eligibility of sole proprietor or partner for workers' compensation insurance
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2.3 Election to provide workers' compensation coverage to farm laborers
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2.4 Workers' compensation coverage for persons performing voluntary services for Olympic Games; repealer
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-3 Applicability of chapter to employers and employees -- Public employees generally
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-4 Applicability of chapter to employers and employees -- Employees of planning commissions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-5 Applicability of chapter to employers and employees -- Pilots under contract to Georgia Forestry Commission
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-6 Retroactive inclusion of state and departments in definition of "employer"; resumption of payments of awards previously discontinued
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-7 Presumption of applicability of chapter to contracts between employers and employees covered by chapter
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-8 Liability of principal contractor or subcontractor for employee injuries
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-9 Relief from penalty for failure or neglect to perform statutory duty
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-10 Relief of employer from obligations under chapter
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11 Exclusivity of rights and remedies granted to employee under chapter; immunity granted to construction design professionals
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_11.1 Employee's or survivor's right of action against person other than employer; subrogation lien of employer; rights of employer or insurer upon failure of employee to bring action; attorney fees; retroactive application
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-12 Employer's record of injuries; availability of board records; supplementary report on termination of disability; penalties; routine reports
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-13 Definitions; persons presumed next of kin; apportionment of payments among partial and total dependents; termination of dependency 
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-14 Provision of substitute systems of compensation; approval by board; grounds and procedure for termination
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-15 Procedure for settlement between parties generally; approval by board; finality of settlement; lump sum settlements     
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-16 Settlement of questions if approved agreement cannot be reached
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-17 Grounds for denial of compensation; burden of proof in establishing grounds for denial
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-18 Civil penalties; costs of collection
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-19 Penalty for false or misleading statements when obtaining or denying benefits 
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-20 Giving of false evidence to board member
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-21 Penalty for receiving unentitled to benefits
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-22 Penalty for receipt of unapproved fees or for solicitation of employment for lawyer or physician
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-23 Liberal construction of chapter; purpose
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-24 Fraud and compliance unit; creation and duties; limitation on liability; authority; whistle blower protection
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-25 Patient self-referral
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-30 Short title; purpose
O.C.G.A § 34-9-31 Notice required as part of television advertisement
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-32 Penalty for violation of notice requirement; advertiser defined
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-40 State Board of Workers' Compensation created; appointment of members; powers and duties of board generally
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_40.1 Workers' Compensation Advisory Council; appointment and terms of members; chairman; duties; service without compensation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-41 Appointment and term of chairman of board
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-42 Qualifications and roles of members
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-43 Oath of office of members
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-44 Bond of members
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-45 Removal of members
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-46 Quorum
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-47 Trial division and appellate division created; composition; sessions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-48 Designation of members as appellate administrative law judges  
O.C.G.A. § 34_9_48.1 Senior administrative law judge of the board
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-49 Appointment and removal of executive director
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-50 Appointment of secretary-treasurer; employment of clerical and other assistants; payment of salaries and expenses of members, deputy directors, and assistants
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-51 Payment by state of traveling expenses of members, administrative law judges, and assistants
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-52 Officials, personnel, and employees subject to state merit system; compensation of board members and administrative law judges
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-53 Directors emeritus of board -- Eligibility for appointment; procedure for appointment
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-54 Directors emeritus of board -- Term of office; compensation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-55 Directors emeritus of board -- Duties
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-56 Directors emeritus of board -- Filling of board vacancies caused by appointment of director emeritus
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-57 Creation of administrative law judge emeritus of board; eligibility for appointment; manner of appointment; compensation 
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-58 Powers and duties of board as to enforcement of chapter generally
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-59 Adoption of rules of procedure
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-60 Rule-making and subpoena powers; service and enforcement of subpoenas
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-61 Publication of blank forms and literature; publication of tabulations of accident reports
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-62 Limitations on authority of Commissioner of Labor with respect to officers or employees of board
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-63 Proration of board's expenses; required annual reports and statements; audit of board; collection of delinquent assessments
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-80 Procedure for giving notice of accident; requirements of written notice; effect of failure to give notice
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-81 Contents of written notice; manner of delivery
O.C.G.A. § 34_9_81.1 Board's duty to provide injured workers with notice of rights, benefits, and obligations
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-82 Limitation period and procedure for filing claims
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-83 Priority of claims
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-84 Limitation period and procedure for filing claims
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-85 Claim by guardian or trustee of mental incompetent of minor        
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-86 Applicability of time limits to mental incompetents, minors, and persons proceeding against defunct corporations
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-100 Filing of claims with board; investigation or mediation; hearing; dismissal of stale claims
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-101 Appointment of physician to examine injured employee; payment of fee and expenses of examining physician
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-102 Hearing before administrative law judge
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-103 Appeal of decision; remand; reconsideration, amendment, or revision of award
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-104 Modification of award or order contained in prior decision in event of change in condition
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-105 When award deemed final; appeal to superior court; grounds for setting aside decisions; appeal to Court of Appeals
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-106 Entry and execution of judgment on settlement agreement, final order or decision, or award; modification and revocation of orders and decrees
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-107 Interest payable on final award of board in the event of appeal      
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-108 Approval of attorney's fees by board; assessment of fees against the offending party; restrictions on attorney advertisement and division of fees; payment of fees or expenses
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-120 Employer's duty to insure payment of compensation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-121 Duty of employer to insure in licensed company or association or to deposit security, indemnity, or bond as self-insurer; membership in mutual insurance company
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-122 Type of insurance policy to be issued; promulgation of rules and regulations when accident prevention and safety engineering are questioned
O.C.G.A.§ 34_9_122.1 Workers' compensation health benefits pilot projects
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-123 Policy provisions regarding effect of notice or knowledge by insured employer as to occurrence of injury
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-124 Policy or contract of insurance to contain agreement of insurer to pay compensation; payment of compensation when employer or employee exempt from provisions of chapter
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_124.1 Optional deductibles to be offered by insurers
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_124.2 Restrictions on requirements requiring recipients of benefits to utilize out-of-state mail order pharmacy services
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-125 Insurance policies subject to chapter; approval of policy or contract forms by board; exceptions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-126 Filing by employer of evidence of compliance with insurance requirements; assessment of attorney's fees and increased compensation against employer who fails to file
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-127 Issuance by board of certificate of self-insurance; review; revocation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-128 Inspection of place of employment and injury records; penalty for noncompliance
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-129 Furnishing of bond by insurance companies doing workers' compensation business in state; bringing of actions upon bond; posting of security in lieu of bond
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-130 Authority of Commissioner of Insurance to investigate rates; assistance by board in investigations
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_130.1 Policies or contracts of insurance against liability for compensation under this chapter
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-131 Insurer permit requirement; claim office within state
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-132 Grounds for revocation of insurance carrier's permit
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-133 Apportionment and assignment of rejected risks; Workers' Compensation Assigned Risk Insurance Plan; merit rating plan  
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-134 Appeals from decisions under Code Sections 34-9-122 and 34-9-131 through 34-9-133
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-135 Disclosure of costs by insurer
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-136 Statistical data submitted by insurance company to rating organization; verification by employer; issuance of experience modification worksheets to insured
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-137 Considerations in employer's experience modification factor
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-138 Consideration of employer's experience while self-insured
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-150 Purpose of article
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-151 Definitions
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_151.1 Eligibility for establishing a fund
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_151.2 Filing of intent to form fund; notice of intent to refuse to issue certificate of authority
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-152 Application to Commissioner for certificate of authority to create fund; contents of application; filing fee; membership of fund  
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-153 Issuance of certificate of authority; grounds for denial or revocation; annual renewal fee
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-154 Compliance with workers' compensation obligations by participation in fund
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-155 License required for solicitation of membership or participation in fund; procedure for admission of new members; underwriting criteria
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-156 Voluntary termination of members; grounds and procedure for involuntary termination of membership; effect of voluntary or involuntary termination on obligations
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-157 Boards of trustees -- Appointment of members
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-158 Boards of trustees -- Powers
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-159 Annual reports of affairs and operations of funds; additional periodic reports; verification of reports; compliance condition for renewal of certificates
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-160 Method of determining financial condition and solvency of a fund and financial capacity of fund to pay obligations
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-161 Securities deposit; excess loss funding program
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-162 Maintenance of surplus and expendable surplus; waiver of surplus requirements; return of surplus to members of fund
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-163 Investment of assets; maintenance of loss reserves
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-164 Payment of operating expenses by members of fund; liability of members; payment by funds of expenses of State Board of Workers' Compensation; legal capacity of funds
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-165 Requirements as to contracts between funds and administrators not employed by funds
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-166 Fiduciary responsibilities of trustees, officers, or administrators of moneys
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-167 Bond, liability insurance, and resident office of administrator
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-168 Grounds and procedure for restraining transaction of business by fund or administrator; appointment of receivers; criminal prosecution
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-169 Revocation and suspension of certificates of authority; probation and fine; voluntary dissolution or termination of functions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-170 Taxes -- Imposition; deductions, reductions, abatements, and credits
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-171 Tax exemption
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-172 Examinations by Commissioner to verify solvency of funds
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-173 Remedy of deficiencies in surplus or reserve; initiation of insolvency proceedings; assessments upon liquidation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-174 Promulgation of rules and regulations 
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-175 Hearings or other proceedings for aggrieved parties
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-176 Service of process; venue of actions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-177 Funds not to be deemed insurers
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-178 Construction of article
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-179 Application of Chapter 6 of Title 33 to funds; enforcement by Commissioner
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-180 Officials of funds prohibited from having pecuniary interests in transactions; exceptions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-181 Administrative fines, probation, or additional penalties
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-182 Deadline for compliance
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200 Compensation for medical care, artificial members, and other treatment and supplies; effect of employee's refusal of treatment; employer's liability for temporary care
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_200.1 Rehabilitation benefits; effect of employee's refusal of treatment; rehabilitation suppliers; catastrophic injury cases
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-201 Selection of physician from panel of physicians; change of physician or treatment; liability of employer for failure to maintain panel
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-202 Examination of injured employee; request for autopsy; examination by physician designated by employee
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-203 Employer's pecuniary liability for medical charges; liability for medical malpractice; payment of reasonable charges; inclusion of reports and documentation with charges; defense for failure to make payments; penalties
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-204 Compensation where death or disability caused by nonwork related injury
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-205 Board approval of physician's fees, hospital, and other charges; collection of fees; schedule of charges; filing costs for peer review
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-206 Reimbursement for costs of medical treatment
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-207 Employee's waiver of confidentiality of communications with physician; release for medical records and information
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-208 Certification of managed health care providers
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-220 Period of incapacity preceding payment of compensation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-221 Procedure; payment controverted by employer; delinquency charge; enforcement
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-222 Lump sum payments of all or part of compensation generally
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-223 Lump sum payments to trustees
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-224 Payment of compensation to employees in service of more than one employer
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-225 Effect of written receipt of widow or widower, minor, or guardian upon liability of employer; determination of obligation of employer to rival claimants
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-226 Appointment of guardian for minor or incompetent claimant
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-240 Effect of refusal of suitable employment by injured employee; attempting or refusing to attempt work with restrictions 
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-241 Effect of subsequent injury on compensation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242 Compensation for injury outside of state
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-243 Effect of payments made when not due; employer credit or reduction for employer funded payments pursuant to disability plan
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-244 Reimbursement of provider of disability benefits to person who subsequently files claim
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-245 Repayment of overpayment by claimant
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-260 Basis and method for computing compensation generally
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-261 Compensation for total disability
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-262 Compensation for temporary partial disability
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-263 Compensation for permanent partial disability
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-264 Compensation for loss of hearing caused by harmful noise; procedure for measuring degree of hearing impairment; eligibility for compensation; liability of employer
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-265 Compensation for death resulting from injury and other causes; penalty for death from injury proximately caused by intentional act of employer; payment of death benefits where no dependents found
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-266 Payment of compensation for time loss, disability, or death resulting from hernia
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280 Definitions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-281 Prerequisites to compensation for occupational disease
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-282 Payment of medical and burial expenses of claimants
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-283 Applicability to occupational diseases of provisions of Code Section 34-9-263 regarding permanent partial industrial disabilities
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-284 Liability of last employer; compensation based on average weekly wage
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-285 Noncompensable disease or infirmity
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-286 Payment of compensation to persons whose relationship with employee arises after disability
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-287 Applicability of article to occupational diseases in which last injurious exposure occurred before April 30, 1946
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-288 Applicability of provisions of chapter to article
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-289 Exclusive liability of employer for employee's death or disability from occupational disease
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-290 Reporting of hazardous occupations and cases of occupational disease to Department of Human Resources
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-291 Effect of false representations by employee regarding previous disability from or compensation for occupational disease     
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-292 Payment of expenses of board
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-310 Resolution of medical questions resulting from claims for compensation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-311 Contents of written notice; manner of delivery
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-312 Promulgation of rules and regulations by medical board as to making of examinations and autopsies; determination of location of examinations; procedure by medical board in conducting medical investigations; reporting of investigation
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-313 Power to compel attendance of witnesses and production of records
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-350 Purpose and construction of article
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-351 Definitions
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_351.1 Exclusion from eligibility for reimbursement of certain self-insured employers
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-352 Creation and authority of Subsequent Injury Trust Fund; director of Office of Treasury and Fiscal Services as custodian
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-353 Surety bonds of administrator and custodian
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-354 Creation and appointment of board of trustees; duties; term of office of members and chairman; oath of office
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-355 Appointment of administrator; merit system coverage; administration of article; members of retirement system
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-356 Payment of travel expenses of board members, administrator, and employees; per diem allowance of board members
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-357 Payment of costs of administration; submission and approval of annual budget; audit of funds
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-358 Payment of assessments to fund by insurers and self-insurers    
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-359 Reports by employers of compensation and benefits paid; failure to pay assessments
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-360 Reimbursement of employer or insurer for subsequent injury compensation payments; amounts of and prerequisites to reimbursement from fund
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-361 Employer's knowledge of employee's preexisting permanent impairment
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-362 Notice by employer or insurer of claim against fund; request for a hearing 
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-363 Agreements for reimbursement from fund; hearing by State Board of Workers' Compensation in absence of agreement; compromise settlements 
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_363.1 Duty to notify administrator of proposed settlement agreements after reimbursement agreement has been reached; approval of such settlement agreements
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-364 Apportionment or denial of reimbursement for expenses paid by employer or insurer
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-365 Injuries to which article is applicable
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-366 Binding of fund to questions determined in proceedings to which it was not a party
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-367 Liability of fund for interest or attorney's fees
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-368 Reimbursement of self-insured employers or insureds; actuarial study required; dissolution of Subsequent Injury Trust Fund 
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-380 Purpose of article
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-381 Definitions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-382 Establishment of Self-insurers Guaranty Trust Fund; use of fund; application to be accepted in fund
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-383 Membership of board of trustees of fund
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-384 General powers of board of trustees
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-385 Bankruptcy of participants
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-386 Assessment of participants; liability of fund and participants for claims; revocation of participant's authority to be self-insured
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-387 Reimbursement and security deposit from participant for compensation obligations
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-388 Reports of participant's insolvency; participant's audits; review of applications for self-insurance and recommendations thereon
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-389 State absolved of responsibility for debts incurred under fund      
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-410 Legislative intent
O.C.G.A._§_34_9_411 Definitions
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-412 Insurance premium discount
O.C.G.A._§ 34_9_412.1 Certification
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-413 Elements of program; applicable confidentiality standards
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-414 Notice of testing; written policy statement
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-415 Conduct of testing; types of tests; random testing; procedures for specimen collection and testing; laboratory qualifications, procedures, and reports; confirmation tests
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-416 Employee Assistance Programs
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-417 Education program on substance abuse
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-418 Supervisor training on substance abuse
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-419 Physician-patient relationship not created; authorized work rules; applicability of article; medical screening or other tests authorized; employer not required to establish program
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-420 Confidentiality of information
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-421 Rules and regulations

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1. Definitions

As used in this chapter, the term:

(1)  "Board" means the State Board of Workers' Compensation.

(2)  "Employee" means every person in the service of another under any contract of hire or apprenticeship, written or implied, except a person whose employment is not in the usual course of the trade, business, occupation, or profession of the employer; and, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, minors are included even though working in violation of any child labor law or other similar statute; provided, however, that nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed as repealing or altering any such law or statute.  Any reference to any employee who has been injured shall, if the employee dies, include such employee's legal representatives, dependents, and other persons to whom compensation may be payable pursuant to this chapter.  All firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and personnel of emergency management or civil defense agencies, emergency medical services, and rescue organizations whose compensation is paid by the state or any county or municipality, regardless of the method of appointment, and all full-time county employees and employees of elected salaried county officials are specifically included in this definition.  There shall also be included within such term any volunteer firefighter of any county or municipality of this state, but only for services rendered in such capacity which are not prohibited by Code Section 38-3-36 and only if the governing authority of the county or municipality for which such services are rendered shall provide by appropriate resolution for inclusion of such volunteer firefighters; any volunteer law enforcement personnel of any county or municipality of this state who are certified by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, for volunteer law enforcement services rendered in such capacity which are not prohibited by Code Section 38-3-36 and only if the governing authority of the county or municipality for which such services are rendered shall provide by appropriate resolution for inclusion of such volunteer law enforcement personnel; any person who is a volunteer member or worker of an emergency management or civil defense organization, emergency medical service, or rescue organization, whether governmental or not, of any county or municipality of this state for volunteer services, which are not prohibited by Code Section 38-3-36, rendered in such capacity and only if the governing authority of the county or municipality for which such services are rendered shall provide by appropriate resolution for inclusion of such volunteer members or workers; and any person certified by the Department of Human Resources or the Composite State Board of Medical Examiners and registered with any county or municipality of this state as a medical first responder for any volunteer first responder services rendered in such capacity, which are not prohibited by Code Section 38-3-36 and only if the governing authority of the county or municipality for which such services are rendered shall provide by appropriate resolution for inclusion of such responders.  The various elected county officers and elected members of the governing authority of an individual county shall also be included in this definition, if the governing authority of said county shall provide therefor by appropriate resolution. For the purposes of workers' compensation coverage, employees of county and district health agencies established under Chapter 3 of Title 31 are deemed and shall be considered employees of the State of Georgia and employees of community service boards established under Chapter 2 of Title 37 shall be considered to be employees of the state.  For the purpose of workers' compensation coverage, members of the Georgia National Guard and the State Defense Force serving on state active duty pursuant to an order by the Governor are deemed and shall be considered to be employees of this state.  A person shall be an independent contractor and not an employee if such person has a written contract as an independent contractor and if such person buys a product and resells it, receiving no other compensation, or provides an agricultural service or such person otherwise qualifies as an independent contractor.  Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this paragraph, any officer of a corporation may elect to be exempt from coverage under this chapter by filing written certification of such election with the insurer or, if there is no insurer, the State Board of Workers' Compensation as provided in Code Section 34-9-2.1.  For purposes of this chapter, an owner-operator as such term is defined in Code Section 40-2-87 shall be deemed to be an independent contractor. Inmates or persons participating in a work release program, community service program, or similar program as part of the punishment for violation of a municipal ordinance pursuant to Code Section 36-32-5 or a county ordinance or a state law shall not be deemed to be an employee while participating in work or training or while going to and from the work site or training site, unless such inmate or person is employed for private gain in violation of Code Section 42-1-5 or Code Section 42-8-70 or unless the municipality or county had voluntarily established a policy, on or before January 1, 1993, to provide workers' compensation benefits to such individuals.

(3)  "Employer" shall include the State of Georgia and all departments, instrumentalities, and authorities thereof; each county within the state, including its school district; each independent public school district; any municipal corporation within the state and any political division thereof; any individual, firm, association, or public or private corporation engaged in any business, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, and the receiver or trustee thereof; any electric membership corporation organized under Article 4 of Chapter 3 of Title 46 or other cooperative corporation engaged in rural electrification, including electric refrigeration cooperatives; any telephone cooperative organized under Part 3 of Article 2 of Chapter 5 of Title 46 or other cooperative or nonprofit corporation engaged in furnishing telephone service; the legal representative of a deceased employer using the service of another for pay; and any person who, pursuant to a contract or agreement with an employer, provides workers' compensation benefits to an injured employee, notwithstanding the fact that no common-law master-servant relationship or contract of employment exists between the injured employee and the person providing the benefits.  If the employer is insured, this term shall include his insurer as far as applicable.

(4)  "Injury" or "personal injury" means only injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment and shall not, except as provided in this chapter, include a disease in any form except where it results naturally and unavoidably from the accident.  Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, "injury" and "personal injury" shall include the aggravation of a preexisting condition by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, but only for so long as the aggravation of the preexisting condition continues to be the cause of the disability; the preexisting condition shall no longer meet this criteria when the aggravation ceases to be the cause of the disability.  "Injury" and "personal injury" shall not include injury caused by the willful act of a third person directed against an employee for reasons personal to such employee, nor shall "injury" and "personal injury" include heart disease, heart attack, the failure or occlusion of any of the coronary blood vessels, stroke, or thrombosis unless it is shown by a preponderance of competent and credible evidence, which shall include medical evidence, that any of such conditions were attributable to the performance of the usual work of employment.  Alcoholism and disabilities attributable thereto shall not be deemed to be "injury" or "personal injury" by accident arising out of and in the course of employment.  Drug addiction or disabilities resulting therefrom shall not be deemed to be "injury" or "personal injury" by accident arising out of and in the course of employment except when such addiction or disability resulted from the use of drugs or medicines prescribed for the treatment of the initial injury by an authorized physician.  Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, and solely for members of the Georgia National Guard and State Defense Force, an injury arising in the course of employment shall include any injury incurred by a member of the Georgia National Guard or State Defense Force while serving on state active duty or when traveling to and from state active duty.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2. Applicability of chapter to employers and employees -- Generally

(a)

(1)  As used in this subsection, the term "farm laborer" shall include, without limitation, any person employed by an employer in connection with the raising and feeding of and caring for wildlife, as such term is defined in paragraph (77) of Code Section 27-1-2.

(2)  This chapter shall not apply to common carriers by railroad engaged in intrastate trade or commerce; nor shall this chapter be construed to lessen the liability of such common carriers or take away or diminish any right that any employee of such common carrier or, in case of his or her death, the personal representative of such employee may have under the laws of this state; nor shall this chapter apply to employees whose employment is not in the usual course of trade, business, occupation, or profession of the employer or not incidental thereto; nor to farm laborers or domestic servants; nor to employers of such employees; nor to any person, firm, or private corporation, including any public service corporation, that has regularly in service less than three employees in the same business within this state, unless such employees and their employers voluntarily elect to be bound; nor to any person performing services as a licensed real estate salesperson or associate broker who has a written contract of employment providing that he or she shall perform all services as an independent contractor.

(b)  This chapter shall not apply to any common carrier by railroad engaging in commerce between any of the several states or territories or between the District of Columbia and any of the states or territories and any foreign nation or nations nor to any person suffering injury or death while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce; nor shall this chapter be construed to lessen the liability of such common carrier or to diminish or take away in any respect any right that any person so employed or the personal representative, kindred, relation, or dependent of such person may have under the act of Congress approved April 22, 1908, relating to the liability of common carriers by railroad to their employees in certain cases.

(c)  Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this Code section, this chapter shall apply to employees of the Department of Corrections who are engaged in farm and livestock operations.

(d)  This chapter shall not apply to persons who perform services pursuant to a written contract stating that the provider is an independent contractor and such person buys a product and resells it, receiving no other compensation; or to independent contract carriers who perform services for an employer who is a publisher or distributor of printed materials in transporting, assembling, delivering, or distributing printed materials and in maintaining any facilities or equipment incidental thereto, provided that:

(1)  The independent contract carrier has with the employer a written contract as an independent contractor;

(2)  Remuneration for the independent contract carrier is on the basis of the number of deliveries accomplished;

(3)  With exception to providing the area or route which an independent contract carrier may or may not service, or providing materials or direction for the packaging or assembly of printed materials, the employer exercises no general control regarding the method of transporting, assembling, delivering, or distributing the printed materials; and

(4)  The contract entered by the independent contract carrier for such services does not prohibit it from the transportation, delivery, assembly, or distribution of printed materials for more than one employer.

(e)  A person or entity shall otherwise qualify as an independent contractor and not an employee if such person or entity meets all of the following criteria:

(1)  Is a party to a contract, written or implied, which intends to create an independent contractor relationship;

(2)  Has the right to exercise control over the time, manner, and method of the work to be performed; and

(3)  Is paid on a set price per job or a per unit basis, rather than on a salary or hourly basis.

A person who does not meet all of the above listed criteria shall be considered an employee unless otherwise determined by an administrative law judge to be an independent contractor.

(f)

(1)  As used in this subsection, the term "sports official" means any person who is a neutral participant in a sports event, including without limitation an umpire, referee, judge, linesman, scorekeeper, or timekeeper. The term "sports official" does not include any person, otherwise employed by an organization or entity sponsoring a sports event, who performs services as a sports official as a part of his or her regular employment.

(2)  Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a person shall qualify as an independent contractor and not an employee if such person performs services as a sports official for an entity sponsoring an interscholastic or intercollegiate sports event or if such person performs services as a sports official for a public entity or a private, nonprofit organization which sponsors an amateur sports event.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2.1. Exemption of corporate officers; limitation

(a)  A corporate officer or a member of a limited liability company who elects to be exempt from coverage under this chapter shall make such election by giving written certification to the insurer or, if there is no insurer, to the State Board of Workers' Compensation.  The right of any corporation or limited liability company to exempt its officers or members from coverage under this chapter is limited as follows:

(1)  A corporation shall not be allowed to exempt more than five corporate officers and a limited liability company shall not be allowed to exempt more than five members; and

(2)  In order for the written certification of exemption to be in effect, the corporate officer must be identified by name as well as by the office held at the time of certification and the member of the limited liability company must be identified by name; and

(3)  Any employer subject to this chapter pursuant to subsection (a) of Code Section 34-9-2 before the filing of any exemptions shall remain subject to this chapter without regard to the number of exemptions filed.  However, in the event that there shall be no covered employees once exemptions are elected, no coverage shall be required unless and until additional employees are employed.

(b)  A corporate officer or a member of the limited liability company who has exempted himself or herself by proper certification from coverage under this chapter may at any time revoke such exemption and thereby accept coverage under this chapter by giving certification to such effect in the same manner as provided in subsection (a) of this Code section relative to exemption from coverage.

(c)  No certification given pursuant to subsection (a) or (b) of this Code section shall become effective until it is filed with the proper entity.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2.2. Eligibility of sole proprietor or partner for workers' compensation insurance

Any sole proprietor or partner of a business whose employees are eligible for benefits under this chapter may elect to be included as an employee under the workers' compensation insurance coverage of such business if he is actively engaged in the operation of the business and if the insurer is notified of his election to be so included.  Any such sole proprietor or partner shall, upon such election, be entitled to the employee benefits and be subject to the employee responsibilities prescribed in this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2.3. Election to provide workers' compensation coverage to farm laborers

Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of Code Section 34-9-2, relative to the exempt status of individuals employed as farm laborers, an employer of farm laborers may elect to provide workers' compensation coverage to individuals employed as farm laborers by giving written notice to the board in such manner and form as provided by rule of the board.  Upon the filing of the notice with the board, the employer of farm laborers shall be deemed an employer for the purposes of this chapter and each individual employed as a farm laborer shall be deemed an employee for the purposes of this chapter.  An employer of farm laborers who has filed a notice pursuant to this Code section shall not discontinue the provision of workers' compensation insurance coverage for individuals employed as farm laborers until the notice filed with the board is revoked in a manner to be specified by rule of the board and written notice is given to each affected employee in a manner to be specified by rule of the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2.4. Workers' compensation coverage for persons performing voluntary services for Olympic Games; repealer

Repealed by Ga. L. 1995, p. 852, § 1, effective December 31, 1997.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-3. Applicability of chapter to employers and employees -- Public employees generally

Neither any municipal corporation within the state, nor any political subdivision of the state, nor any employee of any such corporation or subdivision shall have the right to reject the provisions of this chapter relative to payment and acceptance of compensation; and Code Section 34-9-7 shall not apply to them.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-4. Applicability of chapter to employers and employees -- Employees of planning commissions

All planning commissions created pursuant to Ga. L. 1957, p. 420, as amended, relating to the creation of planning commissions by certain political subdivisions, are authorized to provide workers' compensation insurance coverage for their employees.  Before any such planning commission can provide any such insurance coverage, it shall adopt an appropriate resolution, at any public meeting of the commission, setting forth the procedure for furnishing and maintaining such insurance coverage.  From the date of the adoption of such resolution, the planning commission shall be deemed to be an employer and each of its employees to be an employee within the meaning of this chapter; provided, however, that the planning commission may, by appropriate notice to employees and by proper resolution, elect to withdraw from coverage under this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-5. Applicability of chapter to employers and employees -- Pilots under contract to Georgia Forestry Commission

Notwithstanding Code Section 34-9-1 or any other provision of law, this chapter shall not be deemed to apply to any airplane pilots or their assistants flying patrols for the Georgia Forestry Commission or for any county or counties participating in the forest fire protection program, where the flying services were procured by contracts awarded pursuant to bid.  The state does not consent to be sued in any respect, whether at common law or otherwise, with respect to such pilots or contractors employing them.  However, nothing in this Code section shall be construed as relieving the contractor from any workers' compensation or other liability which may be owing to such pilot or his beneficiaries under law.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-6. Retroactive inclusion of state and departments in definition of "employer"; resumption of payments of awards previously discontinued

So far as concerns the State of Georgia or any department thereof which has been operating under the terms of this chapter, the state and such departments thereof shall be deemed to have been included in the original Act under the definition of "employer."  Any payments heretofore made under awards of the Industrial Board to state employees are ratified and confirmed and any payments of awards which were being made by the state or any of its departments on or before February 1, 1943, but discontinued because of exclusion of the state and its departments from the definition of "employer" shall be resumed as of the date of discontinuance; and compensable accidents which occurred prior to the passage of this chapter for which awards were not made but for which awards are hereafter made shall be paid by the state or the departments thereof in the same manner as other awards heretofore or hereafter made.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-7. Presumption of applicability of chapter to contracts between employers and employees covered by chapter

Every contract of service between an employer and an employee covered by this chapter, whether such contract is written, oral, or implied, shall be presumed to have been made subject to this chapter except contracts of service between those employers and employees listed in Code Section 34-9-2.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-8. Liability of principal contractor or subcontractor for employee injuries

(a)  A principal, intermediate, or subcontractor shall be liable for compensation to any employee injured while in the employ of any of his subcontractors engaged upon the subject matter of the contract to the same extent as the immediate employer.

(b)  Any principal, intermediate, or subcontractor who shall pay compensation under subsection (a) of this Code section may recover the amount paid from any person who, independently of this Code section, would have been liable to pay compensation to the injured employee or from any intermediate contractor.

(c)  Every claim for compensation under this Code section shall be in the first instance presented to and instituted against the immediate employer, but such proceedings shall not constitute a waiver of the employee's right to recover compensation under this chapter from the principal or intermediate contractor.  If such immediate employer is not subject to this chapter by reason of having less than the required number of employees as prescribed in subsection (a) of Code Section 34-9-2 and Code Section 34-9-124 does not apply, then such claim may be directly presented to and instituted against the intermediate or principal contractor.  However, the collection of full compensation from one employer shall bar recovery by the employee against any others, and the employee shall not collect a total compensation in excess of the amount for which any of the contractors is liable.

(d)  This Code section shall apply only in cases where the injury occurred on, in, or about the premises on which the principal contractor has undertaken to execute work or which are otherwise under his control or management.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-9. Relief from penalty for failure or neglect to perform statutory duty

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to relieve any employer or employee from any penalty for failure or neglect to perform any statutory duty.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-10. Relief of employer from obligations under chapter

No contract or agreement, written, oral, or implied, nor any rule, regulation, or other device shall in any manner operate to relieve any employer in whole or in part from any obligation created by this chapter except as otherwise expressly provided in this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11. Exclusivity of rights and remedies granted to employee under chapter; immunity granted to construction design professionals

(a)  The rights and the remedies granted to an employee by this chapter shall exclude all other rights and remedies of such employee, his personal representative, parents, dependents, or next of kin, at common law or otherwise, on account of such injury, loss of service, or death; provided, however, that no employee shall be deprived of any right to bring an action against any third-party tort-feasor, other than an employee of the same employer or any person who, pursuant to a contract or agreement with an employer, provides workers' compensation benefits to an injured employee, notwithstanding the fact that no common-law master-servant relationship or contract of employment exists between the injured employee and the person providing the benefits, and other than a construction design professional who is retained to perform professional services on or in conjunction with a construction project on which the employee was working when injured, or any employee of a construction design professional who is assisting in the performance of professional services on the construction site on which the employee was working when injured, unless the construction design professional specifically assumes by written contract the safety practices for the project.  The immunity provided by this subsection to a construction design professional shall not apply to the negligent preparation of design plans and specifications, nor shall it apply to the tortious activities of the construction design professional or the employees of the construction design professional while on the construction site where the employee was injured and where those activities are the proximate cause of the injury to the employee or to any professional surveys specifically set forth in the contract or any intentional misconduct committed by the construction design professional or his employees.

(b)  As used in subsection (a) of this Code section, the term "construction design professional" means any person who is an architect, professional engineer, landscape architect, geologist, or land surveyor who has been issued a license pursuant to Chapter 4, 15, 19, or 23 of Title 43 or any corporation organized to render professional services in Georgia through the practice of one or more such technical professions as architecture, professional engineering, landscape architecture, geology, or land surveying.

(c)  The immunity provided by this subsection shall apply and extend to the businesses using the services of a temporary help contracting firm, as such term is defined in Code Section 34-8-46, or an employee leasing company, as such term is defined in Code Section 34-8-32, when the benefits required by this chapter are provided by either the temporary help contracting firm or the employee leasing company or the business using the services of either such firm or company.  A temporary help contracting firm or an employee leasing company shall be deemed to be a statutory employer for the purposes of this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11.1. Employee's or survivor's right of action against person other than employer; subrogation lien of employer; rights of employer or insurer upon failure of employee to bring action; attorney fees; retroactive application

(a)  When the injury or death for which compensation is payable under this chapter is caused under circumstances creating a legal liability against some person other than the employer, the injured employee or those to whom such employee's right of action survives at law may pursue the remedy by proper action in a court of competent jurisdiction against such other persons, except as precluded by Code Section 34-9-11 or otherwise.

(b)  In the event an employee has a right of action against such other person as contemplated in subsection (a) of this Code section and the employer's liability under this chapter has been fully or partially paid, then the employer or such employer's insurer shall have a subrogation lien, not to exceed the actual amount of compensation paid pursuant to this chapter, against such recovery.  The employer or insurer may intervene in any action to protect and enforce such lien.  However, the employer's or insurer's recovery under this Code section shall be limited to the recovery of the amount of disability benefits, death benefits, and medical expenses paid under this chapter and shall only be recoverable if the injured employee has been fully and completely compensated, taking into consideration both the benefits received under this chapter and the amount of the recovery in the third-party claim, for all economic and noneconomic losses incurred as a result of the injury.

(c)  Such action against such other person by the employee must be instituted in all cases within the applicable statute of limitations. If such action is not brought by the employee within one year after the date of injury, then the employer or such employer's insurer may but is not required to assert the employee's cause of action in tort, either in its own name or in the name of the employee. The employer or its insurer shall immediately notify the employee of its assertion of such cause of action, and the employee shall have a right to intervene. If after one year from the date of injury the employee asserts his or her cause of action in tort, then the employee shall immediately notify the employer or its insurer of his or her assertion of such cause of action, and the employer or its insurer shall have a right to intervene.  In any case, if the employer or insurer recovers more than the extent of its lien, then the amount in excess thereof shall be paid over to the employee.  For purposes of this subsection only, "employee" shall include not only the injured employee but also those persons in whom the cause of action in tort rests or survives for injuries to such employee.

(d)  In the event of a recovery from such other person by the injured employee or those to whom such employee's right of action survives by judgment, settlement, or otherwise, the attorney representing such injured employee or those to whom such employee's right of action survives shall be entitled to a reasonable fee for services; provided, however, that if the employer or insurer has engaged another attorney to represent the employer or insurer in effecting recovery against such other person, then a court of competent jurisdiction shall upon application apportion the reasonable fee between the attorney for the injured employee and the attorney for the employer or insurer in proportion to services rendered.  The provisions of Code Sections 15-19-14 and 15-19-15 shall apply.

(e)  It is the express intent of the General Assembly that the provisions of subsection (c) of this Code section be applied not only prospectively but also retroactively to injuries occurring on or after July 1, 1992.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-12. Employer's record of injuries; availability of board records; supplementary report on termination of disability; penalties; routine reports

(a)  Every employer subject to the provisions of this chapter relative to the payment of compensation shall hereafter keep a record of all injuries, fatal or otherwise, received by his employees in the course of their employment on blanks approved by the board.  Within ten days after notice, as provided in Code Section 34-9-80, of the occurrence of an injury to an employee requiring medical or surgical treatment or causing his absence from work for more than seven days, a report thereof shall be made in writing and mailed to the board on blanks to be procured from the board for this purpose.

(b)  The records of the board, insofar as they refer to accidents, injuries, and settlements, shall not be open to the public but only to the parties satisfying the board of their interest in such records and their right to inspect them.  The board shall provide data contained on Employers' First Report of Injury forms reporting fatalities to the Georgia Department of Labor and the United States Department of Labor for use in the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Program.  The board shall provide data to such other state and federal governmental entities or departments as required by law.  Under such reasonable rules and regulations as the board may adopt, the records of the board as to any employee in any previous case in which such employee was a claimant shall be open to and made available to such claimant, to an employer or its insurance carrier which is called upon to pay compensation, medical expenses, or funeral expenses, and to any party at interest, except that the board may make such reasonable charge as it deems proper for furnishing information by mail and for copies of records.

(c)  Upon the termination of the disability of the injured employee, the employer shall make a supplementary report to the board on blanks to be procured from the board for the purpose.  The report shall contain the name, nature, and location of the business of the employer; the name, age, sex, and wages and occupation of the injured employee; and shall state the date and hour of the accident causing the injury, the nature and cause of the injury, and such other information as may be required by the board.

(d)  Any employer who refuses or willfully neglects to make the report required by subsection (a) of this Code section shall be subject to a penalty of not more than $100.00 for each refusal or instance of willful neglect, to be assessed by the board, a member, or an administrative law judge in an open hearing, with the right of review as in other cases.  In the event the employer has sent the report to the insurance carrier for forwarding to the board, the insurance carrier willfully neglecting or failing to forward the report shall be liable and shall pay the penalty.

(e)  Every employer shall, upon request of the board, report the number of his employees, hours of their labor, and number of days of operation of business.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-13. Definitions; persons presumed next of kin; apportionment of payments among partial and total dependents; termination of dependency

(a)  As used in this Code section, the term:

(1)  "Child" includes dependent stepchildren, legally adopted children, posthumous children, and acknowledged children born out of wedlock but does not include married children; and

(2)  "Parent" includes stepparents and parents by adoption.

(b)  The following persons shall be conclusively presumed to be the next of kin wholly dependent for support upon the deceased employee:

(1)  A wife or husband, except that if the wife and husband were living separately for a period of 90 days immediately prior to the accident which resulted in the death of the deceased employee the presumption of total dependence shall be rebuttable; and

(2)  A child of the employee if:

(A)  The child is under 18 or enrolled full time in high school;

(B)  The child is over 18 and is physically or mentally incapable of earning a livelihood; or

(C)  The child is under the age of 22 and is a full-time student or the equivalent in good standing enrolled in a postsecondary institution of higher learning.

(c)  If the deceased employee leaves a dependent surviving spouse, as above described, and no dependent child or children, the full compensation shall be paid to such spouse.  If the deceased employee leaves a dependent surviving spouse, as above described, and also a dependent child or children, the full compensation shall be paid to such spouse for his or her use and that of such child or children; provided, however, that the board shall have the power in proper cases, in its discretion, to apportion the compensation; provided, further, that, if the dependent surviving spouse dies before payment is made in full, the balance remaining shall be paid to the person or persons wholly dependent, if any, share and share alike.  If there is no person wholly dependent, payment shall be made to partial dependents.

(d)  In all other cases, questions of dependency, in whole or in part, shall be determined in accordance with the facts at the time of the accident, but no allowance shall be made for any payment made in lieu of board and lodging or services, and no compensation shall be allowed unless the dependency existed for a period of three months or more prior to the accident.  In such other cases, if there is more than one person wholly dependent, the death benefit shall be divided among them, and persons partially dependent, if any, shall receive no part thereof; if there is no one wholly dependent and more than one person partially dependent, the death benefit shall be divided among them according to the relative extent of their dependency.

(e)  For the purpose of this chapter, the dependency of a spouse upon a deceased employee shall terminate with remarriage or cohabitation in a meretricious relationship; and for this purpose cohabitation in a meretricious relationship shall be a relationship in which persons of the opposite sex live together continuously and openly in a relationship similar or akin to marriage, which relationship includes either sexual intercourse or the sharing of living expenses.  The dependency of a child, except a child physically or mentally incapable of earning a livelihood, shall terminate with the attainment of 18 years of age, except as provided in paragraph (2) of subsection (b) of this Code section.  The dependency of a spouse and of a partial dependent shall terminate at age 65 or after payment of 400 weeks of benefits, whichever provides greater benefits.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-14. Provision of substitute systems of compensation; approval by board; grounds and procedure for termination

(a)  Subject to the joint approval of the board and the Commissioner of Insurance, any employer may enter into or continue any agreement with its employees to provide a system of compensation, benefit, or insurance in lieu of the compensation and insurance provided by this chapter.  No such substitute system shall be approved unless it complies with the following requirements:

(1)  The benefits provided for injured employees must at least equal the benefits required by this chapter;

(2)  Except as provided in Code Section 34-9-122.1, no contributions may be required from employees unless the substitute system of compensation confers benefits in addition to this chapter and the contributions are applied to the additional benefits;

(3)  The system must contain all provisions required of a standard policy of workers' compensation insurance issued in this state, including a workers' compensation benefits policy and an employer liability policy, and one of these policies may not be canceled independently of the other policy;

(4)  Any substitute system shall be required to file statistical data which would be required with regard to a standard policy of workers' compensation insurance; and

(5)  Such other standards as are necessary to ensure the compliance of such substitute system with the provisions of this chapter as are jointly promulgated by rule or regulation of the State Board of Workers' Compensation and the Commissioner of Insurance.

(b)  Such substitute system may be terminated by the board on reasonable notice and hearing to the interested parties if it shall appear that the system is not fairly administered or if its operation shall disclose defects threatening its solvency or if for any substantial reason it fails to accomplish the purpose of this chapter and is not in compliance with the provisions of this Code section; and in this case the board shall determine the proper distribution of all remaining assets, if any, subject to the right of any party at interest to take an appeal to the superior court of the county wherein the principal office or chief place of business of the employer is located.

(c)  It is the specific intent of the General Assembly that any alternative system of workers' compensation which is approved by the board and the Commissioner of Insurance pursuant to this Code section shall preserve an employer's immunity from civil action resulting from an injury which is compensable under this chapter as provided in Code Section 34-9-11, and the provisions of this Code section shall not be construed to the contrary.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-15. Procedure for settlement between parties generally; approval by board; finality of settlement; lump sum settlements

(a)  Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed so as to prevent settlements made by and between the employee and employer but rather to encourage them, so long as the amount of compensation and the time and manner of payment are in accordance with this chapter.  A workers' compensation insurer shall not be authorized to settle a claim on behalf of its insured employer without giving prior notice to such employer of the terms of the settlement agreement.  A copy of any such settlement agreement shall be filed by the employer with the board, and no such settlement shall be binding until approved by the board.  Whenever it shall appear to the board, by stipulation of the parties or otherwise, that there is a bona fide dispute as to facts, the determination of which will materially affect the right of the employee or dependent to recover compensation or the amount of compensation to be recovered, or that there is a genuine dispute as to the applicability of this chapter, and it further appears that the parties have agreed upon a settlement between themselves, which settlement gives due regard and weight to the conflicting evidence available relating to the disputed facts or to the questions as to the applicability of this chapter, then, upon such determination, the board shall approve the settlement and enter an award conforming to the terms thereof even though such settlement may provide for the payment of compensation in a sum or sums less than would be payable if there were no conflict as to the employee's right to recover compensation.  When such settlement has been agreed upon and approved by the board, it shall constitute a complete and final disposition of all claims on account of the incident, injury, or injuries referred to therein, and the board shall not be authorized to enter upon any award subsequent to such board approval amending, modifying, or changing in any manner the settlement, nor shall the settlement be subject to review by the board under Code Section 34-9-104.

(b)  The board shall be authorized to approve a stipulated settlement between the parties which concludes that there is no liability under this chapter and to retain jurisdiction to enforce any agreement which resolves, in whole or in part, a claim filed with the board.  If payments required under such an agreement are not made within 20 days, the board may assess a penalty of 20 percent in the same manner as provided in Code Section 34-9-221.  When such settlement has been agreed upon and approved by the board, it shall constitute a complete and final disposition of all claims on account of the incident, injury, or injuries referred to therein, and the board shall not be authorized to enter upon any award subsequent to such board approval amending, modifying, or changing in any manner the settlement, nor shall the settlement be subject to review by the board under Code Section 34-9-104.

(c)  The parties by agreement and with the approval of the board may enter into a compromise lump sum settlement resolving all issues which prorates the lump sum settlement over the life expectancy of the injured worker.  When such an agreement has been approved, neither the weekly compensation rate paid throughout the case nor the maximum statutory weekly rate applicable to the injury shall apply.  No compensation rate shall exceed the maximum statutory weekly rate as of the date of injury.  Instead, the prorated rate set forth in the approved settlement documents shall control and become the rate for that case.  This subsection shall be retroactive in effect.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-16. Settlement of questions if approved agreement cannot be reached

All questions arising under this chapter shall be determined by the trial division and the appellate division of the board if the interested parties cannot reach an agreement which is approved by the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-17. Grounds for denial of compensation; burden of proof in establishing grounds for denial

(a)  No compensation shall be allowed for an injury or death due to the employee's willful misconduct, including intentionally self-inflicted injury, or growing out of his or her attempt to injure another, or for the willful failure or refusal to use a safety appliance or perform a duty required by statute.

(b)  No compensation shall be allowed for an injury or death due to intoxication by alcohol or being under the influence of marijuana or a controlled substance, except as may have been lawfully prescribed by a physician for such employee and taken in accordance with such prescription:

(1)  If the amount of alcohol in the employee's blood within three hours of the time of the alleged accident, as shown by chemical analysis of the employee's blood, urine, breath, or other bodily substance, is 0.08 grams or greater, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the accident and injury or death were caused by the consumption of alcohol;

(2)  If any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance as defined in paragraph (4) of Code Section 16-13-21, Code Sections 16-13-25 through 16-13-29, Schedule I-V, or 21 C.F.R. Part 1308 is in the employee's blood within eight hours of the time of the alleged accident, as shown by chemical analysis of the employee's blood, urine, breath, or other bodily substance, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the accident and injury or death were caused by the ingestion of marijuana or the controlled substance; or

(3)  If the employee unjustifiably refuses to submit to a reliable, scientific test to be performed in the manner set forth in Code Section 34-9-415 to determine the presence of alcohol, marijuana, or a controlled substance in an employee's blood, urine, breath, or other bodily substance, then there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the accident and injury or death were caused by the consumption of alcohol or the ingestion of marijuana or a controlled substance.

(c)  With the exception of the rebuttable presumptions set forth above, the burden of proof shall be generally upon the party who claims an exemption or forfeiture under this Code section.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-18. Civil penalties; costs of collection

(a)  Any person who willfully fails to file any form or report required by the board, fails to follow any order or directive of the board or any of its members or administrative law judges, or violates any rule or regulation of the board shall be assessed a civil penalty of not less than $100.00 nor more than $1,000.00 per violation.

(b)  Any person who knowingly and intentionally makes any false or misleading statement or representation for the purpose of facilitating the obtaining or denying of any benefit or payment under this chapter may be assessed a civil penalty of not less than $1,000.00 nor more than $10,000.00 per violation.

(c)  In addition to the penalty and assessed fees as defined in subsection (b) of Code Section 34-9-126, the board may assess a civil penalty of not less than $500.00 nor more than $5,000.00 per violation for the violation by any person of Code Section 34-9-121 or subsection (a) of Code Section 34-9-126.

(d)  Any penalty assessed under subsections (a), (b), and (c) of this Code section shall be final unless within ten days of the date of the assessment the person fined files a written request with the board for a hearing on the matter.

(e)  Any person, firm, or corporation who is assessed a civil penalty pursuant to this Code section may also be assessed the cost of collection.  The cost of collection may also include reasonable attorneys' fees.

(f)  All penalties and costs assessed under this Code section shall be tendered and made payable to the State Board of Workers' Compensation.  All such penalties shall be deposited in the general fund of the state treasury.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-19. Penalty for false or misleading statements when obtaining or denying benefits

Any person, firm, or corporation who willfully makes any false or misleading statement or representation for the purpose of obtaining or denying any benefit or payment under this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $1,000.00 or more than $10,000.00 or by imprisonment not to exceed 12 months, or by both such fine and imprisonment.  Additionally, any person, firm, or corporation who violates this Code section may also be assessed the cost of investigation or prosecution, or both, in accordance with Chapter 11 of Title 17, relating to the assessment and payment of costs of criminal proceedings  penalties and costs assessed under this Code section shall be tendered and made payable to the State Board of Workers' Compensation.  All such penalties shall be deposited in the general fund of the state treasury.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-20. Giving of false evidence to board member

Any person who shall knowingly make, give, or produce any false statements or false evidence, under oath, to any member of the board or to any administrative law judge commits the offense of perjury.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-21. Penalty for receiving unentitled to benefits

Any employee who, with the intent to defraud, receives and retains any income benefits to which he or she is not entitled shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished for each offense by a fine of not less than $1,000.00 nor more than $10,000.00 or by imprisonment not to exceed one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-22. Penalty for receipt of unapproved fees or for solicitation of employment for lawyer or physician

Any physician, attorney, or hospital which receives any fee, other consideration, or any gratuity on account of services rendered under this chapter, unless such consideration or gratuity is approved by the board or, upon appeal, by the superior court, or any person who makes it a business to solicit employment for a lawyer or physician or for himself with respect to any claim or award for compensation under this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished for each offense by a fine not to exceed $5,000.00 or by imprisonment not to exceed one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-23. Liberal construction of chapter; purpose

This chapter shall be liberally construed only for the purpose of bringing employers and employees within the provisions of this chapter and to provide protection for both.  This chapter is intended to provide a complete and exclusive system and procedure for the resolution of disputes between employers and employees who are subject to this chapter concerning accidents and injuries arising out of and in the course of employment as defined by this chapter.  The provisions of this chapter shall be construed and applied impartially to both employers and employees.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-24. Fraud and compliance unit; creation and duties; limitation on liability; authority; whistle blower protection

(a)  There is established within the office of the State Board of Workers' Compensation a fraud and compliance unit.  This unit shall assist the chairperson in administratively investigating allegations of fraud and noncompliance and in developing and implementing programs to prevent fraud and abuse.  The unit shall promptly notify the appropriate prosecuting attorney's office of any action which involves criminal activity.  When so required or requested by the chairperson or the specific district attorney, the unit shall cooperate with the district attorney in the investigation and prosecution of criminal violations.

(b)  The State Board of Workers' Compensation or any employee or agent thereof is not subject to civil liability for libel, slander, or any other relevant tort, and no civil cause of action of any nature exists against such persons by virtue of the execution of activities or duties under this Code section or by virtue of the publication of any report or bulletin related to the activities or duties under this Code section.

(c)  Fraud investigators employed in the fraud and compliance unit who are certified in compliance with Chapter 8 of Title 35 shall have the authority to execute search warrants and make arrests pursuant to warrants only if such warrants have been issued as the result of a criminal investigation of an alleged violation of this chapter.  Such fraud investigators are authorized to serve subpoenas in connection therewith.

(d)  In the absence of fraud or malice, no person or entity who furnishes to the board information relevant and material to suspected fraud under or noncompliance with the workers' compensation laws of this state shall be liable for damages in a civil action or subject to criminal prosecution for the furnishing of such information.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-25. Patient self-referral

Physicians treating workers' compensation claimants shall comply with the provisions against patient self-referral as set forth in Chapter 1B of Title 43.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-30. Short title; purpose

(a)  This article shall be known and may be cited as the "Workers' Compensation Truth in Advertising Act of 1995."

(b)  The purpose of this article is to assure truthful and adequate disclosure of all material and relevant information in advertising which solicits persons to engage or consult an attorney or a medical care provider for the purpose of asserting a workers' compensation claim.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-31. Notice required as part of television advertisement

Any television advertisement, with broadcast originating in this state, which solicits persons to file workers' compensation claims or to engage or consult an attorney, a medical care provider, or clinic for the purpose of giving consideration to a workers' compensation claim or to market workers' compensation insurance coverage shall contain a notice, which shall be in boldface Roman font 36 point type and appear in a dark background and remain on the screen for a minimum of five seconds as follows:

NOTICE

Willfully making a false or misleading statement or representation to obtain or deny workers' compensation benefits is a crime carrying a penalty of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000.00.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-32. Penalty for violation of notice requirement; advertiser defined

(a)  Any advertiser who violates Code Section 34-9-31 is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000.00 nor more than $10,000.00 for each violation.

(b)  For the purposes of this article, "advertiser" means any person who provides workers' compensation claims services which are described in advertisements; any person to whom persons solicited by advertisements are directed to for injuries or the provision of workers' compensation claims related services; or any person paying for the preparation, broadcast, dissemination, or placement of such advertisements.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-40. State Board of Workers' Compensation created; appointment of members; powers and duties of board generally

There is created and established within the executive branch a board to be known as the State Board of Workers' Compensation, composed of three members who shall be appointed by the Governor for a term of four years.  Each member shall hold office until his or her successor shall have been appointed and qualified.  An individual chosen to fill a vacancy shall be appointed only for the unexpired term of the member whom he or she shall succeed.  The board shall have full authority, power, and the duty to promulgate policies, rules, and regulations for the administration of this chapter.  The board may promulgate policies, rules, and regulations concerning the electronic submission to and transmission from the board of documents and filings.  Additionally, the board shall have full authority to conduct training seminars for the purpose of educating various employers as to their liability regarding workers' compensation claims.  Such seminars may be paid for by the board through funding provided from sources other than appropriations made by the General Assembly.  Excess funds generated through seminars may be amended into the board's operating budget as approved by the Office of Planning and Budget.  Excess funds generated through seminars not amended into the board's operating budget, as determined by the state auditor, shall lapse to the Office of Treasury and Fiscal Services.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-40.1. Workers' Compensation Advisory Council; appointment and terms of members; chairman; duties; service without compensation

Repealed by Ga. L. 2001, p. 873, § 10, effective July 1, 2001.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-41. Appointment and term of chairman of board

The Governor shall appoint one member of the board as chairman, and the appointee shall hold his office for four years and until his successor shall have been appointed and shall have qualified.  Any vacancy in the office shall be filled by the Governor for the unexpired portion of the term.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-42. Qualifications and roles of members

(a)  The chairperson of the board shall be a person who, on account of his or her previous employment, affiliation, or experience, shall be considered knowledgeable of the concerns of the public at large.  One of the remaining two board members shall be a person who, on account of his or her previous employment, association, or affiliation, shall be knowledgeable of the concerns of employers; and the one remaining member of the board shall be a person whose previous employment or affiliation has been as a member of a group subject to this chapter as an employee, regardless of whether the employment of such person has been with a person, firm, or corporation actually operating under this chapter, and who shall be knowledgeable of the concerns of employees.

(b)  The chairperson and each board member shall be a member of the State Bar of Georgia with at least seven years of practice experience and shall be subject to the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-43. Oath of office of members

Each member of the board, including the chairman thereof, shall, before entering upon the duties of his office, take an oath for the faithful discharge of his duties.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-44. Bond of members

Each member of the board, including the chairman thereof, shall, before entering upon the duties of his office, execute such bond as may be required by the Governor for the protection of the state and those having business before the board. The expense of such bond is to be paid by the state, such bond to be conditioned upon the faithful discharge of the duties of such member of the board and his faithful accounting for all moneys coming within his custody or control, whether such funds shall be the property of the State of Georgia or of any other person, firm, or corporation.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-45. Removal of members

Any member of the board may be removed by the Governor for neglect of duty or malfeasance in office, provided written charges are served upon the member at least ten days prior to a hearing thereon before the Governor and the constitutional officers of this state; provided, further, that a majority shall find that the member is guilty of the charges preferred under this chapter or that he has ceased to represent the interests on whose behalf he was appointed, but for no other cause.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-46. Quorum

Any two members of the board shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of any business or the rendering of any decision required by this chapter to be made by all of the members.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-47. Trial division and appellate division created; composition; sessions

(a)  There is created and established within the State Board of Workers' Compensation a trial division and an appellate division, which shall exercise judicial functions in implementing this chapter.

(b)  The appellate division shall be composed of the three members of the board who shall serve as appellate administrative law judges.  The chairman of the board shall serve as chief administrative law judge of the appellate division.  An administrative law judge may be appointed by the board to serve as a member of the board to review cases on appeal; provided, however, not more than one administrative law judge may serve as a member of the board on any case and an administrative law judge who served as the hearing officer in a case may not serve as a member of the board to review the same case on appeal.  An administrative law judge appointed to serve as a member of the board pursuant to this subsection shall be counted as a member for the purposes of the quorum requirement of Code Section 34-9-46.

(c)  The trial division shall be composed of administrative law judges appointed by the board who shall serve as hearing officers and exercise judicial functions in implementing this chapter.  Administrative law judges shall have the power to subpoena witnesses and administer oaths and may take testimony in those cases brought before the board.  An administrative law judge hearing a case shall make an award, subject to review and appeal as provided in this chapter.

(d)  The appellate division and trial division of the board may hold such sessions as may be deemed necessary at any place within the state, subject to other provisions of this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-48. Designation of members as appellate administrative law judges

All members of the board are designated as appellate administrative law judges in the appellate division of the State Board of Workers' Compensation for the purposes of serving as hearing officers and exercising judicial functions in the implementation of this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-48.1. Senior administrative law judge of the board

(a)  There is created the office of senior administrative law judge of the board.  Any director or administrative law judge who is retired on July 1, 1991, or who shall retire after such date shall be eligible for appointment as a senior administrative law judge if such person is not engaged in the practice of law.

(b)  A senior administrative law judge shall be appointed by the chairman of the State Board of Workers' Compensation and shall serve at the pleasure of the chairman.  All persons appointed to the office of senior administrative law judge as provided in this Code section shall receive allowances not to exceed $150.00 per day plus actual and necessary expenses as provided for state employees while traveling on the business of the board, but the expenses shall be sworn to by such person incurring them and shall be approved by the chairman or his designee before payment is made.  Said payment shall be made from the per diem and fee allocations in the budget of the State Board of Workers' Compensation.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-49. Appointment and removal of executive director

(a)  There is created the position of executive director of the board.  The executive director shall be both appointed and removed by the board. Subject to the general policy established by the board, the executive director shall:

(1)  Plan, organize, direct, supervise, account for, and execute the administrative functions vested in the board; and

(2)  Employ such clerical and other assistants as may be needed.

(b)  All of the salaries and expenses of the board members, executive director, administrative law judges, and assistants of the board shall be audited and paid out of funds appropriated by the General Assembly as prescribed by law and in accordance with rules and regulations prescribed by the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-50. Appointment of secretary-treasurer; employment of clerical and other assistants; payment of salaries and expenses of members, deputy directors, and assistants

Reserved. Repealed by Ga. L. 1988, p. 1679, § 8, effective July 1, 1988.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-51. Payment by state of traveling expenses of members, administrative law judges, and assistants

The members, administrative law judges, and assistants of the State Board of Workers' Compensation shall be entitled to receive their actual and necessary expenses while traveling on the business of the board, either within or without the State of Georgia, but the expenses shall be sworn to by such person incurring them and shall be approved by the chairman or his designee before payment is made.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-52. Officials, personnel, and employees subject to state merit system; compensation of board members and administrative law judges

(a) All members of the board, including the chairman thereof, shall be in the unclassified service, as defined in Code Section 45-20-2, and shall not be subject to the laws and rules and regulations of the state merit system. The salaries of all members of the board, including the chairman thereof, shall be as provided in this Code section. The chairman and each member of the board shall receive an annual salary which is equal to 90 percent of the base annual salary plus cost-of-living adjustments provided in Code Section 45-7-4 for each Judge of the Court of Appeals.

(b) Each administrative law judge, whose method of appointment, removal, and terms of office shall remain as now provided by law, shall be in the unclassified service as defined in Code Section 45-20-2 and, except for certain compensation purposes, shall not be subject to the laws, rules, and regulations of the state merit system. The compensation of the administrative law judges shall be fixed by the board based on a pay grade of the general pay schedule of the state merit system and each administrative law judge shall be eligible for increases in compensation as established on the general pay schedule, subject to the review and approval of the board.

(1) Each administrative law judge employed by the board shall be entitled to any annual cost-of-living adjustment increases provided for all state employees.

(2) All administrative law judges appointed prior to January 1, 1990, shall be placed on the same pay grade of the general pay schedule and at the step which is the equivalent of one full step above their salary as established on July 1, 1989.

(c) As a cost-of-living adjustment, the annual base salary of all of the members of the board, including the chairman thereof, shall be increased by the same percentage provided to state officials by subsection (b) of Code Section 45-7-4.

(d) All other officials, personnel, and employees of the board are placed under the state merit system and shall be subject to the laws, rules, and regulations relative to that system.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-53. Directors emeritus of board -- Eligibility for appointment; procedure for appointment

There is created the office of director emeritus of the board. Any director of the board now or hereafter in office shall be eligible for appointment as director emeritus, provided that such member of the board has reached the age of 60 years and has also attained 20 consecutive years of service in the capacity of chairman, director, deputy director or administrative law judge, member of the General Assembly, or a combination of consecutive service in these offices; provided, further, that not more than five years' service in the General Assembly shall be allowed as service credit under this Code section. The Governor shall appoint to the position of director emeritus anyone eligible under this Code section who shall advise the Governor in writing that he desires to resign from the office of director of the board and accept appointment as director emeritus of the board, stating in such notice the date upon which the resignation as director and appointment as director emeritus shall become effective; and upon such notice the Governor shall make such appointment effective upon the date requested, and the resignation as director of the board shall be automatically effective as of the same date as the appointment as director emeritus.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-54. Directors emeritus of board -- Term of office; compensation

All persons appointed to the office of director emeritus of the board, as provided and created by Code Section 34-9-53, shall hold such office for life. A director emeritus shall receive an annual salary in an amount equal to two-thirds of the annual salary provided by law for a director of the board at the time of appointment of the director emeritus, such salary to be paid to such director emeritus by the board in monthly or semimonthly installments out of the funds provided by law for the operation of the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-55. Directors emeritus of board -- Duties

It shall be the duty of a director emeritus of the board to serve in an advisory capacity to the board and to lend his advice and counsel concerning matters of administration of this chapter when called upon to do so by the board; provided, however, that a director emeritus shall not participate directly or indirectly in the hearing or the decision of any cases coming before the board for decision.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-56. Directors emeritus of board -- Filling of board vacancies caused by appointment of director emeritus

Vacancies on the board caused by the resignation of a member of the board and his appointment as director emeritus as provided in Code Section 34-9-53 shall be filled in the manner prescribed by law for filling vacancies otherwise occurring on the board, but no vacancy shall be deemed to exist on the board because of the death or resignation of a director emeritus as defined and created by Code Section 34-9-53.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-57. Creation of administrative law judge emeritus of board; eligibility for appointment; manner of appointment; compensation

There is created the office of administrative law judge emeritus of the board. Any administrative law judge, formerly known as deputy director, of the board now or hereafter in office shall be eligible for appointment as administrative law judge emeritus, provided he has reached the age of 70 years and has either (1) attained 20 years of service in the capacity of administrative law judge or deputy director or (2) attained 20 years of total service, aggregating his service as administrative law judge or deputy director with any years of prior service as director, member of the General Assembly of Georgia or the Georgia National Guard, or as special assistant attorney general, or any combination of services in these offices. Such administrative law judge emeritus shall be eligible for appointment by the Governor in the same manner as provided for appointment of a director emeritus under Code Section 34-9-53 and shall exercise the same duties as provided in Code Section 34-9-55 for a director emeritus. All persons appointed to the office of administrative law judge emeritus as provided in this Code section shall receive an annual salary equal to one-third of the annual salary provided by law for an administrative law judge of the board at the time of appointment of the administrative law judge emeritus under this Code section, such salary to be paid by the board in semimonthly installments from funds provided by law for the operation of the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-58. Powers and duties of board as to enforcement of chapter generally

The State Board of Workers' Compensation shall exercise all powers and perform all the duties relating to the enforcement of this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-59. Adoption of rules of procedure

The board is empowered and authorized to adopt proper rules of procedure to govern the exercise of its functions and hearings before the board or any of its members or administrative law judges.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-60. Rule-making and subpoena powers; service and enforcement of subpoenas

(a)  The board may make rules, not inconsistent with this chapter, for carrying out this chapter. Processes and procedure under this chapter shall be as summary and simple as reasonably possible; provided, however, that, in any proceeding under this chapter where the parties are represented by counsel, the board may require, by rule or regulation, on forms provided by the board, the filing of statements of contentions and points of agreement. The board may promulgate policies, rules, and regulations concerning the electronic submission to and transmission from the board of documents and filings. The board, any member of the board, or any administrative law judge shall have the power for the purposes of this chapter to issue and enforce subpoenas, to administer or cause to have administered oaths, and to examine or cause to be examined such parts of the books and records of the parties to a proceeding as relate to questions in dispute. Article 2 of Chapter 10 of Title 24 shall govern the issuance and enforcement of subpoenas pursuant to this Code section, except that the board, any member of the board, or any administrative law judge shall carry out the functions of the court and the executive director shall carry out the functions of the clerk of the court. The board shall not, however, have the power to order imprisonment as a means of enforcing a subpoena. The board shall have the power to issue writs of fieri facias in order to collect fines imposed pursuant to this Code section and such writs may be enforced in the same manner as a similar writ issued by a superior court.

(b)  In addition to the enforcement procedures provided in subsection (a) of this Code section, the superior court of the county in which the hearing is held shall, on application of the board, any member of the board, or an administrative law judge, enforce by proper proceedings the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production and examination of books, papers, and records.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-61. Publication of blank forms and literature; publication of tabulations of accident reports

(a)  The board shall prepare and cause to be printed and, upon request, shall furnish free of charge to any employee or employer such blank forms and literature as it shall deem necessary to facilitate or promote the efficient administration of this chapter.

(b)  The board shall tabulate the accident reports received from employers in accordance with Code Section 34-9-12 and shall publish the same in its annual report and as often as it may deem advisable, in such detailed or aggregate form as it may deem best. The name of the employer or employee shall not appear in such publications, and the employers' reports themselves shall be private records of the board and shall not be open for public inspection except for the inspection of the parties directly involved, and then only to the extent of such interest. These reports shall not be used as evidence against any employer in any action at law brought by any employee for the recovery of damages or in any proceeding under this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-62. Limitations on authority of Commissioner of Labor with respect to officers or employees of board

Reserved. Repealed by Ga. L. 1988, p. 1679, § 15, effective July 1, 1988.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-63. Proration of board's expenses; required annual reports and statements; audit of board; collection of delinquent assessments

(a)  The total expenses of the board shall be prorated among the qualified insurance companies writing compensation insurance in this state, hereinafter referred to as insurers, and employers subject to the provisions of this chapter whose workers' compensation insurance coverage is not written by these companies, hereinafter referred to as self-insurers, including, but not limited to, the state, counties, municipalities, and any political subdivisions or authorities thereof. Such proration shall be on the basis, in the case of the insurers, of the gross earned premium and, in the case of self-insurers, on the basis of the amount of premium which they would have had to pay in the event they had insured their liability with an insurer; provided, however, the board may establish by rule a minimum assessment, based upon the administrative cost necessary to provide licensure support and basic computer management reports for each insurer or self-insurer, to be paid by insurers and self-insurers whose actual prorated assessment otherwise would be less than the minimum assessment. Prorated assessments based on the experience of the previous calendar year shall be made on July 1, based on the budget of the board for that fiscal year.

(b)  Sworn reports of the compensation premium writing of the insurers and sworn payroll statements of others for the preceding calendar year shall be filed with the board not later than March 1 of each year.

(c)  The books of the board shall be audited annually and a copy of such audit shall be available for inspection during normal business hours by all parties among whom the expenses of the board are prorated. All moneys assessed against insurers and others under this chapter shall be paid into the state treasury and held as a special fund solely for the operation of the board to administer this chapter.

(d) The Attorney General shall enforce collection against insurers and others failing to comply with this Code section, based on reports of violation furnished by the board and investigation; the costs of collection shall be borne by the delinquent party.

(e) Any insurer, private employer, or governing authority of a public employer that violates any provision of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-80. Procedure for giving notice of accident; requirements of written notice; effect of failure to give notice

Every injured employee or his representative shall, immediately on the occurrence of any accident or as soon thereafter as practicable, give or cause to be given to the employer, his agent, representative, or foreman, or the immediate superior of the injured employee a notice of the accident.  This notice shall be given by the employee either in person or by his representative, and until such notice is given the employee shall not be entitled to any physician's fees nor to any compensation which may have accrued under the terms of this chapter prior to the giving of such notice. In the event that, within 30 days after the accident, neither the employee nor his representative has given a notice in person to the employer, his agent, representative, or foreman, or to the immediate superior of the injured employee, a written notice must be given.  This written notice will not be required where an injured employee or his representative has given notice in person to the employer, his agent, representative, or foreman, or to the immediate superior of the injured employee.  No compensation will be payable unless such notice, either oral or written, is given within 30 days after the occurrence of an accident or within 30 days after death resulting from an accident unless it can be shown that the employee had been prevented from doing so by reason of physical or mental incapacity, or by fraud or deceit, or that the employer, his agent, representative, or foreman, or the immediate superior of the injured employee had knowledge of the accident, or unless a reasonable excuse is made to the satisfaction of the board for not giving such notice and it is reasonably proved to the satisfaction of the board that the employer had not been prejudiced thereby.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-81. Contents of written notice; manner of delivery

The written notice provided for in Code Section 34-9-80 shall state in ordinary language the name and address of the employee, the time, place, nature, and cause of the accident and of the resulting injury or death and shall be signed by the employee or by a person in his behalf or, in the event of his death, by any one or more of his dependents or by a person in their behalf. No defect or inaccuracy in the notice shall be a bar to compensation unless the employer shall prove that his interest was prejudiced thereby, and then only to the extent of the prejudice. Such notice shall be given personally to the employer, or his agent, representative, or foreman, or to the immediate superior of the injured employee or may be sent by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery addressed to the employer at his last known residence or place of business.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-81.1. Board's duty to provide injured workers with notice of rights, benefits, and obligations

(a) The board shall provide by rule for the publication of a summary of the rights, benefits, and obligations under this chapter and the distribution of such summary to employers and employees in this state. The board shall provide by rule for the display of such summary by employers in locations accessible to employees.

(b) Any person who fails or refuses to comply with a rule of the board promulgated pursuant to subsection (a) of this Code section shall be subject to an administrative fine not to exceed $1,000.00.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-82. Limitation period and procedure for filing claims

(a) The right to compensation shall be barred unless a claim therefor is filed within one year after injury, except that if payment of weekly benefits has been made or remedial treatment has been furnished by the employer on account of the injury the claim may be filed within one year after the date of the last remedial treatment furnished by the employer or within two years after the date of the last payment of weekly benefits.

(b) The right to compensation for death shall be barred unless a claim therefor is filed within one year after the death of the employee.

(c) The claim shall be filed with the board and should contain such information as may be prescribed by rule or regulation of the board.

(d) The filing of any claim for injury or death under this chapter with any of the board's offices throughout the state shall be deemed proper filing with the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-83. Priority of claims

All rights of compensation under this chapter shall have the same preference or priority for the whole thereof against the assets of the employer as is allowed by law for claims for unpaid wages for labor.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-84. Assignability of claims

No claim for compensation under this chapter shall be assignable, and all compensation and claims therefor shall be exempt from all claims of creditors.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-85. Claim by guardian or trustee of mental incompetent or minor

If an injured employee is mentally incompetent or is under 18 years of age at the time any right or privilege accrues to him under this chapter, his guardian or trustee may claim and exercise such right or privilege in his behalf.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-86. Applicability of time limits to mental incompetents, minors, and persons proceeding against defunct corporations

No limitation of time provided in this chapter for the giving of notice or making claim shall apply to any person who is mentally incompetent or a minor dependent, as long as he has no guardian or trustee, or to a person who proceeds in good faith against a corporation supposed to have a legal entity but which is proved to be defunct by reason of the expiration of its charter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-100. Filing of claims with board; investigation or mediation; hearing; dismissal of stale claims

(a) Subject to Code Section 34-9-82, a claim for compensation may be filed with the board at any time following an injury or death. The board and its administrative law judges shall have full authority to hear and determine all questions with respect to such claims.

(b) The board shall make or cause to be made any investigation or mediation it considers necessary and, upon its own motion or application of any interested party, order a hearing thereon and assign the claim to an administrative law judge for review. Furthermore, the board may direct the parties to participate in mediation conducted under the supervision and guidance of the board.

(c) Any application for hearing filed with the board pursuant to this Code section, on or after July 1, 1985, but prior to July 1, 2007, for which no hearing is conducted for a period of five years shall automatically stand dismissed.

(d)

(1) For injuries occurring on or after July 1, 2007, any claim filed with the board for which neither medical nor income benefits have been paid shall stand dismissed with prejudice by operation of law if no hearing has been held within five years of the alleged date of injury.

(2) This subsection shall not apply to a claim for an occupational disease as defined in Code Section 34-9-280.

(3) The form provided by the board for use in filing a workers' compensation claim shall include notice of the provisions of this subsection.

(e) Any claim, notice, or appeal required by this chapter to be filed with the board shall be deemed filed on the earlier of:

(1) The date such claim or notice is actually received by the board; or

(2) The official postmark date such claim or notice was mailed to the board, properly addressed with postage prepaid, by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-101. Appointment of physician to examine injured employee; payment of fee and expenses of examining physician

The members of the board or any one of them or an administrative law judge may, upon the application of either party or upon their own motion, appoint one or more disinterested and duly qualified physicians or surgeons to make any necessary medical examination of the employee and to report or testify with respect thereto. The physicians or surgeons shall be allowed travel expenses and a reasonable fee, to be paid by either or both parties or by the state, as directed by the board, any member thereof, or an administrative law judge.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-102. Hearing before administrative law judge

(a)  Notice of hearing. The hearing shall be held as soon as practicable; provided, however, no hearing shall be scheduled less than 30 days nor more than 90 days from the date of the hearing notice. With regard to any request for a determination of noncatastrophic status in accordance with subparagraph (g)(6)(B) of Code Section 34-9-200.1, no hearing shall be scheduled less than 90 days after the hearing is requested.

(b)  Place of hearing. If the injury or death occurred within this state, the hearing shall be held in the county where the injury or death occurred or in any contiguous county or in any county within 50 miles of the county of injury or death, unless otherwise agreed by the parties and authorized by the administrative law judge. If the injury or death occurred outside the state, the hearing may be held in the county of the employer's residence or place of business or in any other county of the state, as determined in the discretion of the administrative law judge.

(c)  Authority of administrative law judge. The administrative law judge conducting the hearing shall have, in addition to all powers necessary to implement this chapter, the following powers: to administer oaths and affirmations, to issue subpoenas, to rule upon offers of proof, to regulate the course of the hearing, to set the time and place for continued hearings, to fix the time for filing briefs, to dispose of motions to dismiss for lack of board jurisdiction, to rule on requests for continuance, to add or delete parties with or without motion, to issue interlocutory orders, to rule upon or dispose of all other motions, to appoint guardians under Code Section 34-9-226, to reprimand or exclude from the hearing any person for any indecorous or improper conduct committed in the presence of the administrative law judge, and to require any party to provide the board with the name of its legal representative, if any, within 21 days from the date of the hearing notice.

(d)  Discovery procedures.

(1)  Discovery procedures shall be governed and controlled by Chapter 11 of Title 9, the "Georgia Civil Practice Act."

(2)  The term "administrative law judge" shall be substituted for the word "court" when construing any procedural rule, provided that any administrative law judge shall seek enforcement of orders as stated in subsection (h) of this Code section.

(3)  The administrative law judge may admit as evidence at the hearing and at all future hearings evidence obtained by depositions, interrogatories, or admissions of fact, whether or not the deponent is available to testify in person at the hearing and whether or not the evidence was taken originally for the purpose of discovery or evidence, or both.

(e)  Conduct of hearing.

(1)  The administrative law judge shall conduct the hearing in an informal manner consistent with the requirements of due process of law. Irrelevant, immaterial, and unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded. The rules of evidence pertaining to the trial of civil nonjury cases in the superior courts of Georgia shall be followed unless otherwise provided in this chapter. A party may conduct such cross-examination as required for a full and true disclosure of the facts. Official notice may be taken of judicially cognizable facts, provided the parties are provided an opportunity to contest the material noticed.

(2)  Any medical report or document signed and dated by an examining or treating physician or other duly qualified medical practitioner shall be admissible in evidence insofar as it purports to represent the history, examination, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, or opinion relevant to any medical issue by the person signing the report, as if that person were present at the hearing and testifying as a witness, subject to the right of any party to object to the admissibility of any portion of the report and subject to the right of an adverse party to cross-examine the person signing the report and provide rebuttal testimony within the time allowed by the administrative law judge. The party tendering the medical report may, within the time allowed by the administrative law judge, also introduce the testimony of the person who has signed the medical report for the purpose of supplementing the report. It is the express intent of the General Assembly that the provisions of this paragraph be applied retroactively as well as prospectively.

(3)  For the purposes of Code Section 34-9-104, a report on a form prescribed by the board or in a narrative form which substantially complies with the form prescribed by the board and which is signed and dated by a prospective employer shall be admissible in evidence in lieu of the oral testimony of such prospective employer insofar as it documents that the employee has applied for a position or positions suitable to the employee's limitations or restrictions resulting from the work related injury and was not hired. Any party shall have the right to object to the admissibility of any portion of the report and an adverse party shall have the right to cross-examine the person signing the report and provide rebuttal testimony within the time allowed by the administrative law judge. The party tendering the report may, with the time allowed by the administrative law judge, also introduce the oral testimony of the person who has signed the report for the purpose of supplementing the report.

(4)  A written laboratory test result report under Code Section 34-9-415 shall be admissible in evidence if accompanied by an affidavit from the laboratory confirming authenticity.

(5)  Code Section 24-3-18 shall not apply to workers' compensation claims filed under this chapter.

(f)  Decision of the administrative law judge. Within 30 days following the completion of evidence, unless the time for filing the decision is extended by the board, the administrative law judge shall determine the questions and issues and file the decision with the record of the hearing. At the time of the filing a copy of the decision shall be mailed to all parties at their last known addresses. The decision of the administrative law judge shall be made in the form of a compensation award, appropriately titled to show its purpose and containing a concise report of the case, with findings of fact and conclusions of law and any other necessary explanation of the action taken. The administrative law judge may reconsider the official decision prior to its becoming final to correct apparent errors or omissions. The compensation award shall be final unless an appeal is filed in accordance with Code Section 34-9-103.

(g)  Record of hearing. The hearing shall be reported by a designated reporter for the board, but the record of the hearing need not be transcribed unless timely application has been made to the board for an appeal from the decision of the administrative law judge. At any time, however, a party shall have a right to obtain a transcript of the record, upon payment to the reporter of the expense of transcription.

(h)  Enforcement of orders of administrative law judge. In proceedings before the administrative law judge or the board, if any party or an agent or employee of a party disobeys or resists any lawful order or process; or neglects to produce, after having been ordered to do so, any pertinent book, paper, or document; or refuses to appear after having been subpoenaed; or, upon appearing, refuses to take the oath or affirmation as a witness; or, after taking the oath or affirmation, refuses to testify, the administrative law judge or the board shall have the same rights and powers given the court under Chapter 11 of Title 9, the "Georgia Civil Practice Act." If any person not a party refuses as aforesaid, the administrative law judge or the board may certify the facts to the superior court of the county where the offense is committed for appropriate action or may impose the sanctions provided in Code Section 34-9-60.

(i)  Address of record. Each employer and claimant shall maintain an up-to-date address with the board. Any notice required by this chapter shall be satisfied by the mailing of the notice to the address of record; provided, however, that mailing to an obsolete address, if not properly forwarded, shall not prejudice a claimant if it is established to the satisfaction of the administrative law judge or the board that at the time of the mailing the employer knew or should have known of a subsequent and proper address for the claimant.

(j)  Notice to nonresident party.

(1)  Any party subject to this chapter who is or who becomes a nonresident of this state at the time of or after the injury or death of an employee shall be deemed to have appointed irrevocably the executive director of the board as that party's agent for service of notice or any other process in any proceeding under this chapter.

(2)  Any notice or process served on the executive director shall have the same legal effect as if served upon the nonresident party personally within the state.

(3)  The executive director or his or her designated agent shall immediately mail a copy of the notice or process to the last known address of the nonresident party.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-103. Appeal of decision; remand; reconsideration, amendment, or revision of award

(a) Any party dissatisfied with a decision of an administrative law judge of the trial division of the State Board of Workers' Compensation may appeal that decision to the appellate division of the State Board of Workers' Compensation which shall have original appellate jurisdiction in all workers' compensation cases. An application for review shall be made to the appellate division within 20 days of notice of the award. The appellee may institute cross appeal by filing notice thereof within 30 days of the notice of the award. If a timely application for review, cross appeal, or both, is made to the appellate division, the appellate division shall review the evidence and shall then make an award with findings of fact and conclusions of law. A copy of the award so made on review shall immediately be sent to the parties at dispute. Upon review, the appellate division may remand to an administrative law judge in the trial division any case before it for the purpose of reconsideration and correction of apparent errors and omissions and issuance of a new award, with or without the taking of additional evidence, or for the purpose of taking additional evidence for consideration by the appellate division in rendering any decision or award in the case. The findings of fact made by the administrative law judge in the trial division shall be accepted by the appellate division where such findings are supported by a preponderance of competent and credible evidence contained within the records.

(b) Within the time limit provided by subsection (a) of this Code section for review by the board of an award made in accordance with Code Section 34-9-102 or within the time limit provided by Code Section 34-9-105 for appeal to a superior court, upon or without the suggestion of a party to the proceedings and notwithstanding the filing of an application for review or appeal, the board or any of its members or administrative law judges issuing an award shall have authority to reconsider, amend, or revise the award to correct apparent errors and omissions. Should an amended or revised award be issued, the time period for filing an application for review of the amended or revised award under subsection (a) of this Code section or for filing appeal to a superior court under Code Section 34-9-105 shall commence upon the date of issuance of the amended or revised award.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-104. Modification of award or order contained in prior decision in event of change in condition

(a) "Change in condition" defined; benefits.

(1) As used in this Code section, the term "change in condition" means a change in the wage-earning capacity, physical condition, or status of an employee or other beneficiary covered by this chapter, which change must have occurred after the date on which the wage-earning capacity, physical condition, or status of the employee or other beneficiary was last established by award or otherwise.

(2) When an injury is not catastrophic, as defined in subsection (g) of Code Section 34-9-200.1, and the employee is not working, the board shall determine that a change in condition for the better has occurred and the employee shall be entitled to the payment of benefits for partial disability in accordance with Code Section 34-9-262 if it is determined that the employee has been capable of performing work with limitations or restrictions for 52 consecutive weeks. Within 60 days of the employee's release to return to work with restrictions or limitations, the employer shall provide notice to the employee on a form provided by the board that will inform the employee that he or she has been released to work with limitations or restrictions, will include an explanation of the limitations or restrictions, and will inform the employee of the general terms of this Code section. In no event shall an employee be eligible for more than 78 aggregate weeks of benefits for total disability while such employee is capable of performing work with limitations or restrictions. No provision of this paragraph shall be interpreted to prevent a change in condition from occurring pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection or to prevent an employee from becoming eligible for benefits for total disability should such employee subsequently become totally disabled after exhausting 52 consecutive weeks or 78 aggregate weeks of such benefits while capable of performing work with limitations or restrictions. Whenever an employer seeks to convert an employee from benefits for total disability to benefits for partial disability as provided in this paragraph, such employer may convert the benefits unilaterally by filing a form indicating the reason for the conversion as prescribed by rule of the board.

(3) For the purposes of calculating temporary partial benefits as contemplated by this Code section, benefits shall be paid as follows:

(A) When an employee is receiving the maximum benefits allowed under Code Section 34-9-261, the employer shall cause to be paid the employee an amount equal to the maximum benefit allowed under Code Section 34-9-262; or

(B) When an employee is receiving less than the maximum allowed by Code Section 34-9-261, the employer shall continue to pay the employee the same benefits as provided by Code Section 34-9-261 not to exceed the maximum benefit provided by Code Section 34-9-262.

(b) Modification of prior final decision. The board on its own motion may propose or any party may apply under this Code section for another decision because of a change in condition ending, decreasing, increasing, or authorizing the recovery of income benefits awarded or ordered in the prior final decision, provided that the prior decision of the board was not based on a settlement; and provided, further, that at the time of application not more than two years have elapsed since the date the last payment of income benefits pursuant to Code Section 34-9-261 or 34-9-262 was actually made under this chapter; provided, however, any party may file for benefits solely under Code Section 34-9-263 not more than four years from the date the last payment of income benefits pursuant to Code Section 34-9-261 or 34-9-262 was actually made under this chapter. If, at the time of application, the foregoing requirements have been met but the prior decision is then on appeal to the courts, the entering of a decision on the application shall be deferred pending final ruling of the courts.

(c) Interlocutory orders. On application of either party, for good cause shown, at any time while a claim is pending, the administrative law judge or the board may enter an interlocutory order suspending the payment of all or part of or increasing or decreasing the income benefits due under the decision sought to be modified. Good cause, as shown by preliminary evidence in the form of affidavits, sworn documents, depositions, interrogatories, or medical reports, may include, but not be limited to, an unjustified refusal to accept suitable and available employment, an increase or decrease in the physical impairment or wage-earning capacity of the employee, or the granting of continuance.

(d) Retroactive effect of decision.

(1) Subject to the limitation in subsection (a) of this Code section that a change of condition was a change which occurred after the date on which the wage-earning capacity, physical condition, or status of the employee was last established by award or otherwise, the award or order contained in the final decision entered by the administrative law judge or the board shall be effective as of the time of change in condition as found by the administrative law judge or board, notwithstanding the retroactive effect of the award or order, provided that no execution following a judgment entered under Code Section 34-9-106 shall be affected.

(2) If the decision determines that an overpayment of income benefits has been made and no future income benefits are due, the administrative law judge or the board, in its discretion, may order the employee or beneficiary to repay to the employer or the insurer the sum of the overpayments. Where there has been determined an overpayment of income benefits and future income benefits were due, the decision shall order the overpayment to be recovered by shortening the period of future weekly income benefits or by reducing the weekly benefit, or both.

(e) Credits to employer for lump sum or advance payments. Where a lump sum payment or an advance payment has been made to an employee under Code Section 34-9-222 and a subsequent change in condition is found to have occurred, the employer shall be entitled to credit against future income benefits equal to the amount of the lump sum or advance payment. This shall be accomplished by reducing the period of future weekly income benefits or by reducing the weekly benefit, or both.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-105. When award deemed final; appeal to superior court; grounds for setting aside decisions; appeal to Court of Appeals

(a) Any award of the administrative law judge provided for in Code Section 34-9-102 for which no timely application for review has been filed or any award of the members of the board upon such review as provided in Code Section 34-9-103 shall, in either event, as the case may be, and subject to the other provisions of this chapter, be a final award and shall be conclusive and binding as to all questions of fact.

(b) Either party to the dispute may, within 20 days from the date of any such final award or within 20 days from the date of any other final order or judgment of the members of the board, but not thereafter, appeal from the decision in such final award or from any other final decision of the board to the superior court of the county in which the injury occurred or, if the injury occurred outside the state, to the superior court of the county in which the original hearing was held, in the manner and upon the grounds provided in this Code section. Said appeal shall be filed with the board in writing stating generally the grounds upon which such appeal is sought. In the event of an appeal, the board shall, within 30 days of the filing of the notice of appeal with the board, transmit certified copies of all documents and papers in its file together with a transcript of the testimony taken and its findings of fact and decision to the clerk of the superior court to which the case is appealable, as provided in this subsection. The case so appealed may then be brought by either party upon ten days' written notice to the other before the superior court for a hearing upon such record, subject to an assignment of the case for hearing by the court; provided, however, if the court does not hear the case within 60 days of the date of docketing in the superior court, the decision of the board shall be considered affirmed by operation of law unless a hearing originally scheduled to be heard within the 60 days has been continued to a date certain by order of the court. In the event a hearing is held later than 60 days after the date of docketing in the superior court because same has been continued to a date certain by order of the court, the decision of the board shall be considered affirmed by operation of law if no order of the court disposing of the issues on appeal has been entered within 20 days after the date of the continued hearing. If a case is heard within 60 days from the date of docketing in the superior court, the decision of the board shall be considered affirmed by operation of law if no order of the court dispositive of the issues on appeal has been entered within 20 days of the date of the hearing.

(c) The findings made by the members within their powers shall, in the absence of fraud, be conclusive; but upon such hearing the court shall set aside the decision if it is found that:

(1) The members acted without or in excess of their powers;

(2) The decision was procured by fraud;

(3) The facts found by the members do not support the decision;

(4) There is not sufficient competent evidence in the record to warrant the members making the decision; or

(5) The decision is contrary to law.

(d) No decision of the board shall be set aside by the court upon any grounds other than one or more of the grounds stated in subsection (c) of this Code section. In the event a hearing is not held and a decision is not rendered by the superior court within the time provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, the decision of the board shall, by operation of law, be affirmed. The date of entry of judgment for purposes of appeal pursuant to Code Section 5-6-35 of a decision affirmed by operation of law without action of the superior court shall be the last date on which the superior court could have taken action under subsection (b) of this Code section. Upon the setting aside of any such decision of the board, the court may recommit the controversy to the board for further hearing or proceedings in conformity with the judgment and opinion of the court; or such court may enter the proper judgment upon the findings, as the nature of the case may demand. Such decree of the court shall have the same effect and all proceedings in relation thereto shall, subject to the other provisions of this chapter, thereafter be the same as though rendered in an action heard and determined by the court.

(e) Any party in interest who is aggrieved by a judgment entered by the superior court upon an appeal from a decision of the board to the superior court may have such judgment reviewed by the Court of Appeals within the time and in the manner provided by law. In case of an appeal from the decision of the board, the appeal shall operate as a supersedeas if the employer has complied with the provisions of this chapter respecting insurance; and no such employer shall be required to make payment of the award involved in the questions made in the case so appealed until such questions at issue therein shall have been fully determined in accordance with this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-106. Entry and execution of judgment on settlement agreement, final order or decision, or award; modification and revocation of orders and decrees

Any party in interest may file in the superior court of the county in which the injury occurred or, if the injury occurred outside this state, in the county in which the original hearing was had, a certified copy of a settlement agreement approved by the board or of a final order or decision of the members or of an award of the members unappealed from or of an award of the members affirmed upon appeal, whereupon the court shall render judgment in accordance therewith and notify the parties. Such judgment shall have the same effect and all proceedings in relation thereto shall thereafter be the same as though the judgment had been rendered in an action duly heard and determined by such court; provided, however, that where the payment of compensation is insured or provided for in accordance with this chapter, no such judgment shall be entered nor execution thereon issued except upon application to the court and for good cause shown. Upon presentation to the court of the certified copy of a decision of the board ending, diminishing, or increasing a weekly payment under the provisions of this chapter, particularly of Code Section 34-9-104, the court shall revoke or modify the order or decree to conform to such decision of the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-107. Interest payable on final award of board in the event of appeal

Any final award for compensation entered by the board shall bear interest at the legal rate of 12 percent on all accrued amounts and on all amounts accruing prior to final judgment in the event of an appeal being taken from the board in the same manner in which it is now provided that interest shall run on a judgment of the superior court in the event an appeal is taken therefrom.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-108. Approval of attorney's fees by board; assessment of fees against the offending party; restrictions on attorney advertisement and division of fees; payment of fees or expenses

(a) The fee of an attorney for service to a claimant in an amount of more than $100.00 shall be subject to the approval of the board, and no attorney shall be entitled to collect any fee or gratuity in excess of $100.00 without the approval of the board. The board shall approve no fee of an attorney for services to a claimant in excess of 25 percent of the claimant's award of weekly benefits or settlement.

(b)

(1) Upon a determination that proceedings have been brought, prosecuted, or defended in whole or in part without reasonable grounds, the administrative law judge or the board may assess the adverse attorney's fee against the offending party.

(2) If any provision of Code Section 34-9-221, without reasonable grounds, is not complied with and a claimant engages the services of an attorney to enforce his or her rights under that Code section and the claimant prevails, the reasonable quantum meruit fee of the attorney, as determined by the board, and the costs of the proceedings may be assessed against the employer.

(3) Any assessment of attorney's fees made under this subsection shall be in addition to the compensation ordered.

(4) Upon a determination that proceedings have been brought, prosecuted, or defended in whole or in part without reasonable grounds, the administrative law judge or the board may, in addition to reasonable attorney's fees, award to the adverse party in whole or in part reasonable litigation expenses against the offending party. Reasonable litigation expenses under this subsection are limited to witness fees and mileage pursuant to Code Section 24-10-24; reasonable expert witness fees subject to the fee schedule; reasonable deposition transcript costs; and the cost of the hearing transcript.

(c) An attorney shall not advertise to render services to a potential claimant when he or she or his or her firm does not intend to render said services and shall not divide a fee for legal services with another attorney who is not a partner in or associate of his or her law firm or law office, unless:

(1) The client consents to employment of the other attorney after a full disclosure that a fee division will be made;

(2) The division is made in proportion to the services performed and the responsibility assumed by each; and

(3) The total fee of the attorneys does not clearly exceed reasonable compensation for all legal services such attorneys rendered to the client.

(d) When attorney's fees or reasonable litigation expenses are awarded under this Code section, the administrative law judge or the board shall have the authority to order payment of such fees or expenses on terms acceptable to the parties or within the discretion of the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-120. Employer's duty to insure payment of compensation

Every employer subject to the compensation provisions of this chapter shall insure the payment of compensation to his employees in the manner provided in this article; and, while such insurance remains in force, he or those conducting his business shall be liable to any employee for personal injury or death by accident only to the extent and in the manner specified in this article.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-121. Duty of employer to insure in licensed company or association or to deposit security, indemnity, or bond as self-insurer; membership in mutual insurance company

(a) Unless otherwise ordered or permitted by the board, every employer subject to the provisions of this chapter relative to the payment of compensation shall secure and maintain full insurance against such employer's liability for payment of compensation under this article, such insurance to be secured from some corporation, association, or organization licensed by law to transact the business of workers' compensation insurance in this state or from some mutual insurance association formed by a group of employers so licensed; or such employer shall furnish the board with satisfactory proof of such employer's financial ability to pay the compensation directly in the amount and manner and when due, as provided for in this chapter. In the latter case, the board may, in its discretion, require the deposit of acceptable security, indemnity, or bond to secure the payment of compensation liabilities as they are incurred; provided, however, that it shall be satisfactory proof of the employer's financial ability to pay the compensation directly in the amount and manner when due, as provided for in this chapter, and the equivalent of acceptable security, indemnity, or bond to secure the payment of compensation liabilities as they are incurred, if the employer shall show the board that such employer is a member of a mutual insurance company duly licensed to do business in this state by the Commissioner of Insurance, as provided by the laws of this state, or of an association or group of employers so licensed and as such is exchanging contracts of insurance with the employers of this and other states through a medium specified and located in their agreements with each other, but this proviso shall in no way restrict or qualify the right of self-insurance as authorized in this Code section. Nothing in this Code section shall be construed to require an employer to place such employer's entire insurance in a single insurance carrier.

(b) The board shall have the authority to promulgate rules and regulations to set forth requirements for third-party administrators and servicing agents, including insurers acting as third-party administrators or servicing agents, with regard to their management or administration of workers' compensation claims. All Title 33 regulations shall remain in the Insurance Department.

(c) Wherever a self-insurer has been required to post bond, should it cease to be a corporation, obtain other coverage, or no longer desire to be a self-insurer, the board shall be allowed to return the bond in either instance, upon the filing of a certificate certifying to the existence of an insurance contract to take over outstanding liability resulting from any presently pending claim or any future unrepresented claims; and the board shall be relieved of any liability arising out of a case where the injuries were incurred, or liability therefor, prior to the returning of the bonds.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-122. Type of insurance policy to be issued; promulgation of rules and regulations when accident prevention and safety engineering are questioned

Any policy of insurance issued under this chapter shall be the standard workers' compensation policy of insurance containing the usual and customary provisions found in such policies and shall include a provision that the premium charge shall be promptly paid. If there is any question regarding the lack of accident prevention and safety engineering with respect to a particular risk, reasonable rules and regulations are to be promulgated, which shall be put into full force and effect when approved by the board. The requirements of this Code section and Code Sections 34-9-131 through 34-9-134 shall be in addition to anything required of insurance companies under the general laws of this state as embodied in Title 33.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-122.1. Workers' compensation health benefits pilot projects

(a) Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, workers' compensation health benefits pilot projects are authorized under the provisions of this Code section.

(b) The Commissioner of Insurance shall adopt rules to enable employers and employees to enter into agreements to provide the employees with workers' compensation medical payments benefits through comprehensive health insurance that covers workplace injury and illness. The Commissioner of Insurance shall review all pilot project proposals and may approve a proposal only if it confers medical benefits upon injured employees substantially similar to benefits available under this chapter. The Commissioner shall revoke approval if the pilot project fails to deliver the intended benefits to the injured employees.

(c) The comprehensive health insurance may provide for health care by a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization. The premium must be paid entirely by the employer. The program may use deductibles, coinsurance, and copayment by the employees not to exceed $5.00 per visit or $50.00 maximum per occurrence.

(d) The Commissioner of Insurance shall report annually to the standing committees of the General Assembly having jurisdiction over insurance and labor matters by November 1 on the status of any pilot projects approved by the Commissioner.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-123. Policy provisions regarding effect of notice or knowledge by insured employer as to occurrence of injury

All policies insuring the payment of compensation under this chapter, including all contracts of mutual, reciprocal, or interinsurance must contain a clause to the effect that, as between the employer and the insurer or insurers, the notice to or knowledge of the occurrence of the injury on the part of the insured employer shall be deemed notice or knowledge, as the case may be, on the part of the insurer or insurers; that jurisdiction of the insured, for the purposes of this chapter, shall be jurisdiction of the insurer or insurers; and that the insurer or insurers shall in all things be bound by and subject to awards, judgments, or decrees rendered against such insured employer.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-124. Policy or contract of insurance to contain agreement of insurer to pay compensation; payment of compensation when employer or employee exempt from provisions of chapter

(a) No policy or contract of insurance shall be issued unless it contains the agreement of the insurer or insurers that it or they will promptly pay all benefits conferred by this chapter and all installments of the compensation that may be awarded or agreed upon to the person entitled to them and that the obligation shall not be affected by any default of the insured after the injury or by any default in giving notice required by such policy or otherwise. Such agreement shall be construed to be a direct promise by the insurer or insurers to the person entitled to compensation and shall be enforceable in his name.

(b) A policy of insurance issued under this chapter shall always first be construed as an agreement to pay compensation; and an insurer who issues a policy of compensation insurance to an employer not subject to this chapter shall not plead as a defense that the employer is not subject to the chapter; and an insurer who issues to an employer subject to this chapter a policy of compensation insurance covering an employee or employees ordinarily exempt from its provisions shall not plead the exemption as a defense. In either case compensation shall be paid to an injured employee or to the dependents of a deceased employee for a compensable accident as if the employer or the employee or both were subject to this chapter, the policy of compensation insurance constituting a definite contract between all parties concerned.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-124.1. Optional deductibles to be offered by insurers

(a)  Each insurer issuing a policy under this chapter shall offer, as a part of the policy or as an optional endorsement to the policy, deductibles optional to the policyholder for benefits payable under this chapter. Deductible amounts offered shall be fully disclosed to the prospective policyholder in writing in the amount of $100.00, $200.00, $300.00, $400.00, $500.00, or increments of $500.00 up to a maximum of $2,500.00 per compensable claim. The policyholder exercising the deductible option shall choose only one deductible amount.

(b)  If the policyholder exercises the option and chooses a deductible, the insured employer shall be liable for the amount of the deductible for benefits paid for each compensable claim of work injury suffered by an employee. The insurer shall pay all or part of the deductible amount, whichever is applicable to a compensable claim, to the person or provider entitled to the benefits conferred by this chapter and then seek reimbursement from the insured employer for the applicable deductible amount. The payment or nonpayment of deductible amounts by the insured employer to the insurer shall be treated under the policy insuring the liability for workers' compensation in the same manner as payment or nonpayment of premiums.

(c)  Optional deductibles shall be offered in each policy insuring liability for workers' compensation which is issued, delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed under this chapter on or after July 1, 1990, unless an insured employer and insurer agree to renegotiate a workers' compensation policy in effect on July 1, 1990, so as to include a provision allowing for a deductible.

(d)  Premium reduction for deductibles shall be determined before the application of any experience modification, premium surcharge, or premium discounts. To the extent that an employer's experience rating or safety record is based on benefits paid, money paid by the insured employer under a deductible as provided in this Code section shall not be included as benefits paid so as to harm the experience rating of such employer.

(e)  This Code section shall not apply to employers who are approved to self-insure against liability for workers' compensation or group self-insurance funds for workers' compensation established pursuant to Article 5 of this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-124.2. Restrictions on requirements requiring recipients of benefits to utilize out-of-state mail order pharmacy services

(a)  A policy, plan, or contract of workers' compensation insurance issued under this chapter may not be issued, delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed on or after July 1, 1990, and a certificate of authority for a group self-insurance fund under Article 5 of this chapter may not be issued or renewed on or after July 1, 1990, if such policy, plan, contract, or fund requires that recipients of benefits thereunder obtain pharmacy services, including but not limited to prescription drugs, from an out-of-state mail order pharmacy or which requires that such recipients who do not utilize an out-of-state mail order pharmacy must pay a copayment fee or have imposed any other condition for the receipt of pharmacy services when that payment or condition is not imposed upon those recipients who utilize an out-of-state mail order pharmacy for those services.

(b)  An employer who provides workers' compensation benefits as a self-insurer under this chapter may not require that any recipient of benefits under that self-insurance plan who becomes an employee of that employer on or after July 1, 1990, and who obtains pharmacy services under that plan, including but not limited to prescription drugs, must obtain those services from an out-of-state mail order pharmacy or must pay a copayment fee or have imposed any other condition for the receipt of pharmacy services when that payment or condition is not imposed upon those recipients who utilize an out-of-state mail order pharmacy for those services.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-125. Insurance policies subject to chapter; approval of policy or contract forms by board; exceptions

Every policy insuring the payment of compensation provided for in this article or insuring against liability for payment of such compensation, including all contracts of mutual, reciprocal, or interinsurance, shall be deemed to be made subject to this chapter. No corporation, association, or organization and no mutual, reciprocal, or interinsurers shall enter into or make any such policy or contract of insurance unless its form shall have been approved by the board. This chapter shall not apply to policies of insurance against loss from explosion of boilers or flywheels or other similar catastrophic hazards.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-126. Filing by employer of evidence of compliance with insurance requirements; assessment of attorney's fees and increased compensation against employer who fails to file

(a) Every employer subject to the compensation provisions of this chapter shall file with the board in the form prescribed by the board, annually or as often as the board in its discretion may deem necessary, evidence satisfactory to the board of his compliance with Code Section 34-9-121 and all other Code sections relating thereto.

(b) Any employer subject to the compensation provisions of this chapter who refuses or willfully neglects to comply with subsection (a) of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. In hearing any application for compensation by an injured employee of such delinquent employer, the board may assess compensation against such employer in an amount 10 percent greater than that provided for in this chapter and, in addition to the increased compensation, shall also fix a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the employer to the representative of the employee. The attorney's fee and the increased compensation shall be due and payable at once, and their payment shall be enforced as provided elsewhere in this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-127. Issuance by board of certificate of self-insurance; review; revocation

(a) Whenever an employer has complied with those provisions of Code Section 34-9-121 relating to self-insurance, the board shall issue to such employer a certificate which shall remain in force for a period fixed by the board.

(b) The board shall have the authority to review the self-insured status of an employer after a merger or acquisition involving the employer.

(c) The board may, upon at least 60 days' notice to the employer and after a hearing, revoke the certificate upon satisfactory evidence for such revocation having been presented. At any time after such revocation, the board may grant a new certificate to the employer upon his petition.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-128. Inspection of place of employment and injury records; penalty for noncompliance

The board and its authorized representatives shall have the power and authority to enter any place of employment and to inspect the same, together with all employment, payroll, and injury records at any reasonable time for the purpose of investigating compliance with this chapter and making inspections for the proper enforcement of this chapter. The willful refusal of an employer to permit inspections and investigations pursuant to this Code section or to comply with Code Sections 34-9-120, 34-9-121, and 34-9-126 after being notified of noncompliance by the board shall subject the employer to a penalty to be assessed by the board, not exceeding $50.00 per day so long as the refusal shall continue; provided, however, that no penalty shall be assessed except after notice of not less than ten days and a hearing thereon before the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-129. Furnishing of bond by insurance companies doing workers' compensation business in state; bringing of actions upon bond; posting of security in lieu of bond

Every insurance company doing a workers' compensation business in this state shall furnish a bond payable to the state in the sum of $50,000.00 with some surety company authorized to transact business in this state as surety, in such form as may be approved by the Commissioner of Insurance, conditioned for the payment of compensation losses on policies issued by such insurance company upon risks located in this state. An action may be brought upon said bond by the board for the use and benefit of any party or parties at interest. The annual license of such company shall not be issued or renewed until it has filed with the Commissioner of Insurance of this state the bond required by this Code section. In lieu of such bond a deposit of the same amount may be made with the Office of Treasury and Fiscal Services in the form of other security satisfactory to the Commissioner of Insurance.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-130. Authority of Commissioner of Insurance to investigate rates; assistance by board in investigations

In addition to the authority prescribed in Title 33, the Commissioner of Insurance shall have the power, in such manner and by such means as he may deem proper and adequate, to gather statistics and information and make investigations concerning rates for such insurance. He may take into consideration the income, earnings, and loss ratios from any and every source whatever of any such company and may call upon the directors of the State Board of Workers' Compensation to sit with him in an advisory capacity at any investigation or hearing concerning any rate or rates.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-130.1. Policies or contracts of insurance against liability for compensation under this chapter

(a)  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, all insurers issuing policies or contracts of insurance against the liability for compensation under this chapter shall comply with the following provisions. Each insurer's basic rate for policies or contracts of insurance against the liability for compensation under this chapter shall not exceed the insurer's effective rate approved by and on file with the Commissioner of Insurance as of April 22, 1982. These rates shall remain in effect until April 1, 1983.

(b)  There shall be no exception to the requirements of subsection (a) of this Code section unless the Commissioner of Insurance finds, after a hearing upon the written request of an insurer, that the use of the rates required under subsection (a) of this Code section by the insurer will result in rates which are inadequate to the extent that:

(1)  Such rates do not properly reflect the insurer's loss experience in this state to the extent that its earned premiums would not equal its incurred losses or expenses; or

(2)  Such rates jeopardize the solvency of the insurer required to use such rates.

(c)  The insurer shall have the burden of showing that the use of the rate required under subsection (a) of this Code section will result in rates which are inadequate to the extent that they do not properly reflect the insurer's loss experience in this state or that their use would jeopardize its solvency.  No insurer shall be relieved of using the required rates if its most recently available experience on such lines of business shows a net underwriting gain unless, on the basis of statistical data, pertinent judgment, and trend factors, no other reasonable conclusion would be appropriate.

(d)  Upon conclusion of any hearing held pursuant to this chapter, the Commissioner of Insurance shall enter his order specifying the rates required to be used by the insurer.  The Commissioner shall indicate in his order all the factors entering into a decision relieving an insurer from full compliance with this Code section.  The provisions of Chapter 2 of Title 33 shall apply to hearings held under this Code section.

(e)  Any insurer appealing from a final order of the Commissioner of Insurance may continue to use its rates then in effect during the pendency of the appeal, provided arrangements satisfactory to the Commissioner are made to secure the repayment to the insurer's policyholders of the difference between the rates used by the insurer and that rate which would be lower as required by this Code section.  Upon final adjudication the insurer shall repay any excess premium collected from its policyholders plus interest at the rate of 12 percent per annum.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-131. Insurer permit requirement; claim office within state

(a)  Every insurance company and every person, firm, or corporation writing policies of insurance under this chapter or insuring the payment of compensation to employees as provided by this chapter, before writing any such policy or entering upon any such insurance contract or continuing any such contract of force, shall obtain from the board a permit authorizing such company or such person, firm, or corporation to engage in business as an insurance carrier under this chapter and to write and enter upon such insurance contracts.

(b)  The application for such permit shall set forth such facts as the board may, by regulation, require. The board is authorized to prescribe the form of the permit and to provide by regulation for a hearing upon such application. Upon the filing of such application, the board shall have such hearing thereon as may be provided for by regulation and shall grant a permit if, in its discretion, the applicant is qualified, financially and otherwise, to carry on such insurance business. Upon obtaining said permit, the insurer shall designate and maintain an office in the State of Georgia for the handling of claims or shall designate an agent located in the State of Georgia who shall be authorized to execute instruments for the payment of compensation.

(c)  Any company or any person, firm, or corporation who shall write insurance under this chapter or enter upon any contract to insure the payment of compensation under this chapter or continue any such contract of force without first obtaining a permit from the board as required by this Code section or after the revocation of any such permit shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-132. Grounds for revocation of insurance carrier's permit

The board is authorized, of its own motion or upon complaint filed with it, after notice of not less than ten days and a hearing thereon, to revoke any permit granted under Code Section 34-9-131 if an employer is ready, willing, and able to pay a premium at the rate prescribed by the Insurance Department but it appears that the holder of such permit declines to accept and underwrite the risk assigned to it by the board or a bureau established and approved for rating purposes; or if it appears that the holder of any such permit fails and refuses to obey any valid order of the board or to pay any award entered against it by the board and not appealed from or affirmed on appeal; or if it appears that the holder of such permit is otherwise not qualified to carry on such business.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-133. Apportionment and assignment of rejected risks; Workers' Compensation Assigned Risk Insurance Plan; merit rating plan

(a)  The board shall prescribe the rules and regulations for apportioning rejected workers' compensation policies and may establish an equitable assignment of such policies and enforce such provisions; provided, however, the Commissioner of Insurance is authorized to establish or approve a method to apportion on a pro rata basis any rejected workers' compensation policy where four insurers duly authorized to write workers' compensation insurance refused, in writing, to issue the workers' compensation policy to cover said risk or where the agent for the applicant for such insurance confirms in writing to the four insurers their refusal to cover said risk.  In formulating this method of assignment, a minimum loss ratio will be considered by the Commissioner of Insurance.  Then, such established or approved method shall immediately assign an insurer to write such risk.  The Commissioner of Insurance shall establish separate categories of risks rejected as the result of insufficient prior workers' compensation experience, risks rejected for factors other than workers' compensation loss experience, and risks rejected as the result of poor workers' compensation experience.  Where such assignment has been made under the aforementioned method, the board shall not make the assignment.

(b)  The method of apportioning and assigning rejected workers' compensation insurance policies provided in subsection (a) of this Code section shall include the assignment and apportionment of such policies covering vendors who provide logging services to a named insured or covering an association of such vendors.

(c)

(1)  The method of apportioning and assigning rejected workers' compensation insurance policies provided in subsections (a) and (b) of this Code section shall be known as the "Workers' Compensation Assigned Risk Insurance Plan" or "Plan."  All policies issued under the Plan shall have the words "Georgia Workers' Compensation Assigned Risk Plan" placed in bold letters on the policy declarations page to ensure that rejected risks know that the policy has been issued in the Plan.

(2)  For Plan policies with effective dates on or after January 1, 1996, the Commissioner of Insurance shall approve and implement a plan which establishes rates adequate to eliminate any Plan operating deficit by January 1, 1999.

(3)  Such Plan shall be revised annually by the Plan administrator and presented to the Commissioner of Insurance for approval.

(4)  Such Plan shall include, to the extent adequate to reduce the Plan operating deficit:

(A)  Rating plans, procedures, and requirements placed on Plan policyholders; and

(B)  Procedures and requirements placed on Plan insurers and the Plan administrator.

(5)  Such Plan shall also include, but not be limited to:

(A)  Plan policy assessments and surcharges;

(B)  Credits for policyholders who have had no lost-time claims;

(C)  A system of credits against assessment or participation of insurers for the voluntary writing of a risk or risks which are currently insured through the Plan;

(D)  Provisions that the type or level of services by an insurer for Plan policyholders shall be no less than such type or level of services of such insurer for its policyholders not in the Plan; and

(E)  Provisions for safety programs to be implemented by policyholders in cooperation with their insurer.

(d)  The Plan required by subsection (c) of this Code section shall be structured, to the extent possible, so as to reduce the operating deficit of the Plan proportionately each year from January 1, 1996, through January 1, 1999.

(e)  Notwithstanding anything to the contrary provided in subsection (c) or (d) of this Code section, the Commissioner of Insurance shall have the discretion to waive all or any portion of the Plan policy assessments and surcharges described in subsection (c) of this Code section if the operating deficit of the Plan for a respective Plan policy year improves by at least 15 percent as compared to the deficit for such Plan policy year calculated based upon rates in effect for the immediately preceding Plan policy year.

(f)  For Plan policies with effective dates on or after January 1, 1999, the aggregate of all revenues received from rates and rating plans charged to participants who are insured under the Plan shall be set so that the amount received in premiums, together with reasonable investment income earned on those premiums, shall be sufficient to pay claims and reasonable expenses of providing coverage under the Plan and to establish appropriate levels of loss reserves, all in accordance with actuarial standards, including consideration of the effects of subsection (c) of this Code section. For purposes of this Code section, the term "actuarial standards" means standards adopted by the Casualty Actuarial Society in its Statement of Principles Regarding Property and Casualty Insurance Ratemaking and the Standards of Practice adopted by the Actuarial Standards Board.  Any premium or surcharge collected by the Plan in excess of the amount necessary to fund the projected ultimate losses and expenses of the Plan shall be refunded to the policyholders or applied to reduce premiums.

(g)  Notwithstanding Code Sections 33-9-8 and 33-9-21, the Commissioner of Insurance shall cause the implementation of rates for policies issued pursuant to the Plan which are sufficient to conform with the requirements of paragraphs (1) and (2) of subsection (c) of this Code section.

(h)  On or before December 15, 1995, and each subsequent year, the Commissioner of Insurance shall submit a report to the appropriate standing committees of the General Assembly concerning the status and results of operation of the Plan.  Such report shall include but not be limited to a report on the Plan deficit, burden and trends in reducing such deficit, number of policies and amount of premium underwritten by the Plan, rating of such policies based upon the three-tier rating program, his or her estimate of the effect of policyholder safety committees on policyholder loss experience, operation of workers' compensation insurance specialty markets in this state, impact of the servicing carrier remedial program and results of servicing carrier incentives and disincentives, review of the efficiency of the servicing carrier bid program, and any other information the Commissioner of Insurance or the respective chairpersons of such standing committees deem necessary to evaluate the Plan and the workers' compensation insurance market in this state.

(i)  On or before July 1, 1995, the Commissioner of Insurance shall promulgate rules and regulations to implement this Code section. Such rules and regulations shall include the system of credits required by subparagraph (c)(5)(C) of this Code section, which credits shall not be less than the following:

(1)  For policies with an annual premium of $7,500.00 or less, a credit of four times the amount of such annual premium;

(2)  For policies with an annual premium of at least $7,501.00, but not exceeding $15,000.00, a credit of three times the amount of such annual premium;

(3)  For policies with an annual premium of at least $15,001.00, but not exceeding $25,000.00, a credit of two times the amount of such annual premium;

(4)  For policies with an annual premium of at least $25,001.00, but not exceeding $200,000.00, a credit of one and one-half times the amount of such annual premium; or

(5)  For policies with an annual premium of $200,001.00 or greater, a credit of the amount of such annual premium.

(j)  A merit rating plan shall be implemented by the Plan administrator and the Commissioner of Insurance in compliance with subparagraph (c) (5) (B) of this Code section to establish credits for policyholders who have had no lost-time claims and debits for a specified number of lost-time claims to include the following:

(1)  A policyholder who is not experience rated, whose annual premium is less than $5,000.00, and who is subject to a merit rating plan of credits and debits to be applied to the Georgia manual premium for the policyholder in the Plan;

(2)  The merit rating plan shall be based upon the number of lost-time claims of the policyholder during the most recent one-year period for which statistics are available. This one-year period is that which would otherwise be used for experience rating purposes;

(3)  The credits and debits under such plan shall be as follows:

(A)  No lost-time claims for the most recent year, a 12 1/2 percent credit;

(B)  One lost-time claim for the most recent year, no credit or debit; and

(C)  Two or more lost-time claims for the most recent year, a 5 percent debit;

(4) T he insurer shall obtain the claims information of the policyholder and shall notify the policyholder of the credit or debit premium adjustment and the reason for same in writing within 90 days of the effective date of the policy.  The insurer, upon request, shall provide additional safety plan information to a policyholder who develops a debit merit rating adjustment; and

(5)  Debits and credits used in this merit rating plan shall not apply to the Georgia minimum premium for a risk.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-134. Appeals from decisions under Code Sections 34-9-122 and 34-9-131 through 34-9-133

Appeal from any decision under Code Sections 34-9-122 and 34-9-131 through 34-9-133 may be made in the manner provided elsewhere for appeals from orders or judgments of the members of the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-135. Disclosure of costs by insurer

(a) Each workers' compensation insurer shall disclose on or before March 1 of each year its costs, as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section, for the preceding calendar year.

(b) The disclosure required by this Code section shall be in the form prescribed by the Commissioner of Insurance and shall be filed with the Commissioner of Insurance.

(c) The disclosure required by this Code section shall include at a minimum the workers' compensation insurer's total underwriting costs, administrative costs, legal defense costs, reserves, payments from reserves for claims, payments to the insurer from reserves, payments for medical benefits on behalf of employees pursuant to this chapter, payments for rehabilitation benefits on behalf of employees pursuant to this chapter, payments for weekly benefits to employees pursuant to this chapter, lump sum payments made to employees pursuant to this chapter, and payments to employees' attorneys made pursuant to this chapter, and the amounts of any taxes, fees, or assessments required by law.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-136. Statistical data submitted by insurance company to rating organization; verification by employer; issuance of experience modification worksheets to insured

(a) Before an insurance company is authorized to submit statistical data on an employer to any licensed rating organization for purposes of determining the employer's experience modification factor, the insurance company must verify with the employer the accuracy of the data. In so verifying, the insurance company shall provide to the employer: (1) the data to be submitted; and (2) a statement in boldface type, to be signed by an authorized representative of the employer, and submitted by the insurance company to the licensed rating organization along with the statistical data. Said statement shall indicate that the statistical data to be submitted have been reviewed by the authorized representative of the employer; that said data are accurate; and that an insurance company representative has explained to the employer's representative that the statistical data to be submitted may affect the employer's premium for workers' compensation insurance coverage.

(b) When a licensed rating organization issues an insured's experience modification worksheet to the insured's workers' compensation insurance company, the licensed rating organization shall submit a copy of the worksheet to the insured.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-137. Considerations in employer's experience modification factor

Whenever an experience modification factor is applied to the premium of an employer's policy of workers' compensation insurance, consideration shall be given to:

(1)  Any amounts recovered by such employer or its insurer pursuant to Code Section 34-9-11.1, relating to rights of action against third parties and subrogation; and

(2)  Code Section 34-9-360, relating to reimbursements from the Subsequent Injury Trust Fund. In addition, the insurer shall not include in the computation of such factor any penalties which were incurred pursuant to this chapter by the actions of the insurer or its representative.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-138. Consideration of employer's experience while self-insured

Any insurance company which voluntarily writes a policy for any employer which was self-insured under any provision of this chapter shall include such employer's prior experience while self-insured to determine or have determined an experience modifier for such employer.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-150. Purpose of article

It is the intent of the General Assembly to provide an alternative mechanism through which bona fide members of trade associations and professional associations as well as groups of municipalities, counties, school boards, and hospital authorities may extend workers' compensation benefits to their employees through group self-insurance programs. This alternative is authorized to enable the members of these groups to lower workers' compensation costs by reducing administrative expenses and to encourage a reduction in claims through active loss prevention, loss control, and rehabilitation programs. It is therefore intended that this article be liberally construed to effectuate these purposes.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-151. Definitions

As used in this article, the term:

(1) "Administrator" means any individual, partnership, or corporation, except a sponsoring association or associations, designated and authorized by the board of the fund to carry out the day-to-day operations of the fund, including, but not limited to, the processing and payment of claims.

(2) "Basic rate" means the annual premium rate charged prior to any credit being given for applicable experience debits or credits or for applicable discounts or surcharges.

(3) "Board of the fund" means the board of trustees of any fund created pursuant to this article.

(4) "Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Georgia.

(5) "County" means a county of this state. Such term shall include a consolidated city-county government and any public authority, commission, board, or similar body created or activated by an Act of the General Assembly or by a resolution or ordinance of the governing authority of a county, individually or jointly with any other political subdivision or subdivisions of this state, pursuant to the Constitution of this state or an Act of the General Assembly and which carries out its functions on a county-wide basis, a multicounty basis, or wholly within the unincorporated area of a county.

(6) "Fund" means a joint fund for workers' compensation established pursuant to this article.

(7) "Gross annual premium" means the total annual premium determined by multiplying the payroll for the applicable workers' compensation job classifications by the appropriate annual premium rate for each classification.

(8) "Hospital authority" means any legally constituted board, commission, or authority which has been created for the purpose of and is actually governing the operation of a public hospital created in accordance with the laws of this state.

(9) "Intrastate agreement" means the written agreement subscribed to and abided by the members of the fund, which agreement establishes the fund and provides for its operation and through which each member agrees to assume and discharge, jointly and severally, any and all liability under this article relating to or arising out of the operations of the fund.

(10) "Member" means an employer who is a member of a fund established by a trade association or professional association or by a group of municipalities, counties, school boards, or hospital authorities in accordance with this article. "Member" also means a trade association or professional association which elects to cover its own employees under a fund established by its members.

(11) "Municipality" means an incorporated municipality of this state, a consolidated city-county government, and any local public authority, commission, board, or other similar agency which is created by a general or local Act of the General Assembly and which carries out its functions wholly or partly within the corporate boundaries of an incorporated municipality of this state. This term shall also include such bodies which are created or activated by an appropriate ordinance or resolution of the governing body of a municipal corporation, individually or jointly with other political subdivisions of the state.

(12) "Normal annual premium" means the standard annual premium plus or minus applicable surcharges or discounts.

(13) "Premium" means any consideration, by whatever name called, paid to a fund by a member for coverage under the fund.

(14) "Professional association" means a corporation or unincorporated association which at the time it initially makes application to form a fund under this chapter has been organized for a period of at least three years and is domiciled in the State of Georgia, is engaged in substantial activity for the benefit of its members, other than the sponsorship of a fund operated pursuant to this article, and is comprised of a bona fide group of employers who are engaged in the same or in substantially similar types of professions and have similar governing industry classifications as approved by the Commissioner regarding workers' compensation and employers' liability insurance.

(15) "School board" means a public board of education of any county or of any independent school system of this state.

(16) "Standard annual premium" means the gross annual premium plus or minus applicable experience credits or debits.

(17) "Surplus" means the total assets of the fund less its liabilities and reserves as determined in accordance with the requirements of this article.

(18) "Surplus share" or "proportionate share" means the initial contribution paid to a fund by a member as a condition of membership in the fund.

(19) "Trade association" means a corporation or unincorporated association which at the time it initially makes application to form a fund under this chapter has been organized for a period of at least three years, domiciled in the State of Georgia, is engaged in substantial activity for the benefit of its members, other than the sponsorship of a fund operated pursuant to this article, and is comprised of a bona fide group of employers who are engaged in the same or in substantially similar types of businesses or professions within this state and who have similar governing industry classifications as approved by the Commissioner regarding workers' compensation and employers' liability insurance.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-151.1. Eligibility for establishing a fund

(a) Any group or groups of employers who are engaged in similar business activities may establish a fund or funds provided that:

(1) Such fund or funds shall comply with the provisions of this article;

(2) Separate classes, as described in Code Section 34-9-152, may not be commingled in any fund; and

(3) Such fund or funds shall be established by one or more professional or trade associations.

(b) Any professional or trade association may establish a fund or funds.

(c) Any fund established prior to January 1, 1995, and which is operating in compliance with this article or in compliance with the requirements of the applicable rules and regulations of the Commissioner shall be deemed to be in compliance with this article.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-151.2. Filing of intent to form fund; notice of intent to refuse to issue certificate of authority

(a)  At least 30 days prior to executing the initial intrastate agreement required by this article, any group authorized to form a fund under this article shall file with the Commissioner an intent to form a fund on such form as prescribed by the Commissioner. Such form shall include:

(1)  The name of the group forming the fund;

(2)  The name of the proposed administrator;

(3)  The type or types of employers to be offered membership in the fund;

(4)  A statement that the group is knowledgeable of and will comply with the requirements of this article and any rules or regulations pertaining thereto; and

(5)  A copy of the intrastate agreement that will be used to establish a fund.

(b)  Upon receipt and review of the information supplied with the notice of intent to form a fund provided under subsection (a) of this Code section, the Commissioner, pursuant to his or her authority under Code Section 34-9-169, may issue a notice of intent to refuse to issue a certificate of authority, which notice of intent shall be based upon the Commissioner's determination that the proposed fund would not be in compliance with the provisions of this article.  The proposed fund may not be formed and the intrastate agreement may not be executed until the Commissioner withdraws in writing the notice of intent to refuse to issue a certificate of authority.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-152. Application to Commissioner for certificate of authority to create fund; contents of application; filing fee; membership of fund

(a)  Any group of municipalities, counties, school boards, or hospital authorities or any trade association or professional association or any other group authorized by this article may enter into an intrastate agreement for the purpose of extending workers' compensation benefits to employees of its members.  Once a fund is established pursuant to the intrastate agreement, an officer or administrator of the fund shall, within ten days of the effective date of such agreement, deliver a copy of the agreement to the Commissioner.  The fund shall provide workers' compensation coverage to the employees of members who deposit moneys for premiums into the fund.  On or before the effective date of such coverage, the fund shall file with the State Board of Workers' Compensation the evidence of coverage form required by the board's rules issued pursuant to Code Section 34-9-126.

(b)

(1)  For purposes of this article, municipalities, counties, school boards, hospital authorities, trade associations, and professional associations shall each be deemed to constitute separate classes.  Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, no member of any one such class shall join with a member of another class or classes for the purpose of creating a fund pursuant to this article.  There shall be only one group self-insurance fund for municipalities and only one group self-insurance fund for counties; provided, however, if the Commissioner determines that there are special or unique circumstances or needs of a group of counties or municipalities which justify the establishment of an additional group self-insurance fund or funds for counties or municipalities, the Commissioner may authorize the establishment of such fund or funds.

(2)  A board of education of an independent school system of any municipality is authorized to be a member of a fund comprised of municipalities.

(c)  A fund must make application to the Commissioner for a certificate of authority within 90 days of the date of executing an intrastate agreement creating the fund.  The application shall state that the fund has met the requirements of this subsection and the requirements of subsections (d) through (f) of this Code section and shall set forth the following:

(1)  The name of the fund;

(2)  The location of the fund's principal office, which shall be maintained within this state;

(3) The location of the principal office of the sponsoring trade association, which shall be located in this state, or sponsoring professional association, which shall be located in this state, or group of municipalities, counties, school boards, or hospital authorities;

(4)  The names and addresses of the members;

(5)  The principal business of each member;

(6) The name and address of a Georgia resident designated and appointed as the fund's proposed registered agent for service of process in this state;

(7)  The names and addresses of the officers and directors of the proposed fund and a statement of whether or not any of such officers and directors has been convicted of any crimes other than minor traffic violations within the last ten years;

(8)  The powers of the officers and directors and the term of office of each;

(9)  A brief outline of the method by which the administrative obligations of the fund shall be met;

(10)  A copy of the bylaws of the fund;

(11)  A copy of the intrastate agreement among the members;

(12)  The name and address of the administrator and, if the administrator is a corporation, the names and addresses of its officers and directors and a statement concerning whether or not the administrator or any of the officers or directors thereof, if the administrator is a corporation, has been convicted of any crimes other than minor traffic violations within the last ten years;

(13)  A statement of the previous experience and background of any administrator of the fund, including reference to any licenses it may hold or have held in this state or any other state within the last ten years;

(14)  The most recent audited statement of the financial condition of any administrator of the fund or the most recent annual statement of such administrator if it is an insurer.  Any financial statement provided as required by this paragraph shall not be deemed to be a public document and shall be maintained in confidence by the Commissioner;

(15)  A copy of any agreements between the fund and any contract administrator of the fund;

(16)  A statement of the financial condition of the fund listing all of its assets and liabilities as of the end of the last preceding month prior to the date of the application on such a form as may be prescribed by the Commissioner;

(17)  A copy of each contract, endorsement, and application form it proposes to issue or use;

(18)  Excluding funds formed by counties, municipalities, or school boards, a current, audited financial statement or other acceptable financial statement of each member of the fund.  This statement shall be required of each member at the time of application to the fund, but shall not be required at any other time unless such member shall become 90 days delinquent in payment to the fund.  Any financial statement provided pursuant to this article shall not be deemed to be a public document and shall be maintained in confidence by the Commissioner; and

(19)  Such other information, documents, or statements as the Commissioner may reasonably require.

(d)  Each application for a certificate of authority shall be accompanied by a filing fee in the amount required by subparagraph (CC) of paragraph (1) of Code Section 33-8-1, which fee shall not be refundable.

(e)  A fund authorized by this article may be established only with the participation of ten or more members and shall have no fewer than 1,000 employees in the aggregate.  The names of the participants and any information submitted by any member shall not be deemed to be public information and shall be maintained in confidence by the Commissioner.  Any fund licensed after July 1, 1995, shall have no fewer than 15 members and 1,500 employees in the aggregate.  Any fund which attains compliance and subsequently falls below the minimum number of members or aggregate employees may be granted additional time to regain compliance, up to a maximum of 180 days.

(f)  A fund authorized by this article may be established only if it has and thereafter maintains gross annual premiums of $300,000.00.  Any fund licensed after July 1, 1995, may be established only if it has and thereafter maintains a gross annual premium of $1 million.  Any fund which attains compliance and subsequently falls below the minimum required premium may be granted additional time to regain compliance, up to a maximum of 180 days.

(g)  All employers who are members of a class which forms a fund pursuant to this article shall be eligible for membership in such fund unless membership is denied such employers by the trustees according to underwriting guidelines established by the trustees of the fund and approved by the Commissioner in accordance with this article.

(h)  Any fund formed pursuant to this article may accept as a member of such fund any other employer of the same class, as defined in subsection (b) of this Code section, which makes application for membership and otherwise meets the requirements of this article and the underwriting guidelines established by the trustees of the fund and approved by the Commissioner.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-153. Issuance of certificate of authority; grounds for denial or revocation; annual renewal fee

(a)  The Commissioner shall examine the application made under Code Section 34-9-152 to determine whether the fund will be able to comply with the laws of this state and whether membership in the fund will enable the members of the fund to meet their liability for workers' compensation benefits under this chapter.  If the Commissioner finds that the fund is capable of complying with such requirements and meeting such liability, he shall issue a certificate authorizing the fund to provide workers' compensation benefits on behalf of its members.

(b)  If the Commissioner refuses to issue a certificate of authority, he shall issue an order setting forth the reasons for refusal and forward it to the proposed fund. A copy of the order shall be sent to each member of the fund.

(c)  The Commissioner shall approve or disapprove the application for a certificate of authority within 90 days of receipt by him of the application and all of the supporting information he has requested.

(d)  The Commissioner may refuse to issue or renew or may suspend or revoke the certificate of authority of any fund, in accordance with Code Section 34-9-169, for failure of the fund to comply with any provision of this article or with any of the rules, regulations, or orders of the Commissioner issued pursuant thereto.

(e)  The certificate shall be renewed annually by the Commissioner, upon payment by the fund of the renewal fee required by subparagraph (CC) of paragraph (1) of Code Section 33-8-1.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-154. Compliance with workers' compensation obligations by participation in fund

The participation by a member in a fund created pursuant to this article shall enable it to comply with its duty as an employer to assure payment of workers' compensation in accordance with this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-155. License required for solicitation of membership or participation in fund; procedure for admission of new members; underwriting criteria

(a) Any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, no person other than a trustee, officer, or administrator of the fund shall solicit membership or participation in any fund unless such person:

(1) Has a valid agent's license for property and casualty insurance or a counselor's license issued pursuant to Article 1 of Chapter 23 of Title 33; or

(2) Is an officer, director, or employee of:

(A) A professional association or trade association; or

(B) A corporation with its income exempt pursuant to Section 115 of the United States Internal Revenue Code.

(b) After the inception date of a fund, prospective new members of the fund shall submit an application for membership to the board of the fund and, unless the fund elects to meet the requirements of subsection (c) of this Code section, to the Commissioner on a form prescribed by the Commissioner. The board of the fund or the administrator, with the approval of the board of the fund, shall establish the amount to be paid or contributed by each applicant to become a member of the fund. If the Commissioner does not disapprove the application of a prospective new member within 45 days, the applicant, upon payment or contribution to the fund as determined in accordance with this article, shall be authorized to become a member of the fund, to subscribe to and abide by the intrastate agreement, bylaws, rules, and regulations of the fund, and to share the liabilities and assets of the fund in accordance with its bylaws and with the applicable provisions of this article. The board of the fund may take into consideration the loss ratio of a prospective member in establishing such member's initial payment or contribution, provided that, notwithstanding the provisions of this Code section, such prospective member's initial payment or contribution shall be reasonable in relationship to the initial payment or contribution paid by the other members of the fund. Any person or group aggrieved by a determination of the board of the fund regarding the establishment of a member's initial payment or contribution shall have the right to appeal such determination to the Commissioner.

(c) The trustees of a fund may submit underwriting criteria to the Commissioner for approval and unless the Commissioner disapproves the underwriting criteria within 90 days, the fund shall be authorized to approve or deny application for membership in the fund according to such underwriting criteria. The Commissioner, in conjunction with any examination of the fund, shall ensure that the fund is complying with the underwriting criteria submitted and approved by the Commissioner.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-156. Voluntary termination of members; grounds and procedure for involuntary termination of membership; effect of voluntary or involuntary termination on obligations

(a) A member may elect to terminate voluntarily its participation in a fund by giving at least 90 days' advance written notice to the fund and to the Commissioner, unless the fund elects to meet the requirements of subsection (e) of this Code section. Such voluntary termination shall be approved by the Commissioner, or the fund, upon a finding by the Commissioner, or the fund, that such member is in good standing and that both member and fund have met all requirements of this article and of any rules and regulations issued by the Commissioner and the fund as of the proposed effective date of termination.

(b)

(1)

(A) A member may be involuntarily terminated as a member of a fund upon a finding by the Commissioner, after due notice and hearing, that such member has failed to comply with the requirements of this article or with the bylaws of the fund or the applicable intrastate agreement. Such hearings may be initiated by the Commissioner either upon the Commissioner's own motion or upon a recommendation of the board of the fund or the member facing involuntary termination. In the Commissioner's discretion, any hearings arising from this Code section may be consolidated if the issues involved are the same or substantially similar to those of other scheduled hearings.

(B) The trustees of a fund may involuntarily terminate a member of the fund if the fund elects to meet the requirements of subsection (e) of this Code section and if the trustees find that such member has failed to comply with the requirements of this article or with the bylaws of the fund or the applicable intrastate agreement.

(2) A member may be involuntarily terminated for failure to pay its proportionate share or any premiums or installments thereof due the fund or for failure otherwise to discharge its obligations to the fund when due. Written notice stating the time when the termination will be effective, which time shall be not less than 15 days from the date of notice or such other specific longer period as may be provided in the intrastate agreement or by statute, may be delivered in person or by depositing such notice in the United States mail, to be dispatched by at least first-class mail to the last address of record of the member, and receiving therefor the receipt provided by the United States Postal Service. Such notice may or may not be accompanied by a tender of the unearned premium paid by the member, calculated on a pro rata basis. If such tender is not made simultaneously with such notice, it shall be made within 15 days of notice of termination unless an audit or rate investigation is required, in which case such tender shall be made as soon as practicable.

(c) Any member who either voluntarily terminates membership or is involuntarily terminated from membership in a fund pursuant to this Code section shall remain jointly and severally liable for all obligations of the fund as of the date of such termination, including, but not limited to, any obligations of the fund to pay claims against the fund arising out of any occurrence, incident, or accident which took place during the member's membership in the fund.

(d) Any member who is voluntarily terminated or is involuntarily terminated shall be provided with the data necessary for the replacement workers' compensation insurer to determine or have determined an experience modifier for such former member.

(e) A fund may submit criteria to the Commissioner to be used in the removal of a member from the fund and unless the Commissioner disapproves the criteria in writing in 90 days, the fund shall be authorized to voluntarily or involuntarily remove a member from the fund according to the submitted criteria. The Commissioner, in conjunction with any examination of the fund, shall ensure that the fund is complying with the criteria submitted and approved by the Commissioner.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-157. Boards of trustees -- Appointment of members

Each fund created pursuant to this article shall be operated by a board of trustees chosen by the mutual agreement of the participating members of such fund in accordance with this article and with the bylaws of the fund. The appointment of any trustee shall be subject to the approval of the Commissioner.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-158. Boards of trustees -- Powers

The board of the fund shall have the following specific powers, together with such other powers granted elsewhere in this article as may be necessary or incidental to effectuate the purposes of this article:

(1) To invest and reinvest funds held by it in accordance with Code Section 34-9-163;

(2) To collect and disburse all money due or payable in accordance with this article;

(3) To employ and contract with banks, corporate trustees, insurance agents, surplus lines brokers, insurers authorized to do business in this state, and approved surplus lines carriers;

(4) To employ and contract with actuaries, accountants, contract administrators, and other agents and employees necessary for the operation of the fund;

(5) To employ an administrator for the fund;

(6) To contract with other persons or public bodies of this state for the use of services or facilities necessary, useful, or incidental to the operation of the fund;

(7) To employ legal counsel;

(8) To execute other contracts necessary or incidental to the operation of the fund;

(9) To pay dividends to or levy assessments on its members;

(10) To purchase bonds and insurance necessary to comply with the requirements of this article and the rules and regulations of the Commissioner; and

(11) To do and perform such other and further acts, not inconsistent with this article or with other laws of this state, which may be necessary for the efficient and proper operation of the fund.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-159. Annual reports of affairs and operations of funds; additional periodic reports; verification of reports; compliance condition for renewal of certificates

On or before March 1 in each year after it shall have commenced to do business pursuant to a certificate of authority, every fund shall make and file with the Commissioner a report of its affairs and operations during the last preceding calendar year. This annual report shall be made in such form and shall contain such information as the Commissioner may, from time to time, by regulation, prescribe and require to protect the public interest, the interests of the members of the fund, and the interests of the employees of each member. The Commissioner may, by regulation, require such additional periodic reports as the Commissioner may from time to time prescribe as necessary or appropriate to protect the members and their employees and the public, to ensure the solvency of any fund, to inform the members of the fund, and to assure fair dealing in the investments of any fund. The Commissioner may require that the reports be verified under oath by such appropriate officers or agents as the Commissioner may designate by regulation and may require the reports to be furnished to persons or entities the Commissioner determines to have a legitimate interest therein. The Commissioner may, based upon the Commissioner's evaluation of the condition of individual funds, exempt that fund from submitting any report, except the annual report required by this article. Compliance with this Code section shall be a condition of the renewal of a certificate of authority under Code Section 34-9-153.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-160. Method of determining financial condition and solvency of a fund and financial capacity of fund to pay obligations

In determining the financial condition and solvency of a fund and the financial capacity of a fund to pay workers' compensation obligations promptly and otherwise to meet its obligations under this chapter, the Commissioner shall take into consideration the following:

(1) The security deposit required by Code Section 34-9-161;

(2) The surplus required by Code Section 34-9-162;

(3) Such other considerations as the Commissioner may, by rule or regulation, deem necessary or appropriate;

(4) The Commissioner shall charge as liabilities the same reserves as are required of incorporated insurers issuing nonassessable policies on a reserve basis;

(5) The surplus shares of members shall be allowed as assets, except that any premiums delinquent for 90 days shall first be charged against such surplus shares;

(6) The surplus shares of members shall not be charged as a liability;

(7) All premiums delinquent less than 90 days shall be allowed as assets;

(8) An assessment levied upon members and not collected shall not be allowed as an asset;

(9) The computation of reserves shall be based upon premiums other than membership fees and without any deduction for expenses and the compensation of any contract administrator; and

(10) The existence and face value of contracts or policies of excess insurance or other measures of financial capacity as the Commissioner may deem appropriate, including the authority of municipalities, counties, and school boards, to levy and collect taxes pursuant to the laws of this state.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-161. Securities deposit; excess loss funding program

(a)

(1)  Each fund shall maintain a deposit consisting of securities eligible for deposit by domestic insurance companies in accordance with Chapter 12 of Title 33 in the amount of $200,000.00, which amount equates to the deposits required of a domestic insurance company pursuant to Code Section 33-3-8.

(2)  A fund may post a surety bond or bonds in the amount of $250,000.00 to satisfy the securities deposit requirement of paragraph (1) of this subsection. Such bond or bonds shall be acceptable only if issued by an insurer whose form has been approved by the Commissioner.

(3)  The security deposit required by this subsection shall be allowed as an asset and shall not be deemed as part of the surplus required by Code Section 34-9-162.

(b)  The excess loss funding program of a fund shall be approved by the Commissioner as a condition to the issuance and maintenance of a certificate of authority of any fund created pursuant to this article.  An excess loss funding program may consist of excess insurance, self-funding from unobligated surplus of an agency, any combination of the foregoing, or any other funding program acceptable to the Commissioner.  A fund may be permitted to purchase excess insurance: (1) From insurers authorized to transact business in this state; or (2) From approved surplus lines carriers.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-162. Maintenance of surplus and expendable surplus; waiver of surplus requirements; return of surplus to members of fund

(a)  A fund formed pursuant to this article shall possess and thereafter maintain a minimum surplus of not less than $200,000.00.

(b)  Any fund established prior to July 1, 1995, which has satisfied the surplus requirement of this Code section by utilization of a surety bond shall replace such bond with cash or cash equivalent within 60 months of the date such bond was submitted to the Commissioner.

(c)  Any fund established prior to July 1, 1995, which had received from the Commissioner a waiver of surplus pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section as it existed prior to July 1, 1995, shall have until July 1, 1998, to replace such waiver with actual surplus and provide evidence of such surplus to the Commissioner.

(d)  At the discretion of the board of the fund, any surplus exceeding the requirements of this Code section and the total of all other liabilities of the fund may be returned to the members of the fund. The board of the fund shall notify the Commissioner by letter within ten days following the return of any surplus.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-163. Investment of assets; maintenance of loss reserves

(a) Except as otherwise specifically provided for in this article, the investable assets of a fund shall be invested only in securities or other investments permitted by the laws of this state for the investment of assets constituting the legal reserves of property and casualty insurance companies or in such other securities or investments as the Commissioner may permit such insurers to invest their funds under Title 33. Such investments shall be subject to the same terms, conditions, and limitations which apply to property and casualty insurance companies under Title 33.

(b) For all claims under policies written in the three years immediately preceding the date as of which the statement is made, a fund shall maintain:

(1) Actual loss reserves, incurred but not reported loss reserves, and reserves for aggregate excess insurance which, combined with actual loss and loss expense payments, shall be in an amount at least equal to the loss fund percentage as stated in the fund's excess insurance policy or such higher amounts as required by the Commissioner; or

(2) With the approval of the Commissioner, loss reserves in an amount equal to the greater of the amount established by an independent casualty actuary in accordance with actuarial standards or 45 percent of earned premiums written in each of the three years prior to the date on which the report or statement is to be made, less all loss and loss expense payments made in connection with the claims under policies written in those three years. For the purposes of this paragraph, the term "actuarial standards" means the standards adopted by the Casualty Actuarial Society in its Statement of Principles Regarding Property and Casualty Loss and Loss Adjustment Expense Reserves and the Standards of Practice adopted by the Actuarial Standards Board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-164. Payment of operating expenses by members of fund; liability of members; payment by funds of expenses of State Board of Workers' Compensation; legal capacity of funds

(a) Each member shall pay into the fund its share of the fund's projected obligation for workers' compensation liability, administrative expenses, and other costs incurred by the fund as may be determined by the board of the fund or by the fund's administrator and approved by the board of the fund, all in accordance with this article. The share shall be adjusted by the board of the fund according to the claims experience of each participating member in accordance with criteria set forth in the bylaws of the fund. The premium for each year shall be paid by each member at the beginning of each fund year unless otherwise provided for under the intrastate agreement or under a payment plan developed by the board of the fund and submitted to and approved by the Commissioner. The board of the fund shall make payments to the employees of the members out of the fund for workers' compensation benefits pursuant to and in accordance with the claims procedures set forth in this chapter; and the board of the fund shall determine what, if any, dividends or assessments shall be paid to or levied against the participating members of the fund.

(b) The board of each fund shall establish and implement a loss prevention and loss control program for each member of the fund.

(c) Each member of the fund shall be jointly and severally liable for all legal obligations of the fund, including, but not limited to, any obligations of the fund to pay claims against the fund arising out of any occurrence, incident, or accident covered under this chapter.

(d) Each fund shall be treated as a self-insurer for the purposes of Article 9 of this chapter.

(e) Each fund shall be liable under Code Section 34-9-63 for its share of the expenses of the State Board of Workers' Compensation and, for the purposes of that Code section only, it shall be treated as though it were an insurer.

(f) Each fund may sue and be sued in its own name. Service of process shall be perfected upon the fund by serving its registered Georgia agent for service of process or by otherwise serving the fund in accordance with the laws of this state.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-165. Requirements as to contracts between funds and administrators not employed by funds

(a)  If a fund contracts with an administrator which is not an employee of the fund, the fund and the administrator must enter into a written agreement which shall be subject to review and approval by the Commissioner in accordance with this Code section. The agreement shall set forth the following:

(1) The powers of the administrator;

(2) The general services to be performed by the administrator;

(3) The manner and amount of compensation to be paid to the administrator and any arrangements between the fund and the administrator for the payment of administrative and other expenses incurred in connection with the operation of the fund;

(4) A contractual provision obligating the administrator to obtain and maintain such bonds, deposits, or insurance coverage as may be required to be maintained by this article; and

(5) A requirement that errors and omissions coverage or other appropriate liability insurance in an amount which is not less than that specified by the rules and regulations of the Commissioner be written with an authorized insurer or an eligible surplus lines insurer and be maintained at all times by the administrator.

(b) The agreement may provide for the following:

(1) The right of substitution of the administrator and the revocation of the agreement upon notice to the Commissioner;

(2) Restrictions upon the exercise of power by the administrator; and

(3) Any other lawful provision deemed necessary or appropriate.

(c) The terms of any such agreement shall be reasonable and equitable, and the agreement and any amendments thereto shall be filed with the Commissioner at least 30 days prior to their use. Any such agreement and any and all amendments thereto which have not been specifically disapproved by the Commissioner within 30 days after the filing thereof shall be deemed to be approved.

(d) A copy of the agreement and any and all amendments thereto shall be furnished to each member upon request.

(e) Except as provided in subsection (d) of this Code section, such agreements and amendments shall be confidential and privileged and shall not be released to the public by the Commissioner without the prior written consent of the parties thereto.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-166. Fiduciary responsibilities of trustees, officers, or administrators of moneys

Any trustee, officer, or administrator of a fund who receives, collects, disburses, or invests moneys in connection with the activities of the fund shall be responsible for such moneys in a fiduciary capacity.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-167. Bond, liability insurance, and resident office of administrator

(a)  The Commissioner shall require each administrator to have and maintain a fidelity bond pursuant to Code Section 33-23-102.

(b)  Errors and omissions coverage or other appropriate liability insurance in an amount which is not less than that specified by the rules and regulations of the Commissioner shall be maintained at all times by an administrator of a fund; and a certificate by the insurer or other appropriate evidence of such coverage shall be filed with the Commissioner by the fund.

(c)  Each administrator shall maintain an office in this state for the payment, processing, and adjustment of the claims of the fund or funds which it represents.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-168. Grounds and procedure for restraining transaction of business by fund or administrator; appointment of receivers; criminal prosecution

If the Commissioner finds that any fund or its administrator (1) has failed to comply with any provision of this article, (2) is fraudulently operated, (3) is in such condition as to render further fund operations hazardous to the public interest or to the interests of the fund's members and their employees, (4) is financially unable to meet its obligations and claims as they come due, or (5) has violated any other provision of law, he may apply to the Superior Court of Fulton County for an injunction. The court may forthwith issue a temporary injunction restraining the transaction of any business by the fund; and, after a full hearing, it may make the injunction permanent and appoint one or more receivers to take possession of the books, papers, moneys, and other assets of the fund in order to settle its affairs and distribute its funds to those entitled thereto, subject to such rules and orders as the court may prescribe. If it appears that a crime has been committed in connection with the administration or management of any fund, the Attorney General may pursue the appropriate criminal action.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-169. Revocation and suspension of certificates of authority; probation and fine; voluntary dissolution or termination of functions

(a)  The Commissioner may revoke, suspend, or refuse to issue or renew the certificate of authority of any fund when and if, after investigation, he finds that:

(1)  Any certificate of authority issued to the fund was obtained by fraud;

(2)  There was any material misrepresentation in the application for the certificate of authority;

(3)  The fund or its administrators have otherwise shown themselves to be untrustworthy or incompetent;

(4)  Such fund or its administrator has violated any of the provisions of this article or the rules and regulations of the Commissioner promulgated pursuant to this article;

(5)  The fund or its administrator has misappropriated, converted, illegally withheld, or refused to pay over upon proper demand any moneys which belong to a member, an employee of a member, or a person otherwise entitled thereto and which have been entrusted to the fund or its administrator in its fiduciary capacities; or

(6)  The fund is found to be in an unsound condition or in such condition as to render its future transaction of business in this state hazardous to its members and their employees.

(b)  Before the Commissioner shall revoke, suspend, or refuse to issue or renew the certificate of authority of any fund, he shall give the fund an opportunity to be fully heard and to introduce evidence in its behalf. In lieu of revoking, suspending, or refusing to issue or renew the certificate of authority of any fund for any of the causes enumerated in this Code section, after hearing as provided in this article, the Commissioner may place the fund and its administrator on probation for a period of time not to exceed one year, may fine the fund not more than $1,000.00 for each offense, or both, when, in his judgment, he finds that the public interest and the interests of the fund's members and their employees would not be harmed by the continued operation of the fund.  The amount of any such penalty shall be paid by the fund to the Commissioner for the use of the state.  At any hearing provided for by this Code section, the Commissioner shall have authority to administer oaths to witnesses.  Any witness testifying falsely after taking an oath commits the offense of perjury.

(c)  No fund shall be voluntarily dissolved or otherwise voluntarily cease to function unless:

(1)  Written approval is first obtained from the Commissioner; and

(2)  The Commissioner determines that all claims and other legal obligations of the fund have been paid or that adequate provisions for such payment have been made.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-170. Taxes -- Imposition; deductions, reductions, abatements, and credits

Reserved.  Repealed by Ga. L. 1990, p. 997, § 3, effective July 1, 1990.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-171. Tax exemption

Funds organized and operating pursuant to this article shall be exempt from state and local premium taxes.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-172. Examinations by Commissioner to verify solvency of funds

(a)  The Commissioner shall have the authority to require and conduct periodic examinations to verify the solvency of funds in the same manner and under the same conditions as insurers are examined under Chapter 2 of Title 33, except that each fund shall be examined at least once each five years.  The Commissioner shall have the authority to require information to substantiate that the sponsoring association is engaged in substantial activity for the benefit of its members in accordance with the definitions of Code Section 34-9-151, but that authority is not to be construed as the right to regulate or inspect that association or its members.

(b)  The Commissioner is authorized to contract with private examiners to conduct examinations pursuant to subsection (a) of this Code section. If employees of the department conduct the examinations, the fund being examined shall pay to the department the reasonable expense of conducting the examination. If contract examiners conduct the examination, the fund being examined shall, at the discretion of the Commissioner, pay the costs so incurred either to the department or to the contracting party.  The Commissioner may use appropriated funds to conduct the examinations and shall provide by regulation for matters relative to the conduct of such examinations, including, without limitation, the expenditure of available funds for that purpose.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-173. Remedy of deficiencies in surplus or reserve; initiation of insolvency proceedings; assessments upon liquidation

(a)  If the assets of a fund are at any time insufficient to enable a fund to discharge its legal liabilities and other obligations and to maintain the reserves and surplus required of it under this article, it shall forthwith make up the deficiency or levy an assessment upon its members for the amount needed to make up the deficiency.

(b)  If the fund fails to make up the deficiency or to make the required assessment of its members within 30 days after the Commissioner orders it to do so or if the deficiency is not fully made up within 60 days after the date on which any such assessment is made or within such longer period of time as may be specified by the Commissioner, the fund shall be deemed to be insolvent and shall be proceeded against in the same manner as are domestic insurers under Chapter 37 of Title 33; and the Commissioner shall have the same powers and limitations in such proceedings as are provided under that chapter, except as otherwise provided for in this article.

(c)  If the liquidation of a fund is ordered, an assessment shall be levied upon its members for such an amount as the Commissioner determines to be necessary to discharge all liabilities of the fund, including the reasonable costs of liquidation.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-174. Promulgation of rules and regulations

The Commissioner shall have authority to promulgate rules and regulations to effectuate the provisions of this article.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-175. Hearings or other proceedings for aggrieved parties

Any party which is aggrieved by any act, determination, order, or any other action of the Commissioner taken pursuant to this article may request a hearing before the Commissioner or otherwise proceed in accordance with Chapter 13 of Title 50, the "Georgia Administrative Procedure Act."

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-176. Service of process; venue of actions

Except as otherwise provided in this article, service of process and venue shall be governed by the applicable provisions of Titles 9 and 14.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-177. Funds not to be deemed insurers

Notwithstanding any provisions of this article which might be construed to the contrary, no fund shall be considered an insurer for the purposes of Title 33 except for the limited purposes specified in this article; and, specifically, no fund shall be considered to be an insurer for the purposes of Chapter 36 of Title 33, the "Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool Act," or other laws of this state which relate to insurers or insurance companies.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-178. Construction of article

Nothing in this article shall be construed to apply to employers who elect to self-insure individually for workers' compensation pursuant to Code Section 34-9-121 and the rules of the State Board of Workers' Compensation or pursuant to any reciprocal agreements or contracts of indemnity executed prior to March 8, 1960, creating funds for the purpose of satisfying the obligations of self-insured employers under this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-179. Application of Chapter 6 of Title 33 to funds; enforcement by Commissioner

Chapter 6 of Title 33 shall apply to "funds," as defined in this article; and, for the purpose of determining whether a violation of that chapter has occurred, a member and its employees shall be deemed to be "insureds" or "policyholders," as used in the above-mentioned chapter, whichever is applicable.  In enforcing this Code section, the Commissioner shall be deemed to possess the same powers and be subject to the same restrictions as are applicable to the Commissioner under Chapter 6 of Title 33.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-180. Officials of funds prohibited from having pecuniary interests in transactions; exceptions

(a)  An officer, trustee, administrator, member of any committee, or employee of a fund who is charged with the duty of investing or handling the fund's assets shall not deposit or invest such assets except in the name of the fund; shall not borrow the assets of such fund; shall not be pecuniarily interested in any loan, pledge of deposit, security, investment, sale, purchase, exchange, reinsurance, or other similar transaction or property of such fund; and shall not take or receive for his or her own use any fee, brokerage, commission, gift, or other consideration for or on account of any such transaction made by or on behalf of such fund.

(b)  No fund shall guarantee any financial obligation of any of its officers, trustees, or administrators.

(c)  This Code section shall not prohibit a trustee, officer, member of a committee, or employee of a fund from being covered by the fund as an employee of a member and enjoying the usual rights so provided for employees of members.

(d)  The Commissioner shall, by regulation, define and permit additional exceptions to the prohibition contained in subsection (a) of this Code section solely to enable payment of reasonable compensation to a trustee or administrator who is not otherwise an officer or employee of the fund or to a corporation or firm in which a trustee or administrator is interested, for necessary services performed or sales or purchases made to or for the fund in the ordinary course of the fund's business and in the usual private professional or business capacity of the trustee or administrator or of the corporation or firm.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-181. Administrative fines, probation, or additional penalties

(a)  The Commissioner may, after a hearing, impose upon a fund an administrative fine if he finds that the fund, through the acts of its officers, employees, agents, or representatives, has with such frequency as to indicate its general business practice within this state:

(1)  Refused, without just cause, to pay proper claims arising under workers' compensation coverage provided by the fund; or

(2)  Compelled, without just cause, employee claimants of members or other persons entitled to the proceeds of the workers' compensation coverage provided by the fund to accept less than the amount due them or to bring an action against the fund to secure full payment or settlement thereof.

(b)  The administrative fine imposed for violations set forth in subsection (a) of this Code section shall not exceed $1,000.00 for each act of misconduct constituting a violation of this Code section; provided, however, that a fine of not more than $5,000.00 may be imposed for each act of willful misconduct constituting a violation of this Code section.

(c)  In addition to all other penalties provided for under this article, the Commissioner shall have the authority to place any fund on probation for a period of time not to exceed one year for each and every act or violation of this article or of the rules and regulations or orders of the Commissioner issued pursuant hereto and may subject such fund to a monetary penalty of up to $1,000.00 for each and every act in violation of this article or of the rules, regulations, or orders of the Commissioner issued pursuant hereto.  If the fund or its administrator knew or reasonably should have known that the fund was in violation of this article or of the rules and regulations or orders of the Commissioner, the monetary penalty provided for in this Code section may be increased to an amount up to $5,000.00 for each and every act or violation.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-182. Deadline for compliance

Except where otherwise specified in this article, funds established pursuant to this article shall have until July 1, 1998, to comply with the requirements of this article.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200. Compensation for medical care, artificial members, and other treatment and supplies; effect of employee's refusal of treatment; employer's liability for temporary care

(a)  The employer shall furnish the employee entitled to benefits under this chapter such medical, surgical, and hospital care and other treatment, items, and services which are prescribed by a licensed physician, including medical and surgical supplies, artificial members, and prosthetic devices and aids damaged or destroyed in a compensable accident, which in the judgment of the State Board of Workers' Compensation shall be reasonably required and appear likely to effect a cure, give relief, or restore the employee to suitable employment.

(b)  Upon the request of an employee or an employer, or upon its own motion, the board may in its judgment, after notice is given in writing of the request to all interested parties and allowing any interested party 15 days from the date of said notice to file in writing its objections to the request, order a change of physician or treatment and designate other treatment or another physician; and, in such case, the expenses shall be borne by the employer upon the same terms and conditions as provided in subsection (a) of this Code section.

(c)  As long as an employee is receiving compensation, he or she shall submit himself or herself to examination by the authorized treating physician at reasonable times.  If the employee refuses to submit himself or herself to or in any way obstructs such an examination requested by and provided for by the employer, upon order of the board his or her right to compensation shall be suspended until such refusal or objection ceases and no compensation shall at any time be payable for the period of suspension unless in the opinion of the board the circumstances justify the refusal or obstruction.

(d)  If an emergency arises and the employer fails to provide the medical or other care as specified in this Code section, or if other compelling reasons force the employee to seek temporary care, the employee is authorized to seek such temporary care as may be necessary.  The employer shall pay the reasonable costs of the temporary care if ordered by the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200.1. Rehabilitation benefits; effect of employee's refusal of treatment; rehabilitation suppliers; catastrophic injury cases

(a)  In the event of a catastrophic injury, the employer shall furnish the employee entitled to benefits under this chapter with reasonable and necessary rehabilitation services.  The employer either shall appoint a registered rehabilitation supplier or give reasons why rehabilitation is not necessary within 48 hours of the employer's acceptance of the injury as compensable or notification of a final determination of compensability, whichever occurs later.  If it is determined that rehabilitation is required under this Code section, the employer shall have a period of 20 days from the date of notification of that determination within which to select a rehabilitation supplier.  If the employer fails to select a rehabilitation supplier within such time period, a rehabilitation supplier shall be appointed by the board to provide services at the expense of the employer.  The rehabilitation supplier appointed to a catastrophic injury case shall have the expertise which, in the judgment of the board, is necessary to provide rehabilitation services in such case.

(b)  A change in the designated rehabilitation supplier shall be made only with approval of the board.  Any party to the case may request the board for a change in rehabilitation supplier.  The request shall be in a form and manner prescribed by rule of the board and copies of the request shall be served on all parties and each involved rehabilitation supplier.  Written objections to the request for a change in rehabilitation supplier may be filed with the board during the 15 day period following the date shown on the certificate of service and the board shall resolve such objections.

(c)  The refusal of the employee without reasonable cause to accept rehabilitation shall entitle the board in its discretion to suspend or reduce the compensation otherwise payable to such employee unless, in the opinion of the board, the circumstances justify the refusal, as determined in the manner provided under Code Section 34-9-100.  The board may require recommendations from a panel of specialists in determining whether or not suspension or reduction of compensation is justified.

(d)  Fees of rehabilitation suppliers and the reasonableness and necessity of their services shall be subject to the approval of the State Board of Workers' Compensation.  All rehabilitation suppliers shall file with the board all forms required by the board.  No rehabilitation supplier shall bill an employee for authorized rehabilitation services.  The board may require recommendations from a panel of appropriate peers of the rehabilitation supplier in determining whether the fees submitted and necessity of services rendered were reasonable.  The recommendations of the panel of appropriate peers shall be evidence of the reasonableness of fees and necessity of service which the board may consider.

(e)  Failure of the employee's attorney to cooperate with the rehabilitation supplier may result in the suspension or reduction of the fees provided in Code Section 34-9-108 if, in the judgment of the board, the failure to cooperate hindered the restoration of the employee to suitable employment.

(f)  Any rehabilitation supplier shall have a certification or license as set forth by board rule and shall be registered with the State Board of Workers' Compensation.  The board shall have the authority to refuse to register an applicant as a rehabilitation supplier, to remove a rehabilitation supplier from a case, to require corrective actions of a rehabilitation supplier, to assess penalties as provided under Code Section 34-9-18 against a rehabilitation supplier, or to suspend or revoke the board registration of a rehabilitation supplier for failure to comply with this chapter or the rules and regulations of the board or the standards of ethics of the applicable licensing or certifying body. Revocation of registration shall be determined in a hearing before an administrative law judge and an adverse decision may be appealed as provided under Code Sections 34-9-103 and 34-9-105.  The board shall establish by rule based upon recognized qualifications, educational standards, and competency in the field of rehabilitation suppliers, as determined and set out by the board, those persons who will be authorized to provide rehabilitation services to injured employees under this chapter.

(g)  "Catastrophic injury" means any injury which is one of the following:

(1)  Spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk;

(2)  Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of that appendage;

(3)  Severe brain or closed head injury as evidenced by:

(A)  Severe sensory or motor disturbances;

(B)  Severe communication disturbances;

(C)  Severe complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function;

(D)  Severe disturbances of consciousness;

(E)  Severe episodic neurological disorders; or

(F)  Other conditions at least as severe in nature as any condition provided in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of this paragraph;

(4)  Second or third degree burns over 25 percent of the body as a whole or third degree burns to 5 percent or more of the face or hands;

(5)  Total or industrial blindness; or

(6)

(A) Any other injury of a nature and severity that prevents the employee from being able to perform his or her prior work and any work available in substantial numbers within the national economy for which such employee is otherwise qualified; provided, however, if the injury has not already been accepted as a catastrophic injury by the employer and the authorized treating physician has released the employee to return to work with restrictions, there shall be a rebuttable presumption, during a period not to exceed 130 weeks from the date of injury, that the injury is not a catastrophic injury.  During such period, in determining whether an injury is catastrophic, the board shall give consideration to all relevant factors including, but not limited to, the number of hours for which an employee has been released.  A decision granting or denying disability income benefits under Title II or supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act shall be admissible in evidence and the board shall give the evidence the consideration and deference due under the circumstances regarding the issue of whether the injury is a catastrophic injury; provided, however, that no presumption shall be created by any decision granting or denying disability income benefits under Title II or supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.

(B) Once an employee who is designated as having a catastrophic injury under this subsection has reached the age of eligibility for retirement benefits as defined in 42 U.S.C. Section 416(l), as amended March 2, 2004, there shall arise a rebuttable presumption that the injury is no longer a catastrophic injury; provided, however, that this presumption shall not arise upon reaching early retirement age as defined in 42 U.S.C. Section 416(1), as amended March 2, 2004.  When using this presumption, a determination that the injury is no longer catastrophic can only be made by the board after it has conducted an evidentiary hearing.

The rehabilitation supplier appointed to a catastrophic injury case shall have the expertise which, in the judgment of the board, is necessary to provide rehabilitation services in such case.

(h)  In the event of an injury that is not catastrophic, the parties may elect that the employer will provide a rehabilitation supplier on a voluntary basis for so long as the parties agree in writing.  The rehabilitation supplier utilized by the parties must hold one of the certifications or licenses specified in subsection (f) of this Code section and be registered with the State Board of Workers' Compensation or have the expertise which, in the judgment of the board, is necessary to provide rehabilitation services in the case.

(i)  Subsequent to either an employer's designating an employee's injury as catastrophic or a board determination as to the catastrophic or noncatastrophic nature of an employee's injury, either party may request a new determination, based on reasonable grounds, as to the catastrophic or noncatastrophic nature of the employee's injury.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-201. Selection of physician from panel of physicians; change of physician or treatment; liability of employer for failure to maintain panel

(a)  As used in this Code section, the term "physician" shall include any person licensed to practice a healing art and any remedial treatment and care in the State of Georgia.

(b)  The employer may satisfy the requirements for furnishing medical care under Code Section 34-9-200 in one of the following manners:

(1)  The employer shall maintain a list of at least six physicians or professional associations or corporations of physicians who are reasonably accessible to the employees; provided, however, that the board may grant exceptions to the required size of the panel where it is demonstrated that more than four physicians or groups of physicians are not reasonably accessible.  This list shall be known as the "Panel of Physicians."  At least one of the physicians must practice the specialty of orthopedic surgery.  Not more than two industrial clinics shall be included on the panel.  An employee may accept the services of a physician selected by the employer from the panel or may select another physician from the panel.  The physicians selected under this subsection from the panel may arrange for any consultation, referral, and extraordinary or other specialized medical services as the nature of the injury shall require without prior authorization from the board; provided, however, that any medical practitioner providing services as arranged by a primary authorized treating physician under this subsection shall not be permitted to arrange for any additional referrals.  The employee may make one change from one physician to another on the same panel without prior authorization of the board;

(2)  The employer may maintain a list of physicians in conformity with the guidelines and criteria established and contained in the Rules and Regulations of the State Board of Workers' Compensation.  This list shall be known as the "Conformed Panel of Physicians."  An employee may obtain the services of any physician from the conformed panel and may thereafter also elect to change to another physician on the panel without prior authorization of the board.  The physician so selected will then become the primary authorized treating physician in control of the employee's medical care and may arrange for any consultation, referral, and extraordinary or other specialized medical services as the nature of the injury shall require without prior authorization by the board; provided, however, that any of the physicians to whom the employee is referred by the primary authorized treating physician shall not be permitted to arrange for any additional referrals; or

(3)  A self-insured employer or the workers' compensation insurer of an employer may contract with a managed care organization certified pursuant to Code Section 34-9-208 for medical services required by this chapter to be provided to injured employees.  Medical services provided under this paragraph shall be known as "Managed Care Organization Procedures."  Those employees who are subject to the contract shall receive medical services in the manner prescribed in the contract. Each such contract must comply with the certification standards provided in Code Section 34-9-208.  Self-insured employers or workers' compensation insurers who contract with a managed care organization for medical services shall give notice to the employees of the eligible medical service providers and such other information regarding the contract and manner of receiving medical services as the board may prescribe.

(c)  Consistent with the method elected under subsection (b) of this Code section, the employer shall post the Panel of Physicians or Conformed Panel of Physicians or Managed Care Organization Procedures in prominent places upon the business premises and otherwise take all reasonable measures to ensure that employees:

(1)  Understand the function of the panel or managed care organization procedures and the employee's right to select a physician therefrom in case of injury; and

(2)  Are given appropriate assistance in contacting panel or managed care organization members when necessary.

(d)  Notwithstanding the other provisions contained in this Code section, if an inability to make a selection of a physician as prescribed in this Code section is the result of an emergency or similarly justifiable reason, the selection requirements of this Code section shall not apply as long as such inability persists.

(e)  Upon the request of an employee or an employer, or upon its own motion, the board may order a change of physician or treatment as provided under Code Section 34-9-200.

(f)  If the employer fails to provide any of the procedures for selection of physicians as set forth in subsection (c) of this Code section, an employee may select any physician to render service at the expense of the employer.

(g)  The board shall promulgate rules and regulations to ensure, whenever feasible, the participation of minority physicians on panels of physicians maintained by employers or in managed care organizations pursuant to this Code section.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-202. Examination of injured employee; request for autopsy; examination by physician designated by employee

(a) After an injury and as long as he claims compensation, the employee, if so requested by his or her employer, shall submit himself or herself to examination, at reasonable times and places, by a duly qualified physician or surgeon designated and paid by the employer or the board. Such examination may include physical, psychiatric, and psychological examinations.

(b) The employee shall have the right to have present at such examination any duly qualified physician or surgeon provided and paid by him. No fact communicated to or otherwise learned by any physician or surgeon who may have attended or examined the employee or who may have been present at any examination shall be privileged either in hearings provided for by this chapter or in any action at law brought to recover damages against any employer who may have accepted the compensation provisions of this chapter.

(c) If the employee refuses to submit himself to or in any way obstructs such examination requested by and provided for by the employer, his right to compensation and his right to take or prosecute any proceedings under this chapter shall be suspended until such refusal or objection ceases; and no compensation shall at any time be payable for the period of suspension unless in the opinion of the board the circumstances justify the refusal or obstruction.

(d) The employer or the board shall have the right in any case of death to require an autopsy at the expense of the party requesting the same.

(e) Notwithstanding the rights afforded an employee under Code Section 34-9-201, the employee, after an accepted compensable injury and within 120 days of receipt of any income benefits, shall have the right to one examination at a reasonable time and place, within this state or within 50 miles of the employee's residence, by a duly qualified physician or surgeon designated by the employee and to be paid for by the employer. Such examination, of which the employer or insurer shall be notified in writing in advance, shall not repeat any diagnostic procedures which have been performed since the date of the employee's injury unless the costs of such diagnostic procedures which are in excess of $250.00 are paid for by a party other than the employer or the insurer. Such examination may include physical, psychiatric, and psychological examinations.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-203. Employer's pecuniary liability for medical charges; liability for medical malpractice; payment of reasonable charges; inclusion of reports and documentation with charges; defense for failure to make payments; penalties

(a)  The pecuniary liability of the employer for medical, surgical, hospital service, or other treatment required, when ordered by the board, shall be limited to such charges as prevail in the State of Georgia for similar treatment of injured persons of a like standard of living when such treatment is paid for by the injured persons.

(b)  The employer shall not be liable in damages for malpractice by a physician or surgeon furnished pursuant to this chapter, but the consequences of any malpractice shall be deemed part of the injury resulting from the accident and shall be compensated for as such.

(c)

(1)  All reasonable charges for medical, surgical, hospital, and pharmacy goods and services shall be payable by the employer or its workers' compensation insurer within 30 days from the date that the employer or the insurer receives the charges and reports required by the board.  The employer or insurer shall, within 30 days after receipt of charges for health care goods or services, mail to the provider of such health care goods or services payment of such charges or a letter or other written notice that states the reasons the employer or insurer has for not paying the claim, either in whole or in part, and which also gives the person so notified a written itemization of any documents or other information needed to process the claim or any portion thereof.

(2)  The failure by the employee or the health care goods or services provider to include with its submission of charges any reports or other documents required by the board shall constitute a defense for the employer's or insurer's failure to pay the submitted charges within 30 days of receipt of the charges.  However, if the employer or insurer fails to send the employee or the health care goods or services provider the requisite notice indicating a need for further documentation within 30 days of receipt of the charges, the employer and insurer will be deemed to have waived the right to defend a claim for failure to pay such charges in a timely fashion on the grounds that the charges were not appropriately accompanied by required reports.  Such waiver shall not extend to any other defense the employer and insurer may have with respect to a claim of untimely payment.

(3)  If any charges for health care goods or services are not paid when due, or any reimbursement for health care goods or services paid by the employee or any charges for mileage incurred by the employee are not paid when due, penalties shall be added to such charges and paid at the same time as and in addition to the charges claimed for the health care goods or services.  For any payment of charges paid more than 30 days after their due date, but paid within 60 days of such date, there shall be added to such charges an amount equal to 10 percent of the charges. For any payment of charges paid more than 60 days after their due date, but paid within 90 days of such date, there shall be added to such charges an amount equal to 20 percent of the charges.  For any charges not paid within 90 days of their due date, in addition to the 20 percent add-on penalty, the employer or insurer shall pay interest on that combined sum in an amount equal to 12 percent per annum from the ninety-first day after the date the charges were due until full payment is made.  All such penalties and interest shall be paid to the provider of the health care goods or services.

(4)  Notwithstanding any other provision of this subsection, if the employee or the provider of health care goods or services fails to submit its charges to the employer or its workers' compensation insurer within one year of the date of service or the issuance of such goods or services or, in the case of an employee, within one year of the date of incurring of mileage expenses, then the provider is deemed to have waived its right to collect such charges from the employer, its workers' compensation insurer, and the employee; and, in regard to mileage expenses, the employee is deemed to have waived his or her right to collect such charges from the employer or its workers' compensation insurer.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-204. Compensation where death or disability caused by nonwork related injury

(a)  No compensation shall be payable for the death or disability of an employee if his or her death is caused by or, insofar as his or her disability, may be aggravated, caused, or continued by a subsequent nonwork related injury which breaks the chain of causation between the compensable injury and the employee's disability.

(b)  It is the intent of the General Assembly that this Code section codify existing case law.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-205. Board approval of physician's fees, hospital, and other charges; collection of fees; schedule of charges; filing costs for peer review

(a)  Fees of physicians, charges of hospitals, charges for prescription drugs, and charges for other items and services under this chapter shall be subject to the approval of the State Board of Workers' Compensation.  No physician, hospital, or other provider of services shall be entitled to collect any fee unless reports required by the board have been made.

(b)  Annually, the board shall publish a list by geographical location of usual, customary, and reasonable charges for all medical services provided under subsection (a) of this Code section.  The board may consult with medical specialists in preparing said list.  Fees within this list shall be presumed reasonable.  No physician or hospital or medical supplier shall bill the employee for authorized medical treatment; provided, however, that if an employee fails to notify a physician, hospital, or medical supplier that he or she is being treated for an injury covered by workers' compensation insurance, such provider of medical services shall not be civilly liable to any person for erroneous billing for such covered treatment if the billing error is corrected by the provider upon notice of the same.  The board may require recommendations from a panel of appropriate peers of the physician or hospital or other authorized medical supplier in determining whether the fees submitted and necessity of services rendered were reasonable.  The recommendations of the panel of appropriate peers shall be evidence of the reasonableness of fees and necessity of service which the board shall consider in its determinations.

(c)   Any party requesting peer review pursuant to the provisions of this Code section shall pay to the board such filing costs for peer review as established by the board; provided, however, that the prevailing party in any peer review request shall be entitled to recover its filing costs, if any, from the party which does not prevail.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-206. Reimbursement for costs of medical treatment

(a)  Any party to a claim under this chapter, a group insurance company, or other health care provider who covers the costs of medical treatment for a person who subsequently files a claim under this chapter may give notice in writing to the board at any time during the pendency of the claim that such provider is or should be a party at interest as a result of payments made in the employee's behalf for medical treatment.

(b)  In cases where a group insurance company or other health care provider covers the costs of medical treatment for a person who subsequently files a claim and is entitled to benefits under this chapter, the board shall be authorized to order the employer or workers' compensation insurance carrier to repay the group insurance company or other health care provider the funds it has expended for the claimant's medical treatment, provided that such employer or its workers' compensation insurance carrier is liable under this chapter for such medical treatment and provided, further, that such other provider has become or should be a party at interest pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a) of this Code section.  The employer or its workers' compensation insurance carrier deemed liable for such medical treatment shall not be obligated to pay such sums directly to the employee unless, and only to the extent that, it is proven that the employee has paid for such medical treatment himself.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-207. Employee's waiver of confidentiality of communications with physician; release for medical records and information

(a)  When an employee has submitted a claim for workers' compensation benefits or is receiving payment of weekly income benefits or the employer has paid any medical expenses, that employee shall be deemed to have waived any privilege or confidentiality concerning any communications related to the claim or history or treatment of injury arising from the incident that the employee has had with any physician, including, but not limited to, communications with psychiatrists or psychologists.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, when requested by the employer any physician who has examined, treated, or tested the employee or consulted about the employee shall provide within a reasonable time and for a reasonable charge all information and records related to the examination, treatment, testing, or consultation concerning the employee.

(b)  When an employee has submitted a claim for workers' compensation benefits or is receiving payment of weekly income benefits or the employer has paid any medical expenses, the employee shall provide the employer with a signed release for medical records and information related to the claim or history or treatment of injury arising from the incident, including information related to the treatment for any mental condition or drug or alcohol abuse.  Said release shall designate the provider and shall state that it will expire on the date of the hearing.  If the employee refuses to provide a signed release for medical information as required by this subsection, any weekly income benefits being received by the employee shall be suspended and no hearing shall be scheduled at the request of the employee until such signed release is provided.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-208. Certification of managed health care providers

(a)  Any health care provider or group of medical service providers may make written application to the board to become certified to provide managed care to injured employees for injuries and diseases compensable under this chapter.

(b)  Each application for certification shall be accompanied by a reasonable fee prescribed by the board.  A certificate is valid for such period as the board may prescribe unless sooner revoked or suspended.

(c)  Application for certification shall be made in such form and manner and shall set forth such information regarding the proposed plan for providing services as the board may prescribe.  The information shall include, but not be limited to:

(1)  A list of the names of all individuals who will provide services under the managed care plan, together with appropriate evidence of compliance with any licensing or certification requirements for that individual to practice in this state;

(2)  A description of the times, places, and manner of providing services under the plan;

(3)  A description of the times, places, and manner of providing other related optional services the applicants wish to provide; and

(4)  Satisfactory evidence of ability to comply with any financial requirements to ensure delivery of service in accordance with the plan which the board may prescribe.

(d)  The board shall certify health care providers or a group of medical service providers to provide managed care under a plan if the board finds that the plan:

(1)  Proposes to provide services that meet quality, continuity, and other treatment standards prescribed by the board and will provide all medical and health care services that may be required by this chapter in a manner that is timely, effective, and convenient for the employee;

(2)  Provides appropriate financial incentives to reduce service costs and utilization without sacrificing the quality of service;

(3)  Provides adequate methods of peer review, service utilization review, and dispute resolution to prevent inappropriate or excessive treatment, to exclude from participation in the plan those individuals who violate these treatment standards, and to provide for the resolution of such medical disputes as the board considers appropriate;

(4)  Provides a program involving cooperative efforts by the employees, the employer, and the managed care organization to promote consultative and other services that will contribute to workplace health and safety and early return to work for injured employees;

(5)  Provides a timely and accurate method of reporting to the board necessary information regarding medical and health care service costs and utilization to enable the board to determine the effectiveness of the plan; and

(6)  Complies with any other requirement the board determines is necessary to provide quality medical services and health care to injured workers at a reasonable cost.

(e)  The board shall refuse to certify or may revoke or suspend the certification of any health care provider or group of medical service providers to provide managed care if the members of the board find that:

(1)  The plan for providing medical or health care services fails to meet the requirements of this Code section; or

(2)  Service under the plan is not being provided in accordance with the terms of a certified plan.

(f)  Utilization review, quality assurance, and peer review activities pursuant to this Code section shall be subject to the review of the board or the board's designated representatives.  Data generated by or received in connection with these activities, including written reports, notes, or records of any such activities, or of the board's review thereof, shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed by the board except as considered necessary by the board in the administration of this chapter.  The board may report professional misconduct to an appropriate licensing authority.

(g)  No data generated by utilization review, quality assurance, or peer review activities pursuant to this Code section or the board's review thereof shall be used in any action, suit, or proceeding except to the extent considered necessary by the board in the administration of this chapter.

(h)  A person participating in utilization review, quality assurance, or peer review activities pursuant to this Code section shall not be examined as to any communication made in the course of such activities or the findings thereof, nor shall any personnel be subject to an action for civil damage for affirmative actions taken or statements made in good faith.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-220. Period of incapacity preceding payment of compensation

No compensation shall be allowed for the first seven calendar days of incapacity resulting from an injury, including the day of the injury, except the benefits provided for in Code Section 34-9-200; provided, however, that, if an employee is incapacitated for 21 consecutive days following an injury, compensation shall be paid for such first seven calendar days of incapacity.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-221. Procedure; payment controverted by employer; delinquency charge; enforcement

(a)  Income benefits shall be paid periodically, promptly, and directly to the person entitled thereto, without an award, except where liability is controverted by the employer.  Payments shall be made in cash, by negotiable instrument, or, upon agreement of the parties, by electronic funds transfer.

(b)  The first payment of income benefits shall become due on the twenty-first day after the employer has knowledge of the injury or death, on which day all income benefits then due shall be paid.  Thereafter, income benefits shall be due and payable in weekly installments; provided, however, that the board may, in its discretion, authorize payments to be made in different installments if it determines that this would be beneficial to all parties concerned.  Such weekly payments shall be considered to be paid when due when mailed from within the State of Georgia to the address specified by the employee or to the address of record according to the board.  Such weekly payments shall be considered to be paid when due when mailed from outside the State of Georgia no later than three days prior to the due date to the address specified by the employee or the address of record according to the board.  Such weekly payments shall be considered to be paid when due at the time they are made by electronic funds transfer to an account specified by the employee.

(c)  Upon making the first payment and upon suspension of payment for any cause, the employer shall immediately notify the board and the employee, in accordance with forms prescribed by the board, that payment of income benefits has begun or has been suspended, as the case may be.

(d)  If the employer controverts the right to compensation, it shall file with the board, on or before the twenty-first day after knowledge of the alleged injury or death, a notice in accordance with the form prescribed by the board, stating that the right of compensation is controverted and stating the name of the claimant, the name of the employer, the date of the alleged injury or death, and the ground upon which the right to compensation is controverted.

(e)  If any income benefits payable without an award are not paid when due, there shall be added to the accrued income benefits an amount equal to 15 percent thereof, which shall be paid at the same time as, but in addition to, the accrued income benefits unless notice is filed under subsection (d) of this Code section or unless this nonpayment is excused by the board after a showing by the employer that owing to conditions beyond control of the employer the income benefits could not be paid within the period prescribed.

(f)  If income benefits payable under the terms of an award are not paid within 20 days after becoming due, there shall be added to the accrued income benefits an amount equal to 20 percent thereof, which shall be paid at the same time as, but in addition to, the accrued benefits unless review of the award is granted by the board.

(g)  Within 30 days after final payment of compensation, the employer shall send to the board a notice in accordance with the form prescribed by the board, stating that final payment has been made and stating the total amount of compensation paid, the name of the employee and any other person to whom compensation has been paid, the date of the injury or death, and the date to which income benefits have been paid.

(h)  Where compensation is being paid without an award, the right to compensation shall not be controverted except upon the grounds of change in condition or newly discovered evidence unless notice to controvert is filed with the board within 60 days of the due date of first payment of compensation.

(i)  Where compensation is being paid with or without an award and an employer or insurer elects to controvert on the grounds of a change in condition or newly discovered evidence, the employer shall, not later than ten days prior to the due date of the first omitted payment of income benefits, file with the board and the employee or beneficiary a notice to controvert the claim in the manner prescribed by the board.

(j)  The board or any administrative law judge shall issue such orders as may be necessary to enforce the penalty provisions of this Code section.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-222. Lump sum payments of all or part of compensation generally

(a)  Upon the application of any party when benefits have been continued for a period of not less than 26 weeks, if the board determines that it is for the best interest of the claimant to prevent extreme hardship or is essential to the rehabilitation of the claimant, the board may order that the liability of the employer for future income benefits be discharged by the payment of a lump sum equal to the sum of all future payments, reduced to their present value upon the basis of interest calculated at 7 percent per annum.

(b)  Under the same requirements of subsection (a) of this Code section, the board may order the employer to make advance payments of a part of the future income benefits by payment of a lump sum equal to such part of future payments.  The repayment of partial lump sum advance payments, together with interest of 7 percent per annum, may be accomplished by reducing the period of payment or reducing the weekly benefit, or both, as may be directed by the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-223. Lump sum payments to trustees

Whenever the board deems it expedient, any lump sum, subject to the provisions of Code Section 34-9-222, shall be paid by the employer to some suitable person or corporation appointed by the superior court of the county wherein the accident occurred or the original hearing was held as trustee to administer such payment for the benefit of the person or persons entitled thereto in the manner provided by the board.  The receipt by such trustees of the amount so paid shall discharge the employer or anyone else who is liable therefor.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-224. Payment of compensation to employees in service of more than one employer

Whenever any employee whose injury or death is compensable under this chapter shall at the time of the injury be in the joint service of two or more employers subject to this chapter, such employers shall contribute to the payment of such compensation in proportion to their wage liability to such employee; provided, however, that nothing in this Code section shall prevent any reasonable arrangement between such employers for a different distribution as between themselves of the ultimate burden of compensation.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-225. Effect of written receipt of widow or widower, minor, or guardian upon liability of employer; determination of obligation of employer to rival claimants

(a)  Whenever payment of compensation, in accordance with the terms of this chapter, is made to a widow or widower for her or his use or for her or his use and the use of the child or children, the written receipt thereon of such widow or widower shall release and discharge the employer.

(b)  Whenever payment in accordance with the terms of this chapter is made to any employee 18 years of age or over, the written receipt of such person shall release and discharge the employer. In cases where a person under the age of 18 years shall be entitled to receive a sum or sums amounting in the aggregate to not more than $300.00 as compensation for injuries or as a distributive share by virtue of this chapter, the father or mother as natural guardian or the legally appointed guardian of such person shall be authorized and empowered to receive such moneys for the use and benefit of such person and to receipt therefor; and the release or discharge by such father or mother as natural guardian or by the legally appointed guardian shall be in full and complete discharge of all claims or demands of such person thereunder.

(c)  Whenever payment of over $300.00, in accordance with the terms of this chapter, is provided for a person under 18 years of age or for a person over 18 who is physically or mentally incapable of earning, the payment shall be made to his duly and legally appointed guardian or to some suitable person or corporation appointed as trustee by the superior court as provided in Code Section 34-9-223; and the receipt of such guardian or such trustee shall release and discharge the employer.

(d)  Payment of death benefits by an employer in good faith to a dependent having a claim inferior to that of another or other dependents shall release and discharge the employer unless such dependent or dependents having a superior claim shall have given notice of his or their claim. In case the employer is in doubt as to the respective rights of rival claimants, he may apply to the board to decide between them.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-226. Appointment of guardian for minor or incompetent claimant

(a)  Except as provided in this Code section, the only person capable of representing a minor or legally incompetent claimant entitled to workers' compensation benefits shall be a guardian duly appointed and qualified by the probate court of the county of residence of such minor or legally incompetent person or by a court of competent jurisdiction outside the State of Georgia.  Said guardian shall be required to file with the board a copy of the guardianship returns filed annually with the probate court or with a court of competent jurisdiction outside the State of Georgia and give notice to all parties within 30 days of any change in status.

(b)  The board shall have authority in and shall establish procedures for appointing temporary guardians for purposes of administering workers' compensation rights and benefits without such guardian becoming the legally qualified guardian of any other property, without such guardian's actions being approved by a court of record, and without the posting of a bond, in only the following circumstances:

(1)  The board may, in its discretion, authorize and appoint a temporary guardian of a minor or legally incompetent person to receive and administer weekly income benefits on behalf of and for the benefit of said minor or legally incompetent person for a period not to exceed 52 weeks unless renewed or extended by order of the board;

(2) The board may, in its discretion, authorize and appoint a temporary guardian of a minor or legally incompetent person to compromise and terminate any claim and receive any sum paid in settlement for the benefits and use of said minor or legally incompetent person where the net settlement amount approved by the board is less than $50,000.00; and

(3)  If a minor or legally incompetent person does not have a duly appointed representative or guardian, the board may, in its discretion, appoint a guardian ad litem to bring or defend an action under this chapter in the name of and for the benefit of said minor or legally incompetent person to serve for a period not to exceed 52 weeks, unless renewed or extended by order of the board.  However, no guardian ad litem appointed pursuant to this Code section shall be permitted to receive the proceeds from any such action except as provided in this Code section and the board shall have the authority to determine compensation, if any, for any guardian ad litem appointed pursuant to this Code section.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-240. Effect of refusal of suitable employment by injured employee; attempting or refusing to attempt work with restrictions

(a)  If an injured employee refuses employment procured for him or her and suitable to his or her capacity, such employee shall not be entitled to any compensation, except benefits pursuant to Code Section 34-9-263, at any time during the continuance of such refusal unless in the opinion of the board such refusal was justified.

(b)  Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this Code section, if the authorized treating physician releases an employee to return to work with restrictions and the employer tenders a suitable job to the employee within those restrictions, then:

(1)  If the employee attempts the proffered job and is unable to perform the job for more than 15 working days, then weekly benefits shall be immediately reinstated, and the burden shall be upon the employer to prove that the employee is not entitled to continuing benefits; or

(2)  If the employee refuses to attempt the proffered job, then the employer may unilaterally suspend benefits upon filing with the board the appropriate form with supporting documentation of the release to return to work with restrictions by the authorized treating physician, the tender of a suitable job within those restrictions, and a statement that the employee did not attempt the proffered job.  Under those circumstances, the burden shall shift to the employee to prove continuing entitlement to benefits.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-241. Effect of subsequent injury on compensation

(a)  Limitation on simultaneous compensation.

If an employee received an injury for which income benefits are payable while still entitled to or receiving income benefits for a previous injury, the employee shall not be entitled to income benefits at the same time for both injuries unless because of the later injury the employee is entitled to income benefits for a permanent partial disability under Code Section 34-9-263; but the employee shall be entitled to income benefits for that injury and from the time of that injury which will cover the longest period and the largest amount of income benefits payable.  Compensation for other than income benefits shall be apportioned upon a determination of whether the need for such is attributable to the first or second injury.

(b)  Limitation on compensation for permanent partial disability.

If an employee received an injury for which income benefits are payable under Code Section 34-9-263 and has a preexisting bodily loss or loss of use as described under Code Section 34-9-263 which was increased by reason of the injury, the employee shall be entitled to income benefits under Code Section 34-9-263 only for the loss or loss of use as increased by the injury.  This limitation, however, shall not prevent the employee from continuing to receive income benefits for the preexisting loss or loss of use to which the employee is otherwise entitled under Code Section 34-9-263.

(c)  Total disability by subsequent injury.

(1)  An employee who has a prior disability as described in Article 9 of this chapter and who sustains a subsequent injury which combines with the prior injury to produce total disability shall be entitled to income benefits as provided in Code Section 34-9-261.  The loss of both hands, feet, arms, legs, or the loss of any two of them or the total loss of vision of both eyes shall be presumed to be total disability, subject to rebuttal.

(2)  An employer who makes payment under this subsection shall be entitled to reimbursement as determined under Article 9 of this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242. Compensation for injury outside of state

In the event an accident occurs while the employee is employed elsewhere than in this state, which accident would entitle him or his dependents to compensation if it had occurred in this state, the employee or his dependents shall be entitled to compensation if the contract of employment was made in this state and if the employer's place of business or the residence of the employee is in this state unless the contract of employment was expressly for service exclusively outside of this state.  If an employee shall receive compensation or damages under the laws of any other state, nothing contained in this Code section shall be construed so as to permit a total compensation for the same injury greater than is provided for in this chapter.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-243. Effect of payments made when not due; employer credit or reduction for employer funded payments pursuant to disability plan

(a)  The payment by the employer or the employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier to the employee or to any dependent of the employee of any benefit when not due or of salary or wages or any benefit paid under Chapter 8 of this title, the "Employment Security Law," during the employee's disability shall be credited against any payments of weekly benefits due; provided, however, that such credit shall not exceed the aggregate amount of weekly benefits due under this chapter.

(b)  Except as otherwise provided in this Code section or in a collective bargaining agreement, the employer's obligation to pay or cause to be paid weekly benefits under Code Section 34-9-261 or 34-9-262 shall be reduced by the employer funded portion of payments received or being received by the employee pursuant to a disability plan, a wage continuation plan, or from a disability insurance policy established or maintained by the same employer from whom benefits under Code Section 34-9-261 or 34-9-262 are claimed if the employer did contribute directly to such a plan or policy.  The employer funded portion shall be based upon the ratio of the employer's contributions to the total contributions to such plan or policy.

(c)  The credit or reduction of benefits provided in subsection (b) of this Code section shall only be made for those amounts which the employee is entitled to, has received, or is receiving during any period in which benefits under Code Section 34-9-261 or 34-9-262 are claimed.

(d)  The State Board of Workers' Compensation shall promulgate rules for establishing proof of the existence of other benefits.  The employer, its insurance carrier, and the employee shall freely release information to each other and the State Board of Workers' Compensation that is material and relevant to the existence of benefits which may be coordinated with entitlements and obligations under this chapter.

(e)  The employer or insurance carrier taking a credit or making a reduction as provided in this Code section shall immediately report to the State Board of Workers' Compensation the amount of any credit or reduction and, as requested by the board, furnish to the board satisfactory proof of the basis for a credit or reduction.

(f)  Subsections (a) and (b) of this Code section shall not apply to payments made to an employee under Code Section 34-9-263 for any permanent partial disability.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-244. Reimbursement of provider of disability benefits to person who subsequently files claim

(a)  Any party to a claim under this chapter, a group insurance company, or other disability benefits provider who provides disability benefits for a person who subsequently files a claim under this chapter may give notice in writing to the board at any time during the pendency of the claim that such provider is or should be a party at interest as a result of such disability benefits paid to the employer.

(b)  In cases where a group insurance company or other disability benefits provider pays disability benefits to a person pursuant to an employer paid plan who subsequently files a claim and is entitled to benefits under this chapter, the board shall be authorized to order the employer or its workers' compensation insurance carrier to repay the group insurance company or other disability benefits provider the funds it has expended for such disability benefits and take credit for that amount against income benefits due under this chapter, provided that:

(1)  Such employer or its workers' compensation insurance carrier is liable under this chapter for income benefits;

(2)  Such other provider has become or should be a party at interest pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a) of this Code section; and

(3)  The disability benefits paid are pursuant to a plan funded in whole or in part by the employer or workers' compensation carrier.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-245. Repayment of overpayment by claimant

Should the board find that a claimant has received an overpayment of income benefits from the employer, for any reason, the board shall have the authority to order repayment on terms acceptable to the parties or within the discretion of the board.  No claim for reimbursement shall be allowed where the application for reimbursement is filed more than two years from the date such overpayment was made.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-260. Basis and method for computing compensation generally

Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the average weekly wages of the injured employee at the time of the injury shall be taken as the basis upon which to compute compensation and shall be determined, subject to limitations as to the maximum and minimum amounts provided for in Code Sections 34-9-261 and 34-9-265, as follows:

(1)  If the injured employee shall have worked in the employment in which he was working at the time of the injury, whether for the same or another employer, during substantially the whole of 13 weeks immediately preceding the injury, his average weekly wage shall be one-thirteenth of the total amount of wages earned in such employment during the 13 weeks;

(2)  If the injured employee shall not have worked in such employment during substantially the whole of 13 weeks immediately preceding the injury, the wages of a similar employee in the same employment who has worked substantially the whole of such 13 weeks shall be used in making the determination under the preceding paragraph;

(3)  If either of the foregoing methods cannot reasonably and fairly be applied, the full-time weekly wage of the injured employee shall be used;

(4)  If compensation is due for a fractional part of the week, the compensation for such fractional part shall be determined by dividing the weekly compensation rate by the number of days employed per week to compute the amount due for each day;

(5)  If the injured employee is a volunteer firefighter included under this chapter for volunteer fire-fighting services rendered to a county or municipality of this state or a volunteer law enforcement officer included under this chapter for volunteer law enforcement services rendered to a county or municipality of this state, such firefighter's or volunteer law enforcement officer's average weekly wage shall be deemed to be the Georgia average weekly earnings of production workers in manufacturing industries for the immediately preceding calendar year, as published by the Georgia Department of Labor;

(6)  The average weekly wage of a member of the Georgia National Guard or State Defense Force serving on state active duty pursuant to an order by the Governor shall be the greater of:

(A)  Seven-thirtieths of the monthly pay and allowances of the individual at the time of the injury, computed in accordance with Code Section 38-2-250, adjusted from time to time for appropriated increases in such monthly pay and allowances, excluding longevity increases; or

(B)  If the injured member of the Georgia National Guard or the State Defense Force worked at the time of the injury in any employment other than serving as a member of the Georgia National Guard or the State Defense Force, the average weekly wage of the individual in such other employment as determined pursuant to paragraphs (1) through (5) of this Code section or, if such individual worked at the time of the injury for more than one employer, the average combined weekly wage of the individual in such multiple employment as determined pursuant to paragraphs (1) through (5) of this Code section.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-261. Compensation for total disability

While the disability to work resulting from an injury is temporarily total, the employer shall pay or cause to be paid to the employee a weekly benefit equal to two-thirds of the employee's average weekly wage but not more than $500.00 per week nor less than $50.00 per week, except that when the weekly wage is below $50.00, the employer shall pay a weekly benefit equal to the average weekly wage.  The weekly benefit under this Code section shall be payable for a maximum period of 400 weeks from the date of injury; provided, however, that in the event of a catastrophic injury as defined in subsection (g) of Code Section 34-9-200.1, the weekly benefit under this Code section shall be paid until such time as the employee undergoes a change in condition for the better as provided in paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of Code Section 34-9-104.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-262. Compensation for temporary partial disability

Except as otherwise provided in Code Section 34-9-263, where the disability to work resulting from the injury is partial in character but temporary in quality, the employer shall pay or cause to be paid to the employee a weekly benefit equal to two-thirds of the difference between the average weekly wage before the injury and the average weekly wage the employee is able to earn thereafter but not more than $334.00 per week for a period not exceeding 350 weeks from the date of injury.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-263. Compensation for permanent partial disability

(a)  Definition.  As used in this chapter, "permanent partial disability" means disability partial in character but permanent in quality resulting from loss or loss of use of body members or from the partial loss of use of the employee's body.

(b)  Payment of benefits.

(1)  In cases of permanent partial disability, the employer shall pay weekly income benefits to the employee according to the schedule included within this Code section.  These benefits shall be payable without regard to whether the employee has suffered economic loss as a result of the injury, except as herein provided.

(2)  Income benefits due under this Code section shall not become payable so long as the employee is entitled to benefits under Code Section 34-9-261 or 34-9-262.

(3)  If any employee is receiving benefits under this Code section and experiences a change in condition qualifying the employee for income benefits under Code Section 34-9-261 or 34-9-262, any payments under this Code section shall cease until further change of the employee's condition occurs.

(c)  Schedule of income benefits.  Subject to the maximum and minimum limitations on weekly income benefits specified in Code Section 34-9-261, the employer shall pay weekly income benefits equal to two-thirds of the employee's average weekly wage for the number of weeks determined by the percentage of bodily loss or loss of use times the maximum weeks as follows:

Bodily Loss                                             Maximum Weeks

(1)  Arm...............................................................225

(2)  Leg...............................................................225

(3)  Hand..............................................................160

(4)  Foot..............................................................135

(5)  Thumb............................................................ 60

(6)  Index finger..................................................... 40

(7)  Middle finger.................................................... 35

(8)  Ring finger...................................................... 30

(9)  Little finger.................................................... 25

(10)  Great toe....................................................... 30

(11)  Any toe other than the great toe................................ 20

(12)  Loss of hearing, traumatic

One ear........................................................ 75

Both ears.......................................................150

(13)  Loss of vision of one eye........................................150

(14)  Disability to the body as a whole................................300

(d)  Impairment ratings.  In all cases arising under this chapter, any percentage of disability or bodily loss ratings shall be based upon Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, fifth edition, published by the American Medical Association.

(e)  Loss of more than one major member.  Loss of both arms, hands, legs, or feet, or any two or more of these members, or the permanent total loss of vision in both eyes shall create a rebuttable presumption of permanent total disability compensable as provided in Code Section 34-9-261.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-264. Compensation for loss of hearing caused by harmful noise; procedure for measuring degree of hearing impairment; eligibility for compensation; liability of employer

(a)  As used in this Code section, the term:

(1)  "Harmful noise" means sound in employment capable of producing occupational loss of hearing as defined in paragraph (2) of this subsection.  Sound of an intensity of less than 90 decibels, A scale, shall be deemed incapable of producing occupational loss of hearing as defined in this Code section.

(2)  "Occupational loss of hearing" means a permanent sensorineural loss of hearing in both ears caused by prolonged exposure to harmful noise in employment.

(b)  Compensation based on 66 2/3 percent of average weekly wages, subject to limitations of Code Section 34-9-261, shall be payable for loss of hearing caused by harmful noise, subject to the following rules which shall be applicable in determining eligibility, amount, and period during which compensation shall be payable:

(1)  In the evaluation of occupational hearing loss, only the hearing levels at the frequencies of 500, 1,000, and 2,000 cycles per second shall be considered.  Hearing losses for frequencies below 500 and above 2,000 cycles per second are not to be considered as constituting compensable hearing disability.  No consideration shall be given to the question of whether or not the ability of an employee to understand speech is improved by the use of a hearing aid.  The board may order the employer to provide the employee with an original hearing aid if it will materially improve the employee's ability to hear;

(2)  The percentage of hearing loss shall be calculated as the average, in decibels, of the thresholds of hearing for the frequencies of 500, 1,000, and 2,000 cycles per second.  Pure tone air conduction audiometric instruments, properly calibrated according to accepted national standards such as American Standards Association, Inc. (ASA), International Standards Organization (ISO), or American National Standards Institute, Inc. (ANSI), shall be used for measuring hearing loss. If more than one audiogram is taken, the audiogram having the lowest threshold will be used to calculate occupational hearing loss.  If the losses of hearing average 15 decibels (26 db if ANSI or ISO) or less in the three frequencies, such losses of hearing shall not constitute any compensable hearing disability.  If the losses of hearing average 82 decibels (93 db if ANSI or ISO) or more in the three frequencies, then the same shall constitute and be total or 100 percent compensable hearing loss.  In measuring hearing impairment, the lowest measured losses in each of the three frequencies shall be added together and divided by three to determine the average decibel loss. For each decibel of loss exceeding 15 decibels (26 db if ANSI or ISO) an allowance of 1 1/2 percent shall be made up to the maximum of 100 percent which is reached at 82 decibels (93 db if ANSI or ISO).  In determining the binaural percentage of loss, the percentage of impairment in the better ear shall be multiplied by five.  The resulting figure shall be added to the percentage of impairment in the poorer ear, and the sum of the two divided by six.  The final percentage shall represent the binaural hearing impairment;

(3)  There shall be payable for total occupational loss of hearing 150 weeks of compensation and for partial occupational loss of hearing such proportion of these periods of payment as such partial loss bears to the total loss;

(4)  Except in instances of preexisting loss of hearing due to disease, trauma, or congenital deafness in one ear, no compensation shall be payable under this Code section unless prolonged exposure to harmful noise in employment has caused loss of hearing in both ears as hereinafter provided;

(5)  No compensation benefits shall be payable for temporary total or temporary partial disability under this Code section; and there shall be no award for tinnitus or a psychogenic hearing loss;

(6)  The regular use of employer provided protective devices capable of preventing loss of hearing from the particular harmful noise where the employee works shall constitute removal from exposure to such particular harmful noise.  No compensation benefits shall be payable for occupational loss of hearing caused by harmful noise if the employee fails to regularly utilize the employer provided protection device or devices which are capable of preventing loss of hearing from the particular harmful noise where the employee works;

(7)  The employer liable for the compensation in this Code section shall be the employer in whose employment the employee was last exposed to harmful noise in Georgia during a period of 90 working days or parts thereof; and an exposure during a period of less than 90 working days or parts thereof shall be held not to be an injurious exposure; provided, however, that, in the event an insurance carrier has been on the risk for a period of time during which an employee has been injuriously exposed to harmful noise and if after such insurance carrier goes off the risk said employee has been further exposed to harmful noise, although not exposed for 90 working days or parts thereof, so as to constitute an injurious exposure, such carrier shall, nevertheless, be liable;

(8)  An employer shall become liable for the entire occupational hearing loss to which his employment has contributed; but, if previous deafness is established by a hearing test or other competent evidence, whether or not the employee was exposed to harmful noise within six months preceding such test, the employer shall not be liable for previous loss so established, nor shall he be liable for any loss for which compensation has previously been paid or awarded.  The employer shall be liable only for the difference between the percentage of occupational hearing loss determined as of the date of disability and the percentage of loss established by preemployment and audiometric examinations excluding, in any event, hearing losses arising from nonoccupational causes.

(c)  No claim for compensation for occupational hearing loss shall be filed until six months have elapsed since exposure to harmful noise with the last employer.  The last day of such exposure shall be the date of disability.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-265. Compensation for death resulting from injury and other causes; penalty for death from injury proximately caused by intentional act of employer; payment of death benefits where no dependents found

(a)  When an employee is entitled to compensation under this chapter for an injury received and death ensues from any cause not resulting from the injury for which he or she was entitled to compensation, payments of the unpaid balance for such injury shall cease and all liability therefor shall terminate.

(b)  If death results instantly from an accident arising out of and in the course of employment or if during the period of disability caused by an accident death results proximately therefrom, the compensation under this chapter shall be as follows:

(1)  The employer shall, in addition to any other compensation, pay the reasonable expenses of the employee's burial not to exceed $7,500.00.  If the employee leaves no dependents, this shall be the only compensation;

(2)  The employer shall pay the dependents of the deceased employee, which dependents are wholly dependent on his or her earnings for support at the time of the injury, a weekly compensation equal to the compensation which is provided for in Code Section 34-9-261 for total incapacity;

(3)  If the employee leaves dependents only partially dependent on his or her earnings for their support at the time of the injury, the weekly compensation for these dependents shall be in the same proportion to the compensation for persons wholly dependent as the average amount contributed weekly by the deceased to the partial dependents bears to the deceased employee's average weekly wages at the time of the injury; and

(4)  When weekly payments have been made to an injured employee before his or her death, compensation to dependents shall begin on the date of the last of such payments; but the number of weekly payments made to the injured employee under Code Section 34-9-26134-9-262, or 34-9-263 shall be subtracted from the maximum 400 week period of dependency of a spouse provided by Code Section 34-9-13; and in no case shall payments be made to dependents except during dependency.

(c)  The compensation provided for in this Code section shall be payable only to dependents and only during dependency.

(d)  The total compensation payable under this Code section to a surviving spouse as a sole dependent at the time of death and where there is no other dependent for one year or less after the death of the employee shall in no case exceed $150,000.00.

(e)  If it shall be determined that the death of an employee was the direct result of an injury proximately caused by the intentional act of the employer with specific intent to cause such injury, then there shall be added to the weekly income benefits paid to the dependents, if any, of the deceased employee a penalty of 20 percent; provided, however, such penalty in no case shall exceed $20,000.00.  For the purpose of this subsection, an employer shall be deemed to have intended an injury only if the employer had actual knowledge that the intended act was certain to cause such injury and knowingly disregarded this certainty of injury. Nothing in this subsection shall limit the effect of Code Section 34-9-11.

(f)  Each insurer or self-insurer which, in a compensable death case, finds no dependent or dependents qualifying to receive dependency benefits shall pay to the State Board of Workers' Compensation one-half of the benefits which would have been payable to such dependent or dependents or the sum of $10,000.00, whichever is less.  All such funds paid to the board shall be deposited in the general fund of the state treasury.  If, after such payment has been made, it is determined that a dependent or dependents qualified to receive benefits exist, then the insurer or self-insurer shall be entitled to reimbursement by refund for moneys collected in error.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-266. Payment of compensation for time loss, disability, or death resulting from hernia

In all claims for compensation for hernia resulting from injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employee's employment it must be definitely proved to the satisfaction of the board:

(1)  that there was an injury resulting in hernia,

(2)  the hernia appeared suddenly,

(3)  the hernia was accompanied by pain,

(4)  the hernia immediately followed an accident, and

(5)  the hernia did not exist prior to the accident for which compensation is claimed.

All inguinal, femoral, or other hernias which are proven to be the result of an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment shall be treated in a surgical manner by radical operation.  If death results from such operation, the death shall be considered as a result of the injury and compensation shall be paid in accordance with Code Section 34-9-265.  In nonfatal cases, time loss only shall be paid unless it is shown by special examination, as provided in Code Section 34-9-202, that the injured employee has a permanent partial disability resulting from the operation. If so, compensation shall be paid in accordance with Code Section 34-9-263.  In the event the injured employee refuses to undergo the radical operation for the cure of the hernia, no compensation shall be allowed during the time such refusal continues.  If, however, it is shown that the employee has some chronic disease or is otherwise in such physical condition that the board considers it unsafe for the employee to undergo such operation, the employee shall be paid as provided in Code Section 34-9-262.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280. Definitions

As used in this article, the term:

(1)  "Disablement" means the event of an employee becoming actually disabled to work, as provided in Code Sections 34-9-261, 34-9-262, and 34-9-263, because of occupational disease;

(2)  "Occupational disease" means those diseases which arise out of and in the course of the particular trade, occupation, process, or employment in which the employee is exposed to such disease, provided the employee or the employee's dependents first prove to the satisfaction of the State Board of Workers' Compensation all of the following:

(A)  A direct causal connection between the conditions under which the work is performed and the disease;

(B)  That the disease followed as a natural incident of exposure by reason of the employment;

(C)  That the disease is not of a character to which the employee may have had substantial exposure outside of the employment;

(D)  That the disease is not an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed;

(E)  That the disease must appear to have had its origin in a risk connected with the employment and to have flowed from that source as a natural consequence.

For the purposes of this paragraph, partial loss of hearing due to noise shall not be considered an occupational disease.  Psychiatric and psychological problems and heart and vascular diseases shall not be considered occupational diseases, except where they arise from a separate occupational disease.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-281. Prerequisites to compensation for occupational disease

(a)  Where the employer and employee are subject to this chapter, the disablement or death of an employee resulting from an occupational disease shall be treated as the occurrence of an injury by accident; and the employee or, in the case of his or her death, the employee's dependents shall be entitled to compensation as provided by this chapter.  The practice and procedure prescribed in this chapter shall apply to all the proceedings under this article except as otherwise provided.

(b)  Except as otherwise provided in this Code section, an employer shall be liable for compensation under this article only where:

(1)  The disease arose out of and in the course of the employment in which the employee was engaged under such employer, was contracted while the employee was so engaged, and has resulted from a hazard characteristic of the employment in excess of the hazards of such disease attending employment in general; and

(2)  The claim for disablement is filed within one year after the date the employee knew or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the disablement and its relationship to the employment; but in no event shall the claim for disablement be filed in excess of seven years after the last injurious exposure to the hazard of such disease in such employment; provided, however, that an employee with asbestosis or mesothelioma related to exposure to asbestos shall have one year from the date of first disablement after diagnosis of such disease to file a claim for disablement.  In cases of death where the cause of action was not barred during the employee's life, the claim must be filed within one year of the date of death.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-282. Payment of medical and burial expenses of claimants

Any claimant who shall be entitled to compensation under the terms of this article shall be entitled to burial expenses and medical, hospital, and other treatment in the same amounts and with the same limitations and conditions as provided in Code Sections 34-9-200 and 34-9-265 for injured employees.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-283. Applicability to occupational diseases of provisions of Code Section 34-9-263 regarding permanent partial industrial disabilities

The provisions of Code Section 34-9-263 with respect to permanent partial industrial disabilities shall apply in the case of an occupational disease, save and except that there shall be no compensation due or payable for the partial loss of or for partial loss of use of a member or for partial loss of vision of an eye.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-284. Liability of last employer; compensation based on average weekly wage

Where compensation is payable for an occupational disease, the employer in whose employment the employee was last injuriously exposed to the hazards of such disease and the insurance carrier, if any, by whom the employer was insured when such employee was last so exposed under such employer shall alone be liable therefor, without right of contribution from any prior employer or insurance carrier.  The amount of the compensation for any occupational disease shall be based upon the average weekly wages of the employee, as determined under Code Section 34-9-260.  The date upon which the employee first suffers disablement from the occupational disease or the last date the employee was employed by any employer, whichever date would provide the higher average weekly wage for such employee, shall be deemed the date of the injury for the purpose of determining the average weekly wage; and the notice of injury and claim for compensation, as required by Code Sections 34-9-80 through 34-9-82, 34-9-85, and 34-9-86, shall be given and made to such employer.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-285. Noncompensable disease or infirmity

Where an occupational disease is aggravated by any other disease or infirmity not itself compensable or where disability or death from any other cause not itself compensable is aggravated, prolonged, accelerated, or in any other way contributed to by an occupational disease, the compensation payable shall be reduced and limited only to such proportion of the compensation that would be payable if the occupational disease were the sole cause of the disability or death as such occupational disease, as the causative factor, bears to all the causes of such disability or death.  Compensation shall be adjusted by reducing the number of weekly payments or the amounts of such payments as, in the circumstances of the particular case, may be determined by the board.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-287. Applicability of article to occupational diseases in which last injurious exposure occurred before April 30, 1946

Reserved.  Repealed by Ga. L. 1987, p. 1474, § 5, effective July 1, 1987.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-286. Payment of compensation to persons whose relationship with employee arises after disability

Reserved.  Repealed by Ga. L. 1987, p. 1474, § 4, effective July 1, 1987.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-288. Applicability of provisions of chapter to article

All of the provisions of this chapter shall be applicable to this article, unless otherwise provided in or inconsistent with this article.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-289. Exclusive liability of employer for employee's death or disability from occupational disease

Whenever an employer and employee are subject to this chapter, the liability of the employer under this article for the disablement or death of the employee from an occupational disease in any way incurred by such employee in the course of or because of his employment shall be exclusive and in place of any and all other civil liability whatsoever at common law or otherwise to such employee or to his personal representative, next of kin, spouse, parents, guardian, or any others.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-290. Reporting of hazardous occupations and cases of occupational disease to Department of Human Resources

Reserved. Repealed by Ga. L. 1996, p. 1291, § 14, effective July 1, 1996.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-291. Effect of false representations by employee regarding previous disability from or compensation for occupational disease

No compensation shall be payable for an occupational disease if the employee, in the course of or in the course of entering into the employment of the employer by whom the compensation would otherwise be payable, falsely represented himself in writing to such employer as not having previously been disabled, laid off, or compensated in damages or otherwise because of such disease.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-292. Payment of expenses of board

The total expenses of the State Board of Workers' Compensation for the administration, operation, and proper functioning of the board under this article shall be a proper charge under Code Section 34-9-63 and shall be payable as provided therein.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-310. Resolution of medical questions resulting from claims for compensation

(a)  When medical questions are in controversy in any claim for compensation for an occupational disease, the parties may agree to refer the employee to a licensed physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease at issue for an independent medical examination and report.  In the event that the parties cannot agree on the referral to be made, the State Board of Workers' Compensation shall refer the employee to a licensed physician who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of the disease at issue and who is certified by the appropriate medical board in the field encompassing such disease for an independent medical examination and report. No award may be made in such case until the appointed physician has filed with the board the report respecting all medical questions at issue.  The date of disablement, if in dispute, shall be deemed a medical question.  The board is authorized to charge the expense of the independent medical examination and report against either or both parties in the final award.

(b)  Proceedings may be suspended and no compensation may be payable for any period during which the employee may unreasonably fail or refuse to submit to such an examination.

(c)  Upon the filing of a claim for compensation for death from an occupational disease where an autopsy is necessary to accurately and scientifically ascertain or determine the cause of death, such autopsy may be ordered by the board.  The board may specify and designate a licensed physician who is a specialist in such examinations and who is certified by the appropriate medical board in the field encompassing such disease to perform or attend the autopsy and to certify his or her findings thereon.  Such findings shall be filed with the State Board of Workers' Compensation and shall become a part of the record in the case.  In the event no claim has been filed, the board may exercise such authority on its own motion or on application made at any time, upon presentation of facts showing that a controversy may arise in regard to the cause of death or the existence of any occupational disease.  The board is authorized to charge the expense of any such autopsy against the party requesting it.

(d)  The physician selected to conduct the independent medical examination of the claimant, and to issue a report on all medical questions presented, shall report in writing and file with the board all findings and conclusions on every medical question in controversy as soon as practicable, but in any event no later than 60 days after the date on which the independent medical examination, or autopsy, has been completed.

(e)  Either party may submit information to and may cross-examine such physician in accordance with paragraph (2) of subsection (e) of Code Section 34-9-102.  Each party submitting information to such physician shall serve a copy of such information to the opposing party.  The findings and conclusions contained in such report or testimony of such physician shall create a presumption of the correctness of such findings and conclusions, which presumption may be rebutted by other competent medical evidence.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-311. Investigation of medical questions by medical board; hearing before medical board; examination of employee by physician; autopsy to determine cause of death; filing of report of medical board with State Board of Workers' Compensa

Reserved.  Repealed by Ga. L. 1987, p. 1474, § 9, effective July 1, 1987.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-312. Promulgation of rules and regulations by medical board as to making of examinations and autopsies; determination of location of examinations; procedure by medical board in conducting medical investigations; reporting of investig

Reserved. Repealed by Ga. L. 1987, p. 1474, § 10, effective July 1, 1987.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-313. Power to compel attendance of witnesses and production of records

The medical board shall have the same power to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of records as the superior courts of this state have to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of records.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-350. Purpose and construction of article

It is the purpose of this article to encourage the employment of persons with disabilities by protecting employers from excess liability for compensation when an injury to a disabled worker merges with a preexisting permanent impairment to cause a greater disability than would have resulted from the subsequent injury alone.  It shall not be construed to create, increase, or provide any benefits for injured employees or their dependents not otherwise provided by this chapter.  The entitlement of an injured employee or dependents to compensation under this chapter shall be determined without regard to this article, the provisions of which shall be considered only in determining whether the employer or insurer who has paid compensation under this chapter is entitled to reimbursement from the Subsequent Injury Trust Fund.

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O.C.G.A. § 34-9-351. Definitions

As used in this article, the term:

(1)  "Merger of an injury with a preexisting permanent impairment" describes or means that:

(A)  Had the preexisting permanent impairment not been present, the subsequent injury would not have occurred;

(B)  The disability resulting from the subsequent injury in conjunction with the preexisting permanent impairment is materially, substantially, and cumulatively greater than that which would have resulted had the preexisting permanent impairment not been present, and the employer has been required to pay and has paid compensation for that greater disability; or

(C)  Death would not have been accelerated had the preexisting permanent impairment not been present.

(2)  "Permanent impairment" means any permanent condition due to previous injury, disease, or disorder which is, or is likely to be, a hindrance or obstacle to employment or to obtaining reemployment if the employee should become unemployed.

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