October 29, 2009

Update from the Workers' Compensation Attoney Seminar October 15 - 17, 2009

A panel of three Administrative Law Judges – Judge Melodie Belcher, Judge Vicki Snow, and Judge William Cain – addressed the workers’ compensation section of the State Bar on October 15, 2009. A major focus of their presentation was good and bad practice habits of employers, insurers, and attorneys.

The Judges made several useful recommendations.

  • File the Forms: All three judges stressed the importance of filing forms correctly, and timely. Remember to file the WC-1 within 21 days of the employer’s knowledge of the accident. A WC-2 must be filed and served upon both the employee and the employee’s attorney if represented, and failure to provide timely notice of suspension of benefits (10 days) can result in additional benefits owed. A WC-3 must be filed within 21 days of the employer’s knowledge of the accident or within 81 days of a claim which was initially accepted as compensable. Failure to file board forms in a timely manner may result in assessed penalties and attorney’s fees against the employer/insurer.

  • File the Forms Part II: Filing the proper forms is so important to Administrative Law Judges, they advised that even a form filed after the deadline can avoid penalties and fees, so long as it is filed. The lesson to take from this is to the file the forms, even if they’re late.

  • Retain Counsel at the Outset of Litigation: Judges do not like having to track down insurers to determine whether they want an attorney to represent them at an upcoming hearing. They also do not like attorneys asking for a continuance because they are new to the file. Hiring an attorney early in the process avoids this frustration. It also helps protect the employer/insurer’s interests and may lead to a greater chance of success at the hearing.

  • Peer Review is for Medical Bills Only: Peer review is a forum to resolve disputes over medical expenses between medical providers and employers/insurers. The Judges correctly pointed out that peer review was not intended to serve as a substitute for an IME or to negate the opinion of the authorized treating physician.

October 26, 2009

The Effect Weekly Benefits, Remedial Treatment and Estoppel Have on the All Issues Statute of Limitation

O.C.G.A. 34-9-82(a) states '[t]he right to compensationn 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"

If no income benefits are paid or remedial treatment provided, the application of the rule is straight forward. However, when medical benefits are furnished or income benefits paid, issues arise concerning the date the clock begins running for a a claimant to file a timely claim. Those issues include what constitutes remedial treatment and weekly benefits. Read the full article.

by Christina J. Bevill and Benjamin I. Jordan
David and Rosetti, LLP
Workers' Compensation Defense Attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia