Last fall, several state legislators proposed bills that would amend Georgia’s workers’ compensation law. One such change included providing workers diagnosed with a job-related cancer diagnosis the opportunity to pursue a claim and be entitled to benefits. House Bill 216 (HB 216), was enacted to amend section 34-9-280 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) which is the state’s occupational disease statute. Although HB 216 was passed by Georgia legislators during the regular session, on May 3, 2016, Governor Nathan Deal vetoed HB 216.
Before HB 216
Prior to state legislators passing HB 216, a cancer diagnosis was excluded from coverage as an “occupational disease” under O.C.G.A. 34-9-280 (d). The additional language proposed, however, includes cancer. One particular difference in the different versions of the proposed law is the burden of proof the claimant – the employee seeking workers’ compensation benefits – was required to meet in order to be entitled to benefits. The standards proposed included a rebuttable presumption, a preponderance of the evidence, and clear and convincing evidence.
- Rebuttable presumption – this is an assumption made by a court or other entity (such as the Workers’ Compensation Commission), that is taken to be true unless a party comes forward with proof otherwise and contests the presumption;
- Preponderance of the evidence – this requires that more than 50 percent of the evidence put forth points to a particular proof. This is commonly the burden of proof in a civil trial; and
- Clear and convincing evidence – a higher standard than preponderance of the evidence, this requires a party to prove that something is substantially more likely than not to be true.
When the bill was originally proposed, it provided a rebuttable presumption to firefighters that the diagnosis was work-related and included a number of diseases. Because this version did not have enough support to get passed, a compromised effort shifted the rebuttable presumption to a different standard. Instead, a firefighter seeking workers’ compensation benefits resulting from a cancer diagnosis that is allegedly work-related must prove the connection by a preponderance of the evidence. Other compromises in the amended bill included limiting the scope of diseases to just cancer and the occupation specific to firefighters. In the Senate, however, the push was to expand the language of HB 216 to include all employees and all diseases but with the higher evidentiary standard of clear and convincing evidence. The bill, prior to Governor Deal’s veto, would have given a firefighter the specific ability to obtain workers’ compensation benefits after showing by a preponderance of the evidence – to include medical evidence – that the diagnosis of cancer was specific to his or her performance of the duties of the occupation.
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Workers’ Compensation Help in Savannah
If you or someone you know has been injured on the job and ended up with an illness, injury or disability as a result of your occupation, you should seek legal assistance with your Georgia workers’ compensation claim. The attorneys at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers seek to ensure the insurance company pays on time for injuries sustained on the job. Do not delay – you should file a workers’ compensation claim right away. If you missed the deadline to file, or are facing any other legal hurdles in your workers’ compensation claim, contact our Savannah GA work injury claim attorneys today for your initial case evaluation.