2020 Georgia Code
Title 34 - Labor and Industrial Relations
Chapter 9 - Workers' Compensation
Article 6 - Payment of Compensation
Part 2 - Method of Payment
§ 34-9-222. Lump Sum Payments of All or Part of Compensation Generally
- 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 5 percent per annum.
- 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 5 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.
(Ga. L. 1920, p. 167, § 43; Code 1933, § 114-417; Ga. L. 1937, p. 528; Ga. L. 1963, p. 141, § 10; Ga. L. 1978, p. 2220, § 8; Ga. L. 1988, p. 1679, § 22; Ga. L. 2013, p. 651, § 3/HB 154.)Law reviews.
- For article on the 2013 amendment of this Code section, see 30 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 185 (2013).
- Workers' Compensation Acts (see now O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1 et seq.) are enacted to benefit employees and their dependents. The purpose of compensation is that it shall be in lieu of wages, and it is the intention of the Acts that it shall be paid as wages; that is, periodically. Any deviation from this method of payment is contrary to the declared purpose of the Acts and must be done only as provided by law. Lumbermens Mut. Cas. Co. v. McIntyre, 67 Ga. App. 666, 21 S.E.2d 446 (1942).
The legislative intent of O.C.G.A. § 34-9-222 was to provide that lump sum awards were to consist of the claimant's future income benefits only and not to create a bar to claims for workers' compensation medical benefits subsequent to a lump sum award. Atha v. Jackson Atlanta, Inc., 159 Ga. App. 433, 283 S.E.2d 654 (1981).
Legislature intended through O.C.G.A. § 34-9-222 to remove its predecessor's bar to recovery of subsequent medical benefits by providing that after July 1, 1978, a lump sum award should consist only of a claimant's "future income benefits." Atha v. Jackson Atlanta, Inc., 159 Ga. App. 433, 283 S.E.2d 654 (1981).
Purpose of requiring weekly payments is to enable the employee to provide for the employee and the employee's family during the employee's period of incapacity, and the law wisely recognizes that its very purpose would be defeated if in all cases the employer should be permitted to commute a future liability to a lump sum, which might soon be expended, leaving the injured employee and the employee's dependents without a means of support. United States Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Nash, 116 Ga. App. 123, 156 S.E.2d 550 (1967).
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-222 did not create "substantive right" to medical benefits under workers' compensation law because that "right" existed before that section was enacted. It merely provides a procedure whereby the claimant could receive a lump sum award of income benefits while leaving claimant's right to subsequent medical benefits intact. Atha v. Jackson Atlanta, Inc., 159 Ga. App. 433, 283 S.E.2d 654 (1981).Scope of board's authority.
- Board was without jurisdiction to apply any formula for determining the present worth of future payments other than that prescribed by this section. Tillman v. Moody, 181 Ga. 530, 182 S.E. 906 (1935).
Only authority vested in the board to approve lump sum settlements was that conferred by this section. Tillman v. Moody, 181 Ga. 530, 182 S.E. 906 (1935).
Board was without jurisdiction or authority to approve any lump sum settlement not made in conformity with this section; and such a settlement was contrary to public policy and void. Tillman v. Moody, 181 Ga. 530, 182 S.E. 906 (1935).
In determining whether to award a lump sum payment to a claimant: (1) the board must decide whether the grant meets the criteria of O.C.G.A. § 34-9-222; (2) the board's finding must be based on competent evidence; and (3) except in extraordinary circumstances, no formal hearing is required. Johnson v. Atlanta Dairies Coop., 172 Ga. App. 403, 323 S.E.2d 185 (1984).Circumstances justifying lump sum award.
- Only exceptional circumstances justify a departure from the general rule of periodical payments of compensation. In addition there should be evidence that the money, if awarded in a lump sum, will be properly safeguarded. United States Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Nash, 116 Ga. App. 123, 156 S.E.2d 550 (1967).Hearing is prerequisite to lump sum award.
- It is a condition precedent to the award of a lump sum payment on the application of a claimant that a hearing be had on the question and evidence be presented sufficient to authorize a finding of fact by the board that the lump sum award will be to the best interest of the employee or the employee's dependents. Travelers Ins. Co. v. Williams, 109 Ga. App. 719, 137 S.E.2d 391 (1964).Adjudication of permanent disability not prerequisite.
- It is not a condition precedent to lump sum payment that it first be adjudicated that the disability is permanent and that a definite amount of compensation be fixed. Lumbermens Mut. Cas. Co. v. McIntyre, 67 Ga. App. 666, 21 S.E.2d 446 (1942), criticized, Hartford Accident & Indem. Co. v. Fuller, 102 Ga. App. 384, 116 S.E.2d 628 (1960).Lump sum awards to be sparingly granted.
- In view of all of the contingencies which could cause the cessation of payments either for death benefits or for temporary or total permanent disability, injustice will less likely occur if the award of lump sum payments be sparingly granted, since, obviously, they may be paid in full in cases in which the amount paid under the order might never accrue. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co. v. Fuller, 102 Ga. App. 384, 116 S.E.2d 628 (1960).Award relates to medical as well as wage benefits.
- Lump sum award under this section related not only to wage benefits but also to medical benefits, since in this state, when a claimant filed for benefits under the Workers' Compensation Law (see now O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1), claimant was entitled to a claim not only to benefit for lost wages but also for specified medical benefits. Jackson v. Georgia Bldg. Auth., 144 Ga. App. 275, 241 S.E.2d 54 (1977).
There was no provision for indemnification of the employer and the employer's insurer and no provision for taking into consideration the probable death of the employee in this section. Lumbermens Mut. Cas. Co. v. McIntyre, 67 Ga. App. 666, 21 S.E.2d 446 (1942).
Credit is allowed against any future income benefit due, including permanent partial disability, once a permanent impairment rating has been made. Edgeman v. Organic Chem. Corp., 173 Ga. App. 4, 325 S.E.2d 400 (1984).Discretion of board
- It is a matter within the discretion of the board whether or not an award shall be paid in a lump sum. Bryant v. Fidelity & Cas. Co., 114 Ga. App. 853, 152 S.E.2d 759 (1966); United States Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Nash, 116 Ga. App. 123, 156 S.E.2d 550 (1967); West Point Pepperell, Inc. v. Luallen, 147 Ga. App. 135, 248 S.E.2d 287 (1978).
Board's discretion will not be controlled unless it is apparent from the record that the board abused its discretion in refusing to order the award paid in a lump sum. Bryant v. Fidelity & Cas. Co., 114 Ga. App. 853, 152 S.E.2d 759 (1966); West Point Pepperell, Inc. v. Luallen, 147 Ga. App. 135, 248 S.E.2d 287 (1978).No findings of fact are necessary in awarding a lump sum payment.
- The provisions of former Code 1933, § 114-707 (see now O.C.G.A. § 34-9-102), insofar as they required that awards of the board must be accompanied by findings of fact, related only to such awards which grant or deny compensation, or change the amount of compensation to be paid the employee, and it was simply a matter within the discretion of the State Board as to whether or not such award be paid in a lump sum. Accordingly, no definite findings of fact need be set out other than the findings of the board when they hold the opinion that a lump sum settlement would be in the best interest of the claimant and would not work a hardship on the employer/insurer. West Point Pepperell, Inc. v. Luallen, 147 Ga. App. 135, 248 S.E.2d 287 (1978).Showing of best interest required.
- The board was without authority to make an award in a lump sum in the absence of evidence showing that it was in the best interest of the parties and in the absence of any evidence as to the probable future payments. Lumbermens Mut. Cas. Co. v. McIntyre, 67 Ga. App. 666, 21 S.E.2d 446 (1942).
Before the board may grant a lump sum award, there must be sufficient evidence in the record that it is in the best interest of the employee or the employee's dependents. Mayor of Athens v. Cook, 104 Ga. App. 136, 121 S.E.2d 82 (1961); United States Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Nash, 116 Ga. App. 123, 156 S.E.2d 550 (1967).Withdrawal of acceptance of offer of settlement.
- Any settlement that may be reached between an employer and an employee represents no more than their proposed mutual offer to settle, which offer must be accepted and approved by the board before a binding settlement agreement between them is created. When the claimants withdrew their consent to the mutual offer before the board could accept and approve it, the board correctly refused to enforce the settlement agreement. Justice v. Davidson Kennedy Co., 194 Ga. App. 585, 391 S.E.2d 414 (1990).Attorneys' fees.
- The board was without authority, under this section, to make a lump sum award of attorney's fees with credit to be taken by the employer or insurer at the end of the maximum compensation period, when the previous award was given for temporary total disability only. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co. v. Fuller, 102 Ga. App. 384, 116 S.E.2d 628 (1960).
It is error for the board to treat an award for temporary total disability as though it were for permanent total disability and to award as attorney's fees in a lump sum the final one-third of the maximum benefits which could possibly accrue. Since the award was for temporary disability, it is quite possible that the compensation awarded as attorney's fees might never become due. Conformably, this court must hold that the award of attorney's fees in the lump sum was without evidence to support it. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co. v. Fuller, 102 Ga. App. 384, 116 S.E.2d 628 (1960).
Board is not precluded from making a lump sum award of attorneys' fees although it is possible, upon the condition of termination of dependency of those entitled to receive payments, that counsel will have received money that the employer and insurer would never have been required to pay in the absence of the lump-sum award. This factor should, however, be afforded weighty consideration in determining whether the award should be made. Boston Ins. Co. v. Sharpton, 111 Ga. App. 16, 140 S.E.2d 302 (1965).
Before the board may lawfully make an award of a lump sum payment of contingent attorney's fees in a death case, there must be: (a) a specific finding that such an award is in the best interest of the dependents, or that it will prevent undue hardship on the employer without prejudicing the interests of the dependents; and (b) sufficient evidence in the record upon which such a finding might be based. Boston Ins. Co. v. Sharpton, 111 Ga. App. 16, 140 S.E.2d 302 (1965).Appellate review.
- When the evidence, although contradictory, is sufficient to authorize the essential finding of fact that a lump sum award will be in the best interest of the employee or the employee's dependents, the lump sum award will not be reversed by the courts as the findings of fact made by the board within its power, in the absence of fraud, are conclusive. Travelers Ins. Co. v. Williams, 109 Ga. App. 719, 137 S.E.2d 391 (1964), overruled on other grounds, Johnson v. Atlanta Dairies Coop., 172 Ga. App. 403, 323 S.E.2d 185 (1984).
Lump sum award must be affirmed by the courts when there is evidence which authorizes the board to find that a lump sum payment would be in the best interest of the claimant. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Cox, 125 Ga. App. 357, 187 S.E.2d 580 (1972).Res judicata.
- This section did not provide that a lump sum settlement was res judicata. However, there are many decisions of the appellate courts to the effect that all facts of an agreement or award are res judicata except the condition of the claimant. Miller v. Independent Life & Accident Ins. Co., 86 Ga. App. 538, 71 S.E.2d 705 (1952).
Cited in Rourke v. U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co., 187 Ga. 636, 1 S.E.2d 728 (1939); Employers Liab. Assurance Corp. v. Pruitt, 190 Ga. 479, 9 S.E.2d 641 (1940); Hartford Accident & Indem. Co. v. Black, 72 Ga. App. 182, 33 S.E.2d 278 (1945); Chevrolet, Atlanta Div., GMC v. Dickens, 86 Ga. App. 18, 70 S.E.2d 515 (1952); Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills v. Speaks, 90 Ga. App. 685, 83 S.E.2d 872 (1954); Travelers Ins. Co. v. Haney, 92 Ga. App. 319, 88 S.E.2d 492 (1955); Borden Co. v. Fuerlinger, 95 Ga. App. 556, 98 S.E.2d 410 (1957); Cardin v. Riegel Textile Corp., 217 Ga. 797, 125 S.E.2d 62 (1962); Coates & Clark, Inc. v. Thomason, 107 Ga. App. 133, 129 S.E.2d 360 (1962); GMC v. Harrison, 107 Ga. App. 667, 131 S.E.2d 234 (1963); American Mut. Liab. Ins. Co. v. Stephens, 109 Ga. App. 634, 137 S.E.2d 95 (1964); Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. v. Bailey, 111 Ga. App. 609, 142 S.E.2d 388 (1965); Proctor v. Dixie Bell Mills, Inc., 222 Ga. 4, 148 S.E.2d 385 (1966); Connecticut Indem. Co. v. Gaudio, 116 Ga. App. 672, 158 S.E.2d 680 (1967); Williams v. Bituminous Cas. Co., 121 Ga. App. 175, 173 S.E.2d 250 (1970); Mull v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 226 Ga. 462, 175 S.E.2d 552 (1970); Waycross Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. Hiott, 141 Ga. App. 600, 234 S.E.2d 111 (1977); General Ins. Co. of Am. v. Bradley, 152 Ga. App. 600, 263 S.E.2d 446 (1979); Georgia Mental Health Inst. v. Padgett, 171 Ga. App. 353, 319 S.E.2d 524 (1984).
- Workers' compensation: reopening lump-sum compensation payment, 26 A.L.R.5th 127.