What Is Workers’ Compensation?
As an employee, you should not have to pay for injuries or harms that arise out of work-related tasks. Workers’ compensation enables workers to recover the costs of medical care and lost wages after a work-related illness or injury. All employees who suffer due to occupational diseases or workplace injures are eligible for benefits through the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Does My Employer Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
In Georgia, any business with three or more employees, including part-time workers, must carry workers’ compensation insurance. Failure to comply with this rule can lead to serious fines and citations for the business owner. Workers’ compensation insurance will then pay employees who sustain injuries, illnesses, or disabilities related to work.
For the expansive list of types of workers we represent, click here.
Am I Eligible To Take Advantage Of Workers’ Compensation?
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act defines “employee” as a person who is under the service of another under any contract of hire or apprenticeship. To qualify for workers’ compensation in Georgia, you must work for a company which provides workers’ compensation. Every business is required by Georgia law to provide workers’ compensation to their employees if they employee more than 3 workers. Even a regular part-time employee, such as one who works regular part-time shifts, is eligible to take advantage of workers’ compensation.
Can I Be Fired For Filing A Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Many employees worry about losing their job when filing their workers’ compensation claims. Losing a job under these circumstances is not without precedent. It is illegal for an employer to let an employee go for filing a workers’ compensation claim, but it does happen.
The Georgia Secretary of State says that employees throughout the state are at-will workers. This means that an employer may terminate a contract of employment for any just cause, or even no cause at all, as long as it’s not illegal. These “illegal” causes include the following:
- Race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation
This last one is the most pertinent when it comes to workers’ compensation claims. An employer cannot lawfully retaliate or fire you for filing for benefits to which you’re entitled. On the other hand, it can happen because employers know that their employees might be unfamiliar with the retaliation clause.
On the other hand, there might be some circumstances in which you may be lawfully fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. One example might be if you sustained an injury away from the job, and tried to file a workers’ compensation claim. Falsifying information on your workers’ compensation claim forms may put your job in jeopardy.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Insurance Cover?
Workers’ compensation provides medical care and cash benefits when workers get hurt on the job. The list of injuries and illnesses workers’ compensation program covers is expansive, and includes almost every type of harm imaginable. Workers’ comp payments can cover medical only claims and also indemnity benefits, payments that attempt to restore the injured person to the same financial condition they were in before their injury.
You are entitled to receive two-thirds of your weekly wage while you are recovering from your injury based on your average wages from the previous 13 weeks, up to a maximum of $575 per week.
What Is Considered A Work-Related Injury?
Injuries covered under Georgia workers’ compensation must occur while the employee is actively engaged in their ongoing duties during employment. The “course of employment” does not only mean injuries caused during the 9-5 workday, but can also include employer-sponsored events that occur on the weekend, or accidents that occur while an employee is traveling to and from locations as part of their job.
Injuries under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act include:
- Broken Bones
- Hearing Loss
- Lung Damage from ongoing exposure to toxic fumes
- Arthritis caused by heavy lifting
- Spinal Cord Injury leading to severe paralysis
- Limb Amputation leading to the loss of use
- Severe Brain Injury
Georgia workers’ compensation differentiates between catastrophic injuries and non-catastrophic injuries. In catastrophic injury cases, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation will focus on the ability of the employee to return to work after the accident, and will consider the following in their decision:
- Medical Diagnosis over the past year
- Medical Records
- Treating Physician’s Opinion
- Employee’s Work History
- Employee’s Education
- What Are Examples Of Injuries Not Covered?
Injuries covered under Georgia workers’ compensation may not include anything related to an injury caused by a willful attack against a person for personal reasons, horseplay, alcoholism, an occurrence during your commute to or from work, or an occurrence during your lunch break. Furthermore, if your employment status with your employer is that of an independent contractor, or if you are a farm laborer whose employer has not elected to provide workers’ compensation coverage, you will not be eligible to claim an injury. It is important that you carefully research your rights and your employer’s obligations and consult with an experienced professional during this time.
Do I Have To be Involved In An Accident To File For Workers’ Comp?
While many claims do involve workplace accidents, other claims may involve injuries that come on gradually, such as infections, joint damage, heart attacks, or diseases caused by workplace environments.
Do I Have To Prove Fault?
While decades ago, an employee was required to prove that the employer was at fault for any resulting injuries that occurred on the job, employees currently do not have this requirement when filing a claim. In most situations, workers’ comp will pay for the employee’s harms regardless of who was at fault for the injury.
Are Repetitive Motion Injuries & Stress Injuries Covered?
Injuries covered by workers’ compensation can include a disease which evolved from an accident that occurred during employment. Injuries can also sometimes include an aggravation of a preexisting condition caused by an accident during employment. Injuries caused by ongoing stress injuries can also be covered by workers’ compensation. These injuries may include:
- Arthritis from ongoing heavy lifting
- Carpal Tunnel
- Knee or Joint Damage
However, the employee will need to keep careful medical records and be able to show that the injury was caused by their work environment and ongoing job duties.
What Is An Occupational Illness?
Occupational illnesses may occur after prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals. Your employer has a duty to protect its employees from dangerous situations, and the result of ongoing exposure leading to illness will qualify as a workplace injury. Toxins may include:
- Do I Need An Attorney For My Workers’ Comp Case?
Accepting workers’ compensation benefits precludes the employee from filing a lawsuit against the employer for injuries sustained. This can be a good thing, since it eliminates the need to go to court for compensation. However, it is still usually worthwhile to speak to an attorney about a potential claim against your employer before you decide to accept workers’ compensation. For questions regarding a potential workers’ compensation case, contact us here.
What Can Kaufman Law Do For You?
The procedural requirements for filing a workers’ compensation action may seem overwhelming immediately after a devastating accident impacts your ability to work. The legal team at Kaufman Law has experience in assisting clients with their workers’ compensation claims, and determining whether any individual injuries should be brought outside the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Our team will take the burden of dealing with the administrative headache from you, while you focus on recovering from you injury. Contact our Atlanta office today for your FREE consultation.
For common workers’ compensation medical FAQ’s, read here.