Suffering an injury on the job is the last thing you expect when you clock in for the day. An injury can stop your career in its tracks and cost you thousands in medical bills and lost wages. If your injuries are catastrophic, you’re looking at a lifetime of partial or total disability. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation exists to reimburse injured workers for their damages after on-the-job injuries.
Workers’ compensation is a mandatory insurance program in Georgia that 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. There is no need to prove someone else’s negligence in relation to your injury. The program will compensate you regardless of fault, as long as you fulfill other requirements. If you’re pursuing a workers’ comp claim and are having issues or difficulties, come to Kaufman Law, P.C. for a free legal consultation.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
As an employee, you should not have to pay for injuries or harms that arise out of work-related tasks. This is the belief that founded workers’ compensation insurance programs throughout the U.S. 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.
In most situations, workers’ comp will pay for the employee’s harms regardless of who was at fault for the injury. 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 may be worthwhile to speak to an attorney about a potential claim against your employer before you decide to accept workers’ compensation. A personal injury claim based on negligence can result in greater compensation.
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. In 2014, injured employees in Georgia were paid over $1 billion in indemnity claims, while another $220 million was paid out in medical only claims.
Certain employers are exempt from having to carry this type of insurance. Those in agricultural employment, small employers (with fewer than three workers), domestic services, and casual labor firms do not need to provide workers’ comp coverage. In these cases, injured workers may have to pay for damages out of pocket or pursue personal injury lawsuits. Here’s an overview of available benefits through Georgia workers’ comp:
100% of medical costs associated with the workplace injury or illness.
Cash benefits for missed days at work after a three to seven day waiting period.
No more than $575 per week in missed wages in the state of Georgia.
Death and funeral benefits to survivors after a worker’s wrongful death.
Temporary total disability benefits to replace two-thirds of the worker’s wages.
Temporary partial disability benefits for lower salary due to injuries.
Permanent total disability benefits for employees who cannot go back to work.
Permanent partial disability benefits for a specific duration or a dollar limit.
In accepting the applicable benefits for a workplace injury, an employee exchanges his or her right to bring any type of tort suit against the employer for damages. The employee can, however, file a lawsuit against a third party while receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Third parties may include coworkers, product manufacturers, and property owners who are not also the employer. Benefit amounts and time frames will vary depending on the extent of the injury and its impact on the worker’s life and career.
Georgia-Specific Workers’ Compensation Rules
As an employee working in Georgia, you should learn the specific rules that govern the workers’ compensation system. Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Law mandates dozens of rules that employers and employees must obey to fulfill the requirements of this insurance system. Obeying the rules is necessary to avoid hurting your chances of receiving compensation. Skipping a step or ignoring a provision of the law can result in the insurance company denying your claim. Some of these rules are as follows:
Employees must report workplace accidents to employers immediately, either in person or through an agent, representative, supervisor, or foreman of the employer. An employee may lose the right to workers’ compensation if he or she does not report the accident within 30 days of its occurrence.
Your employer must post information regarding the workers’ comp program and a minimum of six doctors employees may choose from after a workplace injury. Going to a doctor that your employer does not approve of can result in the workers’ compensation system denying your claim, or requesting a second medical opinion.
A participating healthcare provider must give an initial evaluation within 24 hours after the employee requests treatment for a work-related injury. If the employee already received treatment by a provider not on the list, the employee must undergo another evaluation by an accepted provider within five working days.
Compensation for injuries must include payment for salary or hourly pay, tips, and the value of housing or food the employer furnishes. There are several methods of computation the insurance company may use when calculating disability benefits. The final amount will depend on the disability rating and income.
An employee can receive workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time. However, the fact that you’re receiving workers’ comp benefits may reduce the amount the Social Security Administration determines you need.
If an employee doesn’t receive benefits through workers’ compensation, he or she has one year from the date of the accident to file a claim. This process begins with Form WC-14, which requests claim information and any hearing or mediation issues. Filing this form can protect your right to compensation through the State Board. Your employer should be able to answer any questions you may have about the workers’ compensation filing process.
Workers’ Compensation Statistics
The U.S. Department of Labor keeps track of the number of workers’ compensation claims in every state. Georgia’s most recent report showed a total of 7,332 claims so far in 2017. These claims represent thousands of workers who have sustained minor to major injuries or illness while on the job in Georgia. Successful claims in the state have resulted in a total of $269,072,498 paid in compensation and medical bills by insurance companies in Georgia.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.9 million total nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses around the country in 2015. The “production, transportation, and material moving” occupation group had the highest incident rate for injuries and illnesses that required the employee to miss days at work. The median for time missed at work for this occupation was 12 days. The second-highest rate went to “natural resources, construction, and maintenance,” with a median of 10 days away.
Transportation incidents were the most common fatal occupational injury event in 2015, with 2,054 total deaths. Slips & falls took second place, with 800 total deaths, followed by contact with objects/equipment, violence by persons or animals, exposure to harmful substances, and fires and explosions.
In Georgia, there were over 78,000 work related injuries and illness reported by private employers in 2015. On average for all industries, there were 3.1 incidents per 100 full time workers that caused an employee to miss any time at work.
Only three specific industries had a higher incident rate: natural resources and mining, education and health services and transportation and utilities. The lowest rates occur among workers in the information, professional services and financial activities sectors.
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation claims don’t always go smoothly for injured workers. The insurance company may try to deny the claim unfairly. Your employer may not carry an adequate insurance policy. You may need to file a lawsuit on top of a workers’ comp claim. For all of these reasons, consult with a workers’ compensation attorney in Atlanta.
An attorney can help you file your claim with the proper party, and increase your chances of success. A lawyer can also file a lawsuit against a third party on your behalf, if the circumstances permit. Talk to an attorney first, before you engage in lawsuits against your employer or a third party.
Kaufman Law, P.C. has more than 40 years of experience handling workers’ compensation claims for Georgia’s workers. At our Atlanta law office, we are well-versed in the intricacies and nuances of the state’s workers’ compensation laws. We know exactly what your case needs and how to maximize your compensation. If the State Board has denied your claim for some reason, or if you’re dealing with a complex case, we can help you achieve the settlement you deserve.
Dealing with a tricky workplace injury case in Atlanta? Request your free consultation to see how we can help you with your claim.
How Our Lawyers Can Help with a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Although the state strives to make the workers’ compensation program as simple as possible, many cases do not fit the board’s cookie-cutter model for claims. If your injuries are catastrophic, the insurance company accuses you of fraud or denies your claim, your employer retaliates against you for filing, your accident happened because of negligence in the workplace, or you somehow don’t qualify for disability benefits, you may need an attorney’s assistance. A lawyer can help push your claim through as quickly as possible, as well as pursue damages through a third-party lawsuit if possible.
Every employer with at least three employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance in Georgia. If you suffer any type of injury or illness while performing a job-related task – in or out of the office – you most likely qualify for workers’ comp benefits. You have 30 days from the date of the incident to report your injury to your employer. If you miss this deadline, you could lose your right to compensation. Your employer should be able to help you file your workers’ compensation claim after you give your notice of injury.
At this point, you could run into a few different roadblocks on your way to recovery. You will need to fill out a WC-14 form and submit it to the board, including as much information about your accident as possible. You will also need to seek medical attention from an approved doctor on your employer’s insurance list. There is a chance the insurance company will deny our claim, stating that you lack evidence or that you had a preexisting condition. Filing with help from our lawyers safeguards you in the event of issues, delays, or denials.
Don’t Wait – Get Help in Atlanta Today
Every day, hundreds of American employees go to the hospital for on-the-job injuries. Many of these accidents are preventable. Our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys can help you file a claim with the board and explore your rights to sue a third party, such as a coworker or product manufacturer. We know all the ins and outs of the Georgia workers’ compensation system and can maximize your returns. Don’t hesitate to take us up on our offer of a free case evaluation. Call (404) 355-4000 to get in touch with our Atlanta attorneys.