- How Does Workers’ Comp Work in Georgia?
- Who May Be Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Georgia?
- The 11 Most Common Types of Workers’ Comp Claims
- How To File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
- Why Might My Workers’ Comp Claim Be Denied?
- What To Do if Your Employer Denies Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
- Frequently Asked Questions About Working With Workers’ Compensation Law Firms
- Consult With an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for Free
If you have been injured while at work in Georgia, there is help available. Injured workers may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits that can help cover the costs of medical bills, additional expenses, and lost wages during their recovery period. Hiring an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer can help ensure that you file for your benefits correctly, receive the maximum payment amounts possible, and allow you to focus on healing. Most importantly, hiring a lawyer who focuses on Georgia workers’ compensation cases can help you improve your quality of life during this stressful time.
How Does Workers’ Comp Work in Georgia?
Workers’ compensation in Georgia is governed by The Workers’ Compensation Act. Under this law, employers must provide timely medical and disability benefits for workers who are injured on the job. By doing so, employers are shielded against lawsuits that an injured employee might otherwise file under tort liability. The following classes of claims are covered by workers’ compensation:
- Medical Only: In medical-only claims in Georgia, an injured worker can receive compensation for his or her medical bills, but not for indemnity benefits for lost wages as these employees have not missed any time from work during a recovery period. Medical-only claims must be treated by covered “panel” doctors in order to be eligible for payment. Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 34-9-201) mandates that a list of at least six physicians whose services will be covered must be made available at an office or job site for medical-only claims. These selected doctors must meet certain requirements. For example, at least one panel doctor must specialize in orthopedics and there can be no more than two large-scale “industrial clinics” included.
- Temporary Partial Disability: Temporary partial disability payments are made on a weekly basis and are designed to compensate injured workers for some lost wages because of the underlying occupational injury. Examples of temporary partial disability benefits might include an hourly worker with a back injury, who can return to work, but cannot perform the full shift responsibilities due to the work injury. Since this person would be missing out on some of his or her pay due to a temporary partial disability, these workers would be entitled to additional payments to make up the difference. Under Georgia law, injured workers are entitled to a maximum of 350 weeks of Temporary Partial Disability benefits.
- Temporary Total Disability: Temporary total disability (TTD) payments are allocated for workers who cannot return to work at all during their recovery process, or whose employers cannot accommodate their request for a lighter workload while they heal. For instance, a court stenographer suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome may not be able to come in to work during a recovery period after surgery. He or she may qualify for temporary total disability payments during this time because the job is predicated upon an ability to use his or her hands. TTD benefits are usually equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage. TTD indemnity benefits are also calculated based on an average 13 weeks of gross wages earned prior to the accident, or, for new hires, based on gross weekly earnings from a similar worker at the same company.
- Permanent Partial Disability: Permanent partial disability benefits are an important area of work injury insurance that often gets overlooked. These benefits attempt to address the “life time” or residual physical effect the work injury has had on the worker. Generally, once an injured worker reaches a point of maximum medical improvement, the physician will determine what percentage of the worker’s physical abilities have been lost due to the work injury as outlined by the American Medical Association’s Guide to Impairment, 5th edition. This these cases, the injured workers qualifies for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits even if he or she can return to back to work. For example, the authorized treating physician may certify that a Georgia worker lost ten percent (10%) use of her arm due to a compensable work injury. This permanent loss will carry a monetary figure outlined in the Georgia workers’ compensation law after considering her workers’ compensation rate.
- Catastrophic / Lifetime Claims: These serious claims involve the permanent total disability of Georgia workers who have a permanent loss of both body parts, like a combination of arms, legs, feet, hands, or vision in both eyes. These “catastrophic” injuries are so severe that the employee cannot return to work in any capacity. Hence, these claims entitle the injured employee “lifetime” medical and income benefits as it relates to the underlying occupational injury which do not expire after 400 weeks like all other workers’ compensation claims.
- Death: A workplace death is a tragic situation, especially for an employee’s loved ones. In Georgia, workers’ compensation is structured so that an employee’s dependents, such as a wife, husband, or children, are not suddenly left with burial costs, funeral expenses, associated medical bills, as well as losing a provider’s wages after a workplace accident. The employer and its insurance company may cover these costs, as well as provide weekly benefits for a spouse or for children under 18 until they reach legal age, in some cases.
- Vocational Rehabilitation: If your workplace accident was so severe that you need to change fields after your injury, a Georgia workers’ compensation claim may cover vocational rehabilitation and job retraining costs. As vocational rehabilitation is expensive, it is generally contested by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Hence, it would be in the injured employee to retain an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer to address these valuable benefits.
The differences between these benefits can be subtle and are greatly influenced by the authorized treating physician’s opinions as to your work status coupled with the employer’s ability to offer lighter shift work during the recovery period. Additionally, how workers’ compensation benefits are calculated and what is considered a work-related injury varies from state to state. Because of these nuances, it is imperative to work with local workers’ compensation lawyers who are knowledgeable about Georgia law. Injured workers are often taken advantage of by adjusters trained to limit or “adjust” your benefits.
Don’t be that injured worker.
Who May Be Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Georgia?
In Georgia, any business with three or more employees are required to obtain workers’ compensation coverage. This requirement covers both full-time and part-time employees, as well as seasonal and temporary workers, and minors in some instances. Immigration status also does not have any bearing on an injured workers’ entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. There is no requirement to have worked for an employer for a certain amount of time in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits; you are eligible from day one of your employment.
However, in Georgia, there are some employees who are considered exceptions to the state’s workers’ compensation laws. Volunteers, consultants, independent contractors, freelancers, railroad and farm workers, and longshoremen may not be eligible for workers’ compensation insurance in Georgia under their employer. For this reason, many businesses require independent contractors to have their own workers’ compensation insurance in place in the event of an accident.
If you are a member of any of the aforementioned groups, you may still be eligible to receive compensation benefits after certain kinds of workplace accidents. Speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer in Atlanta for city, state, and federal guidelines, and to fully understand when workers not covered by a W2 can fall under the jurisdiction of employer insurance payments.
How Much Does Workers’ Comp Pay in Georgia?
According to Georgia law, employees are paid two thirds of their average weekly wage, not to exceed more than $800 per week, for an accident on or after July 1, 2023. You may also receive a reduced weekly benefit for a maximum of 350 weeks from the date of injury if you can return to work, but under compromised circumstances due to your injury. This benefit, calculated based on prior wages, will not exceed $533 per week for accidents that occurred on or after July 1, 2023.
An injured worker may be covered for more than just hospital bills under workers’ compensation insurance. You may also be able to claim other expenses related to receiving medical care, such as physical therapy costs, prescriptions, and necessary travel expenses to seek treatment.
The 11 Most Common Types of Workers’ Comp Claims
On the job injuries happen more often than anyone hopes, and medical expenses can add up quickly. When you need to take time off work, consult with multiple doctors, or have additional follow up or rehabilitative care, you may find yourself needing to rely on workers’ compensation payments to bridge the gap. The following are some of the most common types of workers’ compensation claims in Georgia:
- Sprains and Strains: Sprains and strains may seem like minor nuisances, but you still may need to seek medical treatment to ensure that you heal properly from them. Don’t avoid taking time off when you need to recover. Sprains and strains are some of the most commonly seen and covered workplace injuries by workers’ compensation payments.
- Repetitive Motion Injuries: Repetitive motion injuries most often occur among office workers, but can also be found amongst workers who perform recurring manual labor or exert certain muscle groups more frequently. Carpal tunnel syndrome and the necessary treatments is particularly common and is considered a covered injury under Georgia workers’ comp law.
- Overexertion: Georgia weather can be unforgiving, as construction crews, repair crews, and other workers exposed to the elements know better than anyone. Overexertion, including dehydration, may be covered by workers’ compensation payments, especially when hospitalization is necessary for recovery.
- Back and Spine Injuries: Back and spine injuries can cause lifelong pain and impairment when they are not seen and properly treated. Even under the best of circumstances, back and spine injuries can still lead to temporary partial or permanent disability.
- Shoulder Injuries: Shoulder injuries often involve both immediate treatment as well as follow-up physical therapy and care. Both may be covered by your workers’ compensation insurance.
- Slip and Falls: Slip and fall accidents may be covered for employees under workers’ compensation insurance. An Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney can help advise you about the best way forward with your claim.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries and Other Catastrophic Injuries: TBIs and other catastrophic injuries can have lasting consequences for both you and your family. These cases tend also to be the costliest for both your employer’s insurance as well as your own finances. Unfortunately, many workers’ comp insurance adjusters may attempt to avoid paying the full amount owed in cases involving ongoing disability or debilitating injury in order to protect their own bottom line. A Georgia workers’ compensation attorney can take haggling with insurance companies off of your to do list when you need valuable time and intensive care to recover from a traumatic brain injury or other serious concern.
- Burns: Burns are a common workplace accident, especially first and second degree burns. Burns often require medical attention, and can lead to lasting consequences such as scarring and disfigurement that should be accounted for a workers’ compensation settlement.
- Struck By an Object: Under Georgia Code § 25-15-110, it is illegal to perform labor of any kind such as building demolition, repair, construction, alteration, cleanup or painting without first providing proper scaffolding. However, even with appropriate scaffolding, workers may still be struck by falling objects or similar accidents. Having a proprer workers’ compensation insurance policy in place ensures coverage for medical care and time off of work to recover in cases of physical injury and possible concussion.
- Workplace Violence: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace violence was the second-most frequent fatal work event in Georgia during 2021. Workplace violence, including injury by human or animal, accounted for 37 fatal work injuries in Georgia, up from 23 fatalities in 2020.
- Machinery Accidents: Machinery accidents can result from improper training, lack of safety gear, employee exhaustion, and more. Machinery accidents can also involve extended employer liability if other factors contributed to a machinery-caused workplace injury.
How To File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Technically, you do not need an attorney in order to file for workers’ compensation in Georgia, but many injured employees choose to go through a workers’ compensation law firm to complete their claim. When claims are disputed, or if you are temporarily incapacitated from your injury, working with an Atlanta law firm can ensure that your claim is filed correctly and in a timely manner while you focus on recovery.
In order to file for workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia, you will need to:
- File the Correct Form: File a completed Form WC-14 with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation will provide you with Form WC-14 in order to complete your claim, or you can download a copy from the Board’s website.
- File on Time: The statute of limitations for a Georgia workers’ comp claim is one year from date of the injury. Claims filed past this point may not be fulfilled.
Why Might My Workers’ Comp Claim Be Denied?
A denied claim means missing benefits, mounting medical bills, and more. A claim might be denied if you…
- Did not report the pain or accident;
- Sought your own medical care outside of workers’ compensation;
- Provided inconsistent statements to your medical provider;
- Didn’t follow your prescribed medical treatment;
- Didn’t disclose pre-existing conditions; and
- Posted info about your injury or life on social media.
If you suffer from pre-existing injuries or conditions that are aggravated by a workplace accident, you may still qualify for workers’ compensation. Georgia Code § 34-9-1 dictates that employees can still receive workers’ comp payments with pre-existing disabilities. However, the employee must prove that their condition was worsened by the work.
What To Do if Your Employer Denies Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
If your employer disputes that your injury happened at work, claims it was caused by a pre-existing condition, or otherwise denies to cover your work-related injury, you can appeal this decision. Workers’ compensation is your right as an employee. The insurance company may have an internal review board that you can appeal to directly, or you can file with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. If you request a formal hearing, your claim will be heard by an administrative law judge. If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you can follow up with the claim via the state of Georgia’s appellate division.
You can take on all of the above steps on your own, or you can entrust the process to an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer. Ramos & Law is one of the top workers’ comp law firms in Georgia, with a proven track record of success representing injured Georgia workers.
Don’t let your claim stall because of paperwork confusion, or accept less than you should receive because an insurance adjuster didn’t do her due diligence or tried to protect his company’s balance sheet. Ramos Law accepts cases on a contingency basis, meaning there is no up-front cost to you while we fight for your rights and the full amount of compensation that you may be owed.
What if My Employer Refuses To Report My Work Injury?
Employers who fail to report workplace injuries can be ordered to pay attorney’s fees, late payment penalties, late filing penalties, and more. The attorneys at Ramos & Law will force the issue as our filing process will place all parties of interest on notice.
Employees can also report their own accident claims to OSHA in order to launch a potential investigation and protect fellow workers from suffering a similar situation. However, it is important to note that OSHA and workers’ compensation programs are separate entities. Filing a report with OSHA will not ensure that you receive workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia.
Can I “Sue” My Employer for Denying Workers’ Compensation?
Generally, the exclusive remedy for injured workers is the workers’ compensation system. Therefore, “suing” the employer and its insurance carrier means filing a claim with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation for an evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge. This allows the parties to engage in the litigation process where your claim, medical costs, and additional evidence about your accident such as testimony from your doctor(s) and coworker(s) may be taken into consideration and brought before the judge.
Anyone can represent their case “pro se” (without a lawyer). However, this presents a big risk as the insurance companies have lawyers by the dozens ready to dispute your case. At the very least, we recommend you consult with experienced workers’ comp lawyer in Atlanta as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Working With Workers’ Compensation Law Firms
Working with Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys often leads to better outcomes when it comes to collecting the fullest benefits possible. For anyone who is hesitant about how to begin the process, the following are some frequently asked questions.
How Do I Find the Workers’ Comp Lawyer Near Me?
When you’re choosing legal representation, take your research one step further than googling “Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer near me” and calling it a day. Look at a law firm’s client testimonials and case results. Has the law firm successfully handled cases in your industry? How long have they been in practice? Are they experts in the state in which you were injured?
Client reviews can help you get more insight into which attorneys are effective advocates. Ramos & Law offers free case consultations so you can meet with one of our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers and understand how we would proceed with your case and how we can help.
What Can an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Help Me With?
An Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer can help you with filing your worker’s compensation benefits and ensuring that your medical care falls under the Georgia eligibility guidelines so you do not incur any additional costs. A top workers’ comp lawyer will also make sure that you are not missing out on any additional benefits, such as temporary partial disability benefits, vocational retraining, or more.
How much does a workers’ comp lawyer cost?
Ramos & Law operates on a contingency basis, meaning that we offer both a free initial consultation, as well as no up-front costs once we take on your workers’ compensation claim. The state of Georgia does not allow Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers to take more than 25% of a total claim regardless of how many attorneys work on your case.
Will Deductions Be Taken From a Workers’ Compensation Settlement?
Workers’ compensation is not considered taxable earned income. However, there are certain deductions for expenses such as unpaid medical bills or attorneys fees that may be taken out from a workers’ comp settlement.
Can I Submit a Workers’ Comp Claim After Quitting My Job?
If you have left or been fired from your job, you can still seek workers’ compensation from an injury. However, you will need to be cautious about the timing of your claim. For more details and to build the strongest possible case for your claim, retain a top workers’ comp lawyer in Georgia.
Consult With an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for Free
Ramos & Law is made up of expert Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers who have been successfully representing injured employees since 2005. We are proud to fight for the rights of Georgia workers, and ensure that every case we take on gets the best possible chance for a fair settlement. Remember that when you file a workers’ comp claim, the insurance company has teams of adjusters who may be looking for ways to lower the value of your claim. You need a legal professional by your side to level the playing field. For a free case consultation, contact us today.