Workers’ Compensation FAQs
The workers’ compensation system can be confusing, especially if you’ve never had to make a claim before. To help you get a better idea of what to expect, we have put together this list of frequently asked questions about workers’ compensation in Georgia. If you have further questions and would like an evaluation of your case, please fill out an online contact form or call our office at (770) 629-9321.
What is workers’ compensation?
Most employers will not actually educate their employees about the nuances of workers’ compensation. To put it into basic terms, workers’ compensation is a form of accident insurance purchased by employers – when mandated by the State – that helps injured employees pay for medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and some of their lost wages. The goal of workers’ compensation is assisting the recovery of an injured worker so he or she can come back to work sooner than later.
Are employers required to carry worker’s compensation insurance in Georgia?
In Georgia, any company that regularly employs three or more full-time or part-time employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
What benefits am I entitled to receive?
Pursuant to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, anyone who has been injured in a workplace accident and is unable to work is eligible for certain benefits, which includes payment of two-thirds of your weekly income (up to a maximum of $575/week – this amount is subject to change due to inflation) for up to 400 weeks. In cases involving certain catastrophic injuries, the injured employee may be entitled to receive benefits for the rest of his or her life. Employers are also required to pay any and all reasonable medical expenses resulting from the injury.
If I have to travel far for my authorized treatments, will I be reimbursed?
Necessary travel to reach authorized physicians and treatment centers could become quite costly. As part of an approved workers’ compensation claim, you are entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses. You will need to provide evidence of your travel costs – such as receipts for gas, your home address, and the shortest distance from your home to your treatment center – to be reimbursed. Your employer’s insurance carrier may set a cap on how much coverage you can obtain for travel expenses alone.
How long do I have to file a claim?
In Georgia, injured workers have one year from the date of their accident to file a claim. This deadline can be extended in some cases, but it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss the deadline that applies to your case. If you wait too long to make a claim, you risk losing your right to seek benefits.
What if I have a preexisting injury? Can I still file a claim?
Many people believe that if they have a preexisting injury, they won’t be able to file a successful workers’ compensation claim because their employer may simply blame their medical problems on a prior injury. This isn’t the case! In Georgia, a worker is still entitled to compensation for an injury which exacerbates a preexisting condition. For example, if you suffered a back injury in the past and you hurt it again during the course of your work duties, you still have a valid claim.
What does “no-fault” mean?
The Georgia workers’ compensation system operates on a no-fault basis, which means that an employee does not have to prove that their employer or a coworker was at fault for their injury in order to have a successful claim. Not only does this make it easier for the injured employee to recover, but it also means that even if the employee was partially at fault for their injury, they can still file a claim.
Can workers’ compensation cover sensory damage?
Georgia allows workers’ compensation benefits to be rewarded to employees who suffer sensory damage, such as deafness and blindness, while performing work-related duties. In fact, hearing loss is the most common form of employee injury in the country, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Determining the amount of compensation deserved for hearing or sight loss may be complicated, and it is often advised that workers seek the counsel of a professional Georgia workers’ compensation attorney to ensure a fair sum is given.
Can I choose my own doctor for my workers’ comp claim in Georgia?
Georgia allows employers and their insurance providers some control over the doctors and physicians that can be consulted for your workers’ compensation claim and related injuries. Your employer may choose to post a list of six physicians who are approved by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation and tell you to choose one you would like to be your primary care physician during your claim. Your employer can also choose a Workers’ Compensation Managed Care Organization (WCMCO) that has been Board certified. WCMCOs tend to allow you to choose from multiple care providers and physicians, and permit you to change to another physician in the organization without notifying your employer.
Do I pay for my own doctor in my workers’ comp claim?
You should not be expected to pay for any authorized medical treatment related to your workers’ compensation claim and work-related injury. The cost for these treatments should be covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. If you seek unauthorized treatment, however, you will be expected to cover those costs through your own insurance or finances.
I am getting Social Security Disability payments – can I also get workers’ compensation?
Yes. You are not automatically disqualified from Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI) benefits just because you also have been approved for workers’ compensation benefits, and vice versa. Federal regulations may reduce but not eliminate your SSDI benefits once you are approved for workers’ compensation, though.
Can my employer get into legal trouble for not covering me with workers’ compensation insurance?
Yes. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation in Georgia can impose harsh penalties against any employer that fails to provide workers’ comp coverage when legally necessary. Penalties may include a fine up to $5,000 per violation and a misdemeanor charge filed against a company executive or business owner, who will need to defend himself or herself in criminal court.
Can I sue my employer for compensation for my injury?
The workers’ compensation system is an exclusive remedy for employees against their employers and co-workers, which means that injured employees are barred from suing for personal injury if their employers have WC insurance. However, injured workers are allowed to make personal injury claims against third parties (i.e. someone other than an employer or coworker). For example, if an unsafe piece of equipment caused your injury, you may be able to sue the manufacturer for damages.
Do I need to hire an attorney?
If you have sustained a serious injury in the workplace, it is absolutely a good idea to consult with an attorney for two reasons. The first reason is that there are several deadlines that you must meet in order to avoid losing your ability to collect money for your injury. Even missing one deadline can cost you your case. The second reason is that an attorney can help ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injury and that you aren’t denied benefits that you are entitled to.