What Is the Workers Compensation Act in Georgia?
The Workers’ Compensation Act in Georgia is a set of laws designed to provide financial assistance and medical benefits to workers who sustain injuries or illnesses while performing their duties.
The purpose of Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws is to offer a streamlined way for workers to receive compensation without having to file a lawsuit against their employers. This system protects workers and employers; workers receive prompt medical care and wage replacement, while employers are protected from potentially more costly litigation.
Under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, injured workers may be entitled to benefits like:
- Medical Expenses: The Act usually covers all necessary medical treatment for a work-related injury, including surgery, prescriptions, and rehabilitation services.
- Temporary Total Disability Benefits (TTD): These are wage benefits paid to an injured employee who is totally disabled from work for some time but is expected to recover.
- Temporary Partial Disability Benefits (TPD): These benefits are designed for workers who can return to work but earn less due to injuries.
- Permanent Partial Disability Benefits (PPD): These are benefits for workers who suffer permanent disabilities but can still work to some extent.
- Death Benefits: Families of workers who die due to work-related injuries or illnesses may also be eligible for benefits under the Act.
The specific rates and duration of these benefits may vary depending on various factors like the severity of the injury or illness, the wages earned before the injury, and so forth.
To receive workers’ compensation under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, employees typically must report the injury to their employer within a specific time frame and may need to undergo a medical examination. Read on for more details about workers’ compensation in Georgia.
What Types of Injuries and Illnesses Are Covered?
In Georgia, workers’ compensation covers injuries and illnesses that arise out of and in the course of employment. This means that if your injury or illness is a direct result of your job duties, it will likely be covered by workers’ compensation.
Some common examples of workplace injuries and illnesses covered under the Act include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Occupational diseases
- Motor vehicle accidents while on the job
However, it’s essential to note that not all workplace injuries or illnesses are covered. For instance, self-inflicted injuries or those caused by intoxication may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Georgia Workers Compensation Insurance
Every business with at least three workers must carry workers’ comp insurance, even if those workers are only part-time employees. You can check to see if your employer has a workers’ compensation insurance carrier here or by contacting Georgia’s State Board of Workers’ Compensation at 1-800-533-0682.
The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation is responsible for ensuring that employers carry the required insurance to protect their employees. If you are injured at work, and your employer does not have workers’ compensation coverage, you may be able to sue them in civil court.
Report Workplace Injuries as Soon as Possible
Workers injured on the job should report their injury as soon as possible. Failing to report an injury within 30 days could result in a loss of benefits. The employee should also inform their employer in writing, and the written statement should include details of the injury and how it occurred.
It’s essential to document your injury and the events leading up to it, as this information can be crucial in determining the cause of the injury and your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.
Can I Go to a Doctor of My Choosing?
The doctor you choose depends on a few different factors. In most cases, you must choose from one of the six doctors listed in the Traditional Panel of Physicians, which should be posted somewhere in your workplace. The panel should be easy to find and is often published in breakrooms or shared spaces.
Each panel should include at least one orthopedic doctor and a minority-authorized treating physician (when possible). In some situations, you may be able to change one of the physicians on the list to one of your choosing.
Will I Get Paid if I Miss Work?
Injured workers are entitled to at least two-thirds of their normal wage with a cap of $675 per week. These payments are usually limited to doctor-recommended work absences.
If you can return to work part-time or have to return to a less demanding job that pays less, you may qualify for up to $450 a week in addition to compensation until you can return to full-time employment or your previous position.
These wage compensation benefits only last for a limited time (up to 400 or 350 weeks, respectively).
What If My Injury Prevents Me from Returning to Work or Obtaining the Same Wage in the Future?
There are two categories of workplace injuries: catastrophic and non-catastrophic.
A catastrophic injury is any that would prevent you from returning to your previous job or a comparable position with similar pay. Any job injury that results in the loss of a limb, severe burns, blindness, paralysis, or a traumatic brain or spine injury will likely be categorized as a catastrophic injury.
The workers’ compensation benefits available for catastrophic injuries are greater and, in some situations, can last far longer than those for a non-catastrophic injury. One of the additional catastrophic injury benefits includes vocational retraining and rehabilitation.
This additional benefit aims to equip the injured worker with new skills that allow them to obtain gainful employment in a field where they can earn a similar wage or help them develop the ability to perform their previous job despite their disability.
What Are Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?
Suppose a worker dies due to injuries sustained in a workplace accident. In that case, their family can receive compensation comparable to two-thirds of the deceased’s weekly salary for 400 weeks or until the $150,000 cap is reached. The worker’s family is also entitled to up to $7,500 for funeral and burial expenses. Certain conditions apply to receiving the maximum death benefits.
How Are Georgia Workers’ Compensation Laws Enforced?
Several critical penalties can be levied against businesses that fail to meet their responsibilities to their injured employees.
- If a business doesn’t carry the necessary insurance, they must pay for medical costs and all the other wage benefits out of their pocket.
- That business could also be forced to pay civil penalties, the employee’s attorney’s fees, and an additional 10 percent on top of the compensation the worker would have received had the business been properly insured.
- In addition to paying the injured workers’ benefits out of pocket, the business could also be forced to pay a penalty ranging between $500 and $5,000 for failing to carry workers’ comp insurance.
- The civil penalties for other violations of workers’ comp laws range between $100 and $1,000 for each violation.
- Employers who make false statements to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation could be charged between $1,000 and $10,000 per violation of state law.
- Employers who try to intimidate their workers, threaten to fire them if they file a justified claim, or refuse to maintain the necessary workers’ comp coverage could face misdemeanor criminal charges. Business owners convicted of the criminal offenses could face jail time and fines between $1,000 and $10,000.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Georgia
If you have been injured on the job, it is crucial to follow these steps to file your workers compensation claim correctly:
- Report your injury to your employer as soon as possible, ideally in writing.
- Seek medical treatment for your injuries immediately and follow through with all doctor’s appointments and treatments.
- Keep records of all medical expenses, including prescriptions, co-pays, and any other costs related to your injuries.
- Keep track of missed workdays and wages lost due to your injury.
- File a workers’ compensation claim with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
- Consider hiring an experienced workers’ comp attorney to help you navigate the claims process and ensure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to under Georgia law.
How Can An Attorney Help?
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help ensure injured employees receive fair and just benefits for their workplace injuries. They can also help families protect the interests of a loved one killed in a work-related accident.
An attorney can provide advice and legal guidance on how to proceed with filing a workers’ compensation claim, represent injured workers at hearings and appeals, help ensure that employers maintain the necessary insurance coverage, and advise them on best practices when it comes to workplace safety and compliance with workers’ comp laws.
Have You or a Loved One Been Injured on the Job?
Many Atlanta area businesses care about their workers’ well-being and follow the necessary Georgia workers’ compensation law. However, some bad actors don’t carry the required coverage or attempt to avoid having to file workers’ comp claims for their employees.
Whenever a company files a workers’ comp claim, they’re at risk of seeing their premiums increase. Some employers may try to dissuade their employees from filing a lawsuit to hide the fact that they don’t carry the necessary workers’ comp coverage.
It’s not uncommon for these businesses to threaten punitive actions against employees who report workplace injuries, such as threatening their jobs or lying about where and when the injury occurred, to argue it wasn’t a job site injury.
If you find yourself in a situation where your workplace injury claim is being unfairly denied, consider contacting the Dressie Law Firm at 770-756-6333 for a free consultation.