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Amputations and Catastrophic Workers’ Compensation Injuries4 minute read

Georgia workers’ compensation law has two basic designations of injuries:

  1. Catastrophic injuries
  2. Noncatastrophic injuries

Benefits of a catastrophic designation

There is a big difference between the benefits available to injured workers depending on which type of injury they have.  For example, injured workers with noncatastrophic injuries will find that they have a limited period during which they can receive medical treatment and income benefits.  This makes it extremely important for injured workers to know whether they may be able to qualify for a catastrophic designation.  Also, there are some traps that a catastrophically injured worker should know about.

Some types of injuries are catastrophic from the moment the injury occurs.  Other injuries can become catastrophic over time.  This article will focus specifically on one type of injury that is a catastrophic injury by law:

  • The amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of that appendage

If you suffer an amputation of your arm, hand, foot, or leg as a result of a work-related injury, you probably will qualify for a catastrophic designation.  Amputation injuries are generally designated as catastrophic from the very beginning.  The employer or their insurance company should file a Form WC-R1 with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.  This form is used to assign the catastrophic designation and a catastrophic rehabilitation supplier.

Potential dangers associated with a catastrophic amputation injury

There are some potential dangers you should know about if you suffer an amputation injury.  Luckily, some people with amputation injuries are able to go back to work.  Often, getting a prosthesis may help in making that possible.A prosthesis can be helpful in restoring function and appearance after an amputation injury

However, there is a big danger associated with going back to work – you can lose your eligibility for future benefits if you go back to work for too long and then have to come out of work again.  Most people do not know that there is a statute of limitations that cuts off their right to future weekly income benefits if they go more than two years without getting temporary total or temporary partial disability benefits.

The statute of limitations that causes this problem is O.C.G.A. 34-9-104(b).  It is often called the “change in condition” statute of limitations.

The problem comes up when an injured worker goes back to a light duty job for more than two years and then needs to come out of work because of the work injury.  This law often unfairly prevents the injured worker from getting benefits even though everyone would agree that the work injury is causing the injured worker’s disability.  In one recent case, this law prevented an injured worker from getting benefits while out of work for knee replacement surgery even though everyone agreed the surgery was caused by the work injuries.

Does the “change in condition” statute of limitations apply to catastrophic injuries?

A 2015 Georgia Court of Appeals case showed how this law could unfairly affect a catastrophically injured worker if it was applied the same way.  In that case, Mr. Barnes’ leg was amputated below the knee, so he clearly qualified for a catastrophic designation.  Despite this severe injury, Mr. Barnes went back to work.  He worked with his employer through pain for a number of years.

When he could not work anymore, he asked the insurance company to start paying weekly benefits.  The insurance company argued that they should not have to pay him any more benefits.  They claimed that since it had been more than two years since he had received weekly income benefits so the law prevented him from getting additional benefits.  Of course, the reason that he had gone that long without weekly benefits was because he had been working even though his leg was amputated.

Originally, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. Barnes and concluded that the O.C.G.A. 34-9-104(b) “change in condition” statute of limitations did not apply to injured workers whose injuries were designated catastrophic.  However, the case was accepted by the Georgia Supreme Court and they reversed the Georgia Court of Appeals decision on this issue.  So, injured workers with severe amputation injuries could have their entitlement to weekly benefits barred forever if they go more than two years without receiving temporary total or temporary partial disability benefits.

I hope this information has been helpful to you.  You may still have some questions that you need answered.  If so, I think the best way to do that is to get a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney.

 

What if I have other questions about workers compensation?

Georgia’s workers compensation system can be very confusing.  You have to worry about getting the treatment you need and paying your bills while also worrying about not missing any deadlines that could cause you to lose your right to receive workers compensation benefits.

If you have questions, I would recommend that you try to get answers.  To find out more about how to schedule a time to talk to me about your workers compensation questions, just read this short article.

Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers.  He regularly publishes videos and write blog articles about Georgia’s workers compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families.

To be notified of Jason’s new workers compensation videos, subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation Video Series channel on YouTube by clicking the subscribe button below.

Brittney-lee orourkeBrittney-lee orourke
05:23 18 Feb 22
Amazing! Jason and his team were very helpful and had the best communication by far. Walked me though every step with great detail and had answers for any question I had. They handled my case better then I could imagine, it was a weird case and they stayed on top of it and kept me updated every step of the way! Highly recommend this Team! Thanks so much to Jason and his Awesome team!-Brittney
China JonesChina Jones
18:58 08 Feb 22
I absolutely love this group of attorneys, when I was at my lowest they did everything they could to help me get justice for my injury. I believe if I were to have never picked my phone up and called the amazing group that helped me I definitely would not have received my idea of rights. If you have an issue and are just not sure please understand that they will help you, stay in contact, answer any question you have, and for sure get you the justice you deserve I thank them from the bottom of my heart and I will definitely refer them to anyone who has been hurt because they most definitely care about their work and clients.
Luv LocsLuv Locs
16:08 15 Jan 22
The entire law office was attentive and responsive to all of my concerns dealing with my workers compensation case.
moombimoombi
21:14 02 Jan 22
If you must get a lawyer involved, you’d do well to work with Jason Perkins and his team at Perkins Studdard Law.They were thorough in gathering information and in sharing all the steps in the workers comp process specific to my case. Jason and the team were responsive to my bevy of questions and concerns.I appreciated the informative videos and consultations provided by Jason over video meetings and multiple phone calls.I hope I’m never injured on the job again. However, if I am and if my employer responds as my previous employer did, I’ll contact Perkins Studdard Law immediately to handle the case.
Dana BessDana Bess
23:57 10 Dec 21
Everyone at Perkins Studdard was kind and professional. They were always extremely responsive and answered all questions that I had and followed up to make sure I had an understanding of what was going on along with emailing videos to explain every step of my case so I would know what to expect and be prepared. Jason is a very genuine person and I trusted him with my case. He answered so many questions for me even before I retained him as my WC lawyer. I highly recommend him and his associates at Perkins Studdard.
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