Commercial and residential construction can be dangerous. The work is physically demanding. It is not unusal for employees working construction jobs to suffer injuries. If you are injured doing construction work, there are several things that you need to know about Georgia workers’ compensation law.
Does your employer have workers’ compensation insurance?
This is the first question to ask. Georgia law requires all employers who have 3 or more regular employees to have workers’ compensation insurance. Unfortunately, some employers do not comply with that law. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation has a tool on its website that allows you to check and see if your employer has workers’ compensation coverage. There is also a smart phone app called “Workers Compensation Coverage Verification” that you can use to check insurance coverage.
What if my employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance?
If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you may still be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits for medical treatment and lost wages directly from your employer. But many times it is difficult to do this. Your employer may not have the money to pay these benefits. Even if they do, they may not do it voluntarily. It may require you to go to court and get a judgment. Even if you get a judgment, it can still be difficult to collect the money owed.
Fortunately, there is a special rule about workers’ compensation insurance that applies to many construction injuries. It is called the statutory employer rule. Many construction projects involved general contractors and subcontractors. The idea behind the statutory rule is that you can recover benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance of another contractor if your employer cannot pay.
The statutory employer rule does not allow you to go against any contractor in the construction project. It must be a contractor “up the chain”. This means that you can generally go against a contractor who is in the direct contract chain with your employer. In other words, if you work for a plumbing company that is hired by the general contractor to do some work on a construction project, the general contractor should be your statutory employer. If there is a contractor in between your employer and the general contractor, then both the in between (intermediate) contractor and the general contractor should be your statutory employers.
What if I am a subcontractor?
Generally, Georgia workers’ compensation law only covers employees. Independent contractors are usually not covered. So, if you are a subcontractor, you may not be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, it is important to understand that employees of subcontractors are generally covered as discussed above in the section about the statutory employer rule.
There are many factors that go into determining whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee. The specific facts of the case are very important in making this determination. If you are unsure whether you are an independent contractor or an employee, you should consult with an attorney to find out.
Where can I get medical treatment for my injury?
If the insurance company denies (controverts) your workers’ compensation case, then you can treat with whatever doctor you want. If you are successful in proving your case to a judge, the insurance company should have to pay for that medical treatment.
If the insurance company agrees to accept your case, then you can choose a doctor off your employer’s panel of physicians. But many companies that work in construction do not have panels of physicians posted or have panels that do not meet the requirement of Georgia law. If you employer does not have a properly posted panel of physicians, you will probably be able to choose a doctor to provide medical treatment for you.
Other questions about construction injuries
You may have other questions about your workers’ compensation injury. Many people do. Some of the common questions include questions about returning to work, changing doctors, and the proper amount of weekly checks. We’ve tried to provide many helpful articles on our blog, but we are happy to answer any questions you may have. The best way to get your questions answers is to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys who specializes in Georgia workers’ compensation law.