If you are hurt on the job in Georgia, you probably have a Georgia workers compensation case. Understanding the basics of Georgia’s workers compensation laws will help assure that you are treated fairly. This article will provide you some basic information about the benefits you may receive and situations you may encounter
Reporting your injury
Georgia law makes starting a workers compensation case easy. You just report your injury to your employer through a supervisor.
Georgia’s law only requires you to give notice to someone in a supervisory position over you. You do not have to give notice in writing, but written notice could make it easier to prove if your employer disputes knowing about your injury.
It is critical to report your injury to your employer. The law requires you to report your injury within 30 days. If you do not report your injury, you could very well lose your case.
If you do not give timely notice, you still could may be able to pursue your case. Georgia’s law does have some exceptions to the notice requirement. But the easier thing to do is make sure you give notice so you do not have to prove that you qualify for an exception.
Your employer will probably send you to the doctor to get checked out. Your employer has up to 21 days to investigate your case before making a decision about whether to pay you benefits or not.
If everything goes well, your employer will file a Form WC-2 and start paying you weekly benefits for the time you are out of work. They will pay for medical treatment as well. You may not have to do anything to get your claim filed.
What if your employer makes filing your claim more difficult?
Sometimes, your employer or their insurance company makes it difficult to file your workers compensation claim. For example, here are some situations you might encounter.
- You report your injury to your employer but they do not file it with their workers compensation insurance company. They might claim that their insurance costs will go up. They might encourage you to just get treatment on your group health insurance.
- You report your injury but your employer never notifies the workers compensation insurance company so nothing happens while you wait.
- You report your injury. Your employer notifies the workers compensation insurance company. They deny your claim.
In these situations, you probably will need to file a claim yourself. Neither your employer nor their insurance company controls whether you file a claim.
You can file a claim yourself by filing a Form WC-14. You can request a hearing with that same document. Make sure not to wait too long to file your claim because there are deadlines that can cause you to lose your case.
The three types of Georgia workers compensation benefits
Georgia workers compensation law provides limited benefits. It does not cover pain and suffering. Instead, it provides 3 basic benefits:
- Wage loss benefits (known as temporary total disability or temporary partial disability benefits)
- Medical benefits
- Permanent partial disability benefits (if you suffer permanent impairment from your injury)
Picking a doctor
Medical treatment is one of the most important benefits you receive. You would like to get better and be out of pain. The insurance company has to pay for the medical treatment for your injury with authorized doctors.
You actually have some input into which doctors can treat you by picking your doctor. Your choices are usually limited to doctors on your employer’s “panel of physicians”. But you can sometimes pick any doctor you want. For some more information, watch my video below:
Lost time from work
The workers compensation insurance company has an obligation to pay you wage loss benefits when you miss time from work because of your injury. Temporary total disability benefits will be a percentage of your average wages before your injury.
It is important to know that the insurance company has 21 days to make the first benefit payment. After that, benefits should be paid weekly while you are out of work. For more information, read this article focusing on temporary total disability benefits.
Returning to work/Light duty jobs
Your doctor may allow you to work but limit what you can do. Many employers offer light duty work.
Georgia’s workers compensation law has special rules about light duty jobs. These rules can be very tricky. Hopefully, you will be able to do the light duty job. If you cannot, these special rules could determine whether your temporary total disability benefits will automatically restart or not. Because the rules are quite tricky, talking to an attorney before returning to work is almost always the right choice.
Closing your case
Georgia workers compensation cases often end through a settlement. There are two very important things to understand about settlement.
- You never have to settle your case
- Settlement is almost always final and cannot be undone once approved
I have written an article about settlement that may be helpful to you.
But, it is also important to know that your case might end even if it did not settle. Georgia’s workers compensation law contains many deadlines that could end your case or limit your benefits. Be sure you know about those deadlines.