As an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation cases, I know that most seriously injured workers would agree that their accidents have had a catastrophic effect on their lives
They are in pain. Their paycheck has been reduced or stopped completely. They cannot get the insurance company to agree to pay for the MRI, the surgery or other medical treatment that they need to help them get better and back to work.
That is truly a catastrophe. But does it meet the legal definition of a catastrophic injury under the Georgia workers’ compensation law? Even if it does, what difference does that make?
It can make a huge difference as far as the protection and benefits provided to someone who has been injured at work.
Why is a catastrophic designation important?
Our workers’ compensation laws in Georgia have been watered down by insurance companies. Becuase of that, they often provide very little protection for injured workers. Here are just a few examples:
- In Georgia, an insurance company can sometimes stop your weekly workers’ compensation check with just a note from the doctor saying you can return to work without restrictions. You might have to wait months without a check and go to a hearing before your workers’ compensation benefits are restarted.
- After a certain period of time, an insurance company can reduce your weekly workers’ compensation check (for example from $500 to $334) if the doctor has released you to light work. They file what is called a Form WC-104. This can happen even if your employer has no light work and cannot find work within your restrictions.
- If you return to work and work more than two years without receiving a workers’ compensation check and then your injury worsens without a new accident, you may never be able to draw a workers’ compensation check again – even if you are in a wheelchair.
- You can normally only draw a check for a maximum of 350 to 400 weeks from when you were injured, even if your work injury still prevents you from going back to work after that time.
- If you were injured after 7/1/13, the insurance company can stop paying for medical treatment 400 weeks after your injury.
How a Catastrophic Designation Can Help You?
With all these cards in the deck stacked against injured workers, it is good to know that there is at least one card in your favor. That card is catastrophic injury.
In Georgia, if your workers’ compensation injury is declared catastrophic, then many of the bad laws mentioned above no longer apply to you. For example:
- You would be allowed to be paid your temporary total disability benefits (lost wages) as long as you were in fact unable to work, even if it was more than 400 weeks since your work injury.
- Your workers’ compensation check could not be reduced just because your doctor said you were able to do some sort of light work unless there was actually a light duty job to do.
- You would also be given a rehabilitation person to work with you and help you get better and try to find a new career or job that you were able to do with the limitations from your injury.
- You could continue getting medical treatment more than 400 weeks after your injury
How do I qualify for a catastrophic designation?
So now that you know how important it can be to get your Georgia work injury designated as catastrophic, the next question is how do you get a catastrophic designation. I discuss that in this article.
If you have other questions, just complete the “Need Help” form on the right side of this page to schedule a free consultation with me.