When they are healthy and working, most people do not worry about workers’ compensation laws. Most people know that workers’ compensation (or workers comp) would cover them if they had a work injury. However, they do not know what benefits they could receive. They also do not know what changes are made to Georgia’s laws and the laws of other states each year.
Because of what we do, our attorneys know a lot about workers’ compensation in Georgia. Three of our attorneys specialize in Georgia worker compensation cases. Cliff Perkins has served as President of the State Bar of Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Section. Jason Perkins has served as President of the Workers Compensation Claimants Lawyers (WCCL) section of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association.
Recent changes in Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation laws
Unfortunately, the changes in Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws have not been good for Georgia’s workers. One major change in the last couple of years affected an injured worker’s right to get medical treatment. That change severely limited an insurance company’s responsibility for medical treatment after a work injury. Instead of being responsible for all medical treatment related to an injury, the insurance company is now only responsible for medical treatment that occurs within 400 weeks of the work injury.
This change was bad for many injured workers, but it was terrible for injured workers who suffer amputations. Prosthetic body parts greatly benefit injured workers with amputation injuries. However, a prosthesis will wear out over time and must be replaced. Since the law was changed, the insurance company does not have to pay to replace prosthetic arms and legs once 400 weeks passes from the date of injury.
Nationwide changes in workers’ compensation laws
Other changes have been made in Georgia’s laws that are also not good for injured workers. Even worse, the erosion of worker’s rights is not limited to Georgia. Many states across the company have severely limited the rights of injured workers in response to pressure from insurance companies and other big corporations. NPR and ProPublica recently completed and published the results of a lengthy investigation into workers’ compensation laws and how they affect injured workers.
What is workers’ compensation insurance supposed to pay?
Even before these changes were made, workers’ compensation was already a very limited recovery. Workers’ compensation generally only pays you a limited benefits while you are out of work because of your injury (in Georgia, this benefit is currently two-thirds of your average wage up to a maximum of $525 per week). In most states, it pays your medical treatment for your injury and permanent partial disability benefits. It does not pay anything for pain and suffering and workers’ compensation is your exclusive (only) remedy for your injury because you are forced to give up your right to sue your employer (giving up pain and suffering and having workers’ compensation as the exclusive remedy was part of the “grand bargain” made when workers’ compensation laws were adopted in the early 1900s).
What can you do about the changes in workers’ compensation laws?
Now that you are aware of changes that are being made in the workers’ compensation laws, there are several things you can do:
- Be aware of proposed changes in your states laws – In Georgia, the laws governing workers’ compensation are in Title 34, Chapter 9 of the Georgia Code. Many years, there is a bill proposed in the Georgia legislature to make changes to Tile 34, Chapter 9. In 2015, there are several bills that would change Title 34, Chapter 9. Those bills include HB 216, HB 412, and HB 536.
- Contact your legislators if you support or oppose changes in the law – If you do not know your legislators, you can find them here.
- Know about workers compensation – If you would like to stay up to date about workers’ compensation and other areas of the law, you can visit our blog regularly.
- Be prepared for an injury at work – There are things you can do to minimize your chance of being injured and things you should do if you are injured at work.