We have all heard the term “workers compensation”. But, what does that term really mean?
What the term means may not have mattered to you much until you were forced into the workers compensation system after an injury at work. But then, you find yourself dealing with workers compensation, and you probably have many different questions about why it exists and what it does.
Generally, workers’ compensation is a benefit system set. That system was set up to provide benefits to both injured workers and employers.
For work-related injuries, workers compensation replaced the traditional way of recovering for injuries in courts. Before workers compensation existed, injuries at work were dealt with through the tort system. This basically meant that you might have a personal injury case if your were injured at work.
How does personal injury work as compared to workers compensation?
If you have suffered an injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you might file a personal injury lawsuit. After that suit was filed, you could ultimately end up trying your case in court in front of a judge and jury. If you successfully proved your case, you could recover certain benefits for your lost wages, your medical benefits, for pain and suffering, and other things.
The personal injury case process could take quite a while. It may take you years to get to court where you have an opportunity to present your case.
So what is different about workers’ compensation?
The basic idea of workers compensation is that it provides benefits quicker than a personal injury case. While each state has its own rules, one of the main ways that a workers compensation system is able to provide quicker benefits is by taking fault out of the picture.
What does that mean? It generally means that it does not matter whose fault it is that you were injured. If your injury happened doing your job, workers compensation usually covers that injury even if it may have been your own fault that you got hurt.
Since workers compensation does not have to deal with whose fault an injury was, benefits can get paid pretty quickly in many cases. Georgia’s workers compensation system has some specific rules that address how quickly the insurance company has to make a decision about accepting or denying a case.
It is important to remember that workers compensation is a system created by governments. That means that pretty much every state has a workers compensation system. The federal government also has a workers compensation system for federal employees. Each of these systems have different rules.
Am I covered by workers compensation if I was on the clock when I got hurt?
Most of the time, the answer is probably yes. But, there are times that injuries that happen on the clock are not covered by workers compensation.
All legal systems have laws that define what they cover. The big general rule in Georgia workers compensation is that injuries are covered when they arise out of and in the course of employment.
What does arising out of and in the course of employment mean? It basically means you were on the clock and your injury was somehow connected to your job. Like any kind of legal terminology, the answer is not quite that simple but it is a good enough understanding to apply to most cases.
Remember that each state has different workers’ compensation laws. It is important to make sure you understand the rules in the particular state where your workers compensation claim is filed.
The biggest benefit that employers receive from workers compensation laws is the “Exclusive Remedy Doctrine.” Exclusive remedy means that workers compensation is almost always your exclusive remedy against your employer when you get hurt at work.
Many people who suffer work-related injuries would like to file a lawsuit against their employer and present their case to a jury. Under Georgia’s workers compensation laws, you usually cannot do that because workers compensation is your exclusive remedy against your employer.
That usually means you receive limited benefits because Georgia workers’ compensation law does not cover every type of damage that you may suffer as a result of your work injury.
What does Georgia workers compensation cover?
The benefits you can receive under Georgia’s workers compensation laws fall into three major categories:
- Benefits for your lost wages (known as temporary total disability benefits and temporary partial disability benefits)
- Medical benefits
- Benefits for permanent impairment (known as permanent partial disability benefits)
The main benefit that most people are familiar with that workers compensation doesn’t cover is pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. So under Georgia’s workers compensation law, you do not receive money for the pain your injury causes. That is the main thing that workers compensation does not cover.
What if I have other questions?
This article is just a general overview of what workers compensation is. You can find many other articles about workers compensation on our Perkins Law Talk Workers’ Compensation blog. You can also call us at (770) 214-8885 or fill out this form to get in touch with us and get additional information.