I Was Injured on the Job. What Do I Do Now?
78,000 employees were injured on the job in Georgia in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). “41,600 [of the 78,000] were of a more severe nature, involving days away from work, job transfer, or restriction—commonly referred to as DART cases.”
There are always costs associated with workplace injuries whether it is a minor injury or a catastrophic one.
According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance’s (NCCI) Workers’ Compensation Statistical Plan, “The average cost for all claims combined in 2017-2018 was $41,003. […] The most costly lost-time workers’ compensation claims by cause of injury result from motor-vehicle crashes, averaging $78,466 per workers’ compensation claim filed in 2017 and 2018. The only other causes with above-average costs were burns ($49,521), falls or slips ($47,516), and caught [crushed/pinned] ($43,538).”
As these numbers show, being injured on the job is costly. The thought of having to pay these amounts out of pocket is alarming.
The good news is that workers’ compensation insurance is designed to meet those needs, so you don’t have to.
Unfortunately, the whole process of getting the benefits you deserve is more complicated than it should be. We’re here to clear up the confusion.
When you are injured on the job, there are steps you should take to protect yourself and ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to as an employee under Georgia workers’ comp law.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Under Georgia workers’ compensation law, any business with three or more workers, including regular part-time workers, is required to have workers’ compensation insurance.
You can verify your employer’s coverage at www.sbwc.georgia.gov.
Workers’ comp insurance is required, so that, in case of a workplace injury, workers may be compensated for medical treatment, rehabilitation, income benefits, and permanent disability.
Workers’ compensation may also provide benefits to dependents of work-related death victims.
Unfortunately, there are some big misconceptions about Georgia workers’ comp law.
For example, some people think workers’ comp is a lawsuit against their employer for being injured on the job. As a result of this misconception, many workers hesitate to file a claim.
Instead, think of workers’ comp as a request for benefits.
You don’t file a lawsuit – you file a Notice of Claim (Form WC-14) with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Workers’ compensation ensures employees can secure benefits and pays benefits if injured on the job according to Georgia workers’ comp law.
Also, many people don’t realize that Georgia workers’ comp laws are designed to protect both the employee and the employer.
Essentially, if employers carry workers’ compensation insurance, they won’t be held financially responsible for the costs associated when an employee is injured on the job. Their insurance company pays those costs.
For employees, workers’ comp helps provide compensation for medical treatment, rehabilitation, income benefits, and permanent disability.
Georgia workers’ comp law has strict guidelines to determine which of the three types of benefits you are entitled to as a result of being injured on the job.
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD): This type of compensation applies if an authorized treating physician declares you can’t work at all. Additionally, it applies when your authorized treating physician says you can perform light-duty work, but there is none available.
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD): This type of compensation applies if your authorized treating physician clears you to return to work, but only in a light-duty capacity. Due to this prognosis, you earn less money because you have reduced work hours or are making less due to demotion.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD): This type of compensation typically occurs at the end of a claim when your authorized treating physician says you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) – which is just another way of saying, “This is your new normal.”
Ultimately, the workers’ comp insurance benefits you receive are determined on a case-by-case basis, which makes it confusing.
This is why it is wise to hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure you get the best treatment possible, as well as the maximum benefits and the maximum settlement at the end of your claim.
Now that we’ve explained what workers’ comp is and why it is important to understand if you are injured on the job, let’s talk about the steps you need to take.
Step #1: Report That You Were Injured on the Job
First things first, you must report that you were injured on the job. You only have a limited amount of time to report it or you risk losing out on workers’ comp benefits.
Under Georgia workers’ comp law, if you wait longer than 30 days to report an accident on the job, you may lose your benefits.
So, as soon as you are injured at work or notice the effects of a work injury, you need to tell your boss.
This needs to be clearly stated to your employer. You can’t just say, “I need to go see a doctor.”
You need to say, “I was injured on the job (hurt at work, etc.), and I need to see a doctor now.”
Moreover, it is wise to report your accident in writing. Even something as simple as a text message can start your documentation paper trail.
However, you do not have to wait to speak to your boss for emergency treatment. If you have a serious injury on the job and need to go to the emergency room, you are entitled to immediate medical treatment.
Step #2: Seek Medical Attention
Even if you think your injury is minor, you should still seek medical attention.
For instance, let’s say you hit your head in a fall at work. You don’t think it is that big of a deal at the moment. Later, it becomes clear you have suffered a much worse injury, such as a traumatic brain injury.
We have seen diabetic clients who stub their toe and think it is minor only to realize later the injury led to an infection. Infections for diabetics often result in amputations.
Proactive medical treatment is essential, not just for your quality of care, but also for workers’ comp benefits.
When it comes to seeking medical care after you are injured at work, you have a right to choose which doctor you’d like to see.
However, if your employer has a valid, posted panel (list) of physicians, then you must choose from that list…but you still get a say in which doctor on that list you want to see.
If not, you risk allowing your boss to choose the most employer-friendly doctor on the list – the one who says you can be a full-duty worker when you clearly are not ready for any work at all.
Step #3: Watch What You Say
We want to believe the best in people, which is why we are willing to speak openly.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case when money is involved. Insurance companies are a business. They don’t want to spend money. They want to make money.
Similarly, doctors and nurses who are on the insurance company’s payroll may minimize your injuries so you can get back to work sooner (which will save everyone money except for you).
In a report for business owners on how to save money on workers’ comp, Foresight reports, “Returning to work faster is where money can be saved. […] In a study run by Zurich, researchers found that nurse case management and early nurse referral can result in average savings of $6k-$26k by ensuring workers get the most conservative care in order to return to work quickly. The results found that engaging nurses early could knock as much as 50% off the medical bill.”
These people are there solely to advocate for the insurance company.
Do NOT speak to a nurse case manager and do NOT allow a nurse case manager to enter into the examination room with you at your doctor appointments. That is your right!
Likewise, if you are injured on the job, an adjuster with the insurance company will contact you and ask you to give a recorded statement detailing the accident. Be aware that your recorded statement (no matter how truthful) plays a key role in denying claims.
In short, watch what you say.
Step #4: File a Claim
Under Georgia workers’ comp law, you should report an accident on the job within 30 days. However, don’t wait that long. Report your accident immediately!
In terms of filing your claim, you have one year from your date of the accident. Filing your claim requires a special form to be filed with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
This area of the law involves complicated forms, and it is easy for someone who is not experienced to get the forms, their significance, and any filing deadlines confused.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will know which forms to file, how to appropriately complete them, and when to file them to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.
Plus, it is a proven fact that injured workers represented by experienced workers’ compensation lawyers get significantly more benefits and significantly higher settlements than people who don’t have someone in their corner taking the fight to the insurance company.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.