Top 13 Georgia Workers’ Compensation Questions
If you’ve suffered an injury on the job, you likely have many questions about Georgia workers’ compensation.
It’s overwhelming enough being hurt, and now you have to figure out how you will pay for medical bills and cover your regular expenses when you are out of work.
Fortunately, all businesses in Georgia with three or more employees are required to have workers’ compensation insurance.
This means that, if you were injured at work, you are entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to understand.
As an experienced workers’ comp attorney in Georgia, I get asked a lot of questions about the process and the benefits.
I’m answering some of the most common Georgia workers’ compensation questions today.
#1 What Does Georgia Workers’ Compensation Provide?
If you suffer a work injury, you are entitled to compensation for medical treatment, physical rehabilitation, medical supplies, and travel necessary for medical appointments.
Additionally, it provides income benefits and permanent disability.
Income benefits are calculated using strict guidelines. Employees will receive an impairment rating, and this rating is used to determine the number of weeks they are entitled to income benefits.
In the event of a work-related death, workers’ compensation may also provide benefits to dependents.
#2 What Is Not Covered by Georgia Workers’ Compensation?
You are only entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits if you were injured while on the clock.
This means that, if you were injured on the way to or from work or during your lunch break, you would not be covered. That being said, there are even exceptions to these exceptions, so make sure you speak with an attorney and accurately describe the facts as they will be super important in these instances.
In addition, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation Employee Handbook states, “Workers’ compensation does not provide benefits for an injury or accident resulting from an employee’s willful misconduct (i.e., fighting, horseplay, willful act of third party for personal reasons, injuries related to alcohol or drug abuse).”
So, if your injury occurred as an act of willful misconduct, you will not be covered. However, again, the insurance company’s view of what they think was “willful misconduct” may not actually qualify as such, so speak with an attorney about what happened.
#3 How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
In the State of Georgia, there are strict deadlines for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
First, Georgia law emphasizes the need to report an accident on a job within 30 days of it happening. If you miss the 30-day deadline for reporting, you jeopardize your chances.
Second, you only have one year to file a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia.
#4 When Does Coverage Begin?
Workers’ compensation coverage begins on your first day of work.
This means that, if you are injured on your first day of employment, you are covered by Georgia workers’ comp – even if you were still in training.
However, you shouldn’t expect to start receiving benefits immediately.
You are entitled to weekly income benefits if you are unable to work for more than 7 days (the waiting period). You can then recoup that first week later on – 21 days after the first day you missed work.
#5 Do I Get to Choose My Own Doctor?
According to Georgia workers’ compensation, you must select a doctor from your employer’s posted list of physicians.
If your employer does not have a posted list, or if it was invalid, you can pick any doctor to be your authorized treating physician.
With that being said, most employers will have a valid, posted list of authorized treating physicians.
You do get to choose which doctor you’d like to see from this list. You do not (and should not) have to go to the doctor your employer recommends.
Your employer may send you to the most employer-friendly doctor on the list.
#6 Am I Allowed to Get a Second Opinion?
If you visit a doctor from the posted list of authorized physicians who insists you can return to work when you know you are unable, you have a right to a second opinion.
Contact your attorney to see which doctors on the posted list are more employee-friendly.
Also, if you are receiving weekly benefits, you also get a one-time second opinion from any doctor – it does not have to be a panel doctor.
#7 Why Is It Taking So Long to Get My Medical Records?
I have had many clients call concerned because it seems to be taking forever for their treating doctor to send their medical records.
Unfortunately, this is another pandemic-related issue.
With COVID, many medical offices are understaffed, which has resulted in it taking significantly longer than normal (sometimes weeks) to get medical records.
#8 Can I Get Georgia Workers’ Compensation Benefits If It Was My Fault?
Georgia’s workers’ compensation operates on a no-fault liability system.
According to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation, “Today, the workers’ compensation law provides for specific benefits to be paid to employees for injuries arising out of and in the course of employment, without regard to negligence or fault, and at the same time, provides the employer with limited liability.”
This is a fancy way to say you may still receive workers’ comp benefits if you are at fault.
It is important to note that claims are typically investigated – even in a no-fault liability system.
#9 Can I Still Get Georgia Workers’ Compensation Benefits If I Have a Pre-Existing Condition?
Some people hesitate to report a work injury because they don’t think it will be covered if they have a pre-existing condition.
The good news is that you are eligible for Georgia workers’ compensation benefits if you aggravate or re-injure an existing condition at work.
The bad news is that insurance companies will often dispute the claim that you were injured at work if you have a pre-existing condition.
This is another reason why hiring a workers’ compensation attorney is important.
#10 My Georgia Workers’ Compensation Claim Was Denied. Is This the End?
If your workers’ compensation claim was denied, it is understandable to feel defeated.
But this does not mean it is the end!
You have a right to fight the decision by requesting a hearing in front of an administrative law judge with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Fighting the denial will involve litigation where the lawyer for the insurance company will get a chance to depose you and to ask background questions along with questions about your accident, injuries, and limitations.
While you aren’t required to hire your own attorney, it is very wise to do so anytime litigation is involved.
[Related Read: 7 Steps to Take If Your Workers’ Comp Claim Is Denied in Georgia]
#11 Can I Get Anything for Pain and Suffering?
No, you are not entitled to a payment due to pain and suffering.
Personal injury tends to be associated with “pain and suffering.” So when people talk about suing for pain and suffering, they tend to be discussing personal injury claims, such as car accidents.
A personal injury claim is different from workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation is not a lawsuit; it is a request for benefits.
A personal injury claim requires fault, while workers’ compensation operates under no-fault liability.
#12 Can I Get Fired for Making a Workers’ Comp Claim in Georgia?
Sadly, you can be fired after filing a workers’ compensation claim.
This is because Georgia is an “at-will” employment state, which means you can be fired at any time for any reason, or for no reason, except for being a member of a class protected from employment discrimination.
However, being fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim is considered retaliation and is therefore illegal. It may be difficult to prove retaliation, unless your employer explicitly states the motivation behind the firing.
Typically, the employer will fire an employee for not being able to perform duties rather than filing a claim.
#13 I’ve Been Released for Light Duty Work. What Do I Do Now?
Communication is key.
If your authorized treating physician releases you for light duty work, you should contact your employer.
Your employer needs to know the restrictions you still have, such as not standing for extended periods.
The employer will need to find light duty work for you to do. However, before you approach your employer, you should first speak with your lawyer as there is strategy involved with these discussions. If you don’t know what to ask or how to ask, you could make a costly mistake.
Protect What You Are Entitled to with a Workers’ Comp Attorney.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.
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