What Can a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Do To Help Me?
The Georgia workers’ compensation system will compensate you for medical expenses and a portion of your lost income if you suffer a work-related injury. The good news is that you don’t have to prove that your employer was at fault for your injuries. The bad news is that your benefits are limited compared to a personal injury claim. Either way, the services of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can make all the difference in your claim.
The Initial Consultation
Almost any workers’ compensation lawyer will not charge you for an initial case consultation. The lawyer needs this consultation to question you and find out whether your case is worth pursuing.
You are under no obligation to hire the lawyer. However, if the lawyer offers to represent you, then they probably have confidence in your claim
Gathering Admissible Evidence for Your Claim
You need to prove three facts to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits:
- You suffered an injury accident;
- You were an employee at the time of your accident; and
- The accident occurred within the scope of your employment.
You must prove all three facts by the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This standard of proof means something like “more likely than not.” Your evidence must comply with the Georgia evidence code, which excludes certain types.
Your lawyer should understand the standard of proof and the Georgia evidence code by heart. Your lawyer will need to gather evidence and evaluate it against the applicable standard. They will also need to “weigh” the evidence to make sure it meets the aforementioned “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This takes experience, intuition, and judgment.
Making Sure You Don’t Miss Any Deadlines
Your workers’ compensation lawyer can help you keep any applicable deadlines, including the following:
- You must notify your employer of your injury within 30 days of the accident that caused it. If noticeable symptoms were delayed, you can treat the date that your symptoms become noticeable as the date of the accident. Put your notification into writing and follow any reasonable formatting requirements from your employer. Keep a copy for yourself.
- You must file your workers’ compensation claim within a year of the date of your injury. There are many exceptions to this one-year deadline that a seasoned workers’ compensation attorney should be familiar with.
Talk to a lawyer about these deadlines because they can get tricky sometimes. Ambiguity might arise, for example, if you are filing a claim for a repetitive stress injury rather than a single accident.
Filing Your Claim for You
You must file your Georgia workers’ compensation claim with great care; even a small error could be time-consuming. A large error could doom your claim. Following is a rundown of the filing procedure.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will have been through this process many, many times before.
You need to prepare and submit the following documentation:
- WC-14 Form (Notice of Claim/Request for Hearing/Request for Mediation);
- Supporting documentation for your medical treatment such as medical bills and prescription medication receipts.
- Supporting documentation for your lost earnings, including earning statements, etc.
- Send additional copies to your employer and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
You must file the claim with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Representing You at Hearings and Mediation Proceedings
At a workers’ compensation hearing, you appear before an administrative law judge to present your case. You can bring a witness or an attorney, even though you don’t have to bring either. Unless you have been to many workers’ compensation hearings before, you almost certainly need a workers’ compensation attorney who has fought and won there before.
You can also bring an attorney with you to mediation. Although the mediator is supposed to be a neutral third party who helps you resolve your claim by mutual consent, your odds are definitely better if you bring your lawyer to stick up for you.
Negotiating a Settlement
Negotiation is like mediation without a mediator or a hearing without a judge. It’s just you and the other side, hammering out a deal if possible. Never forget that negotiation is an art that rewards the best negotiator. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer should be a skilled and experienced negotiator with in-depth knowledge of the relevant law.
Handling Third-Party Claims and Litigation
You might want to ask your lawyer to file an ordinary personal injury claim (not a workers’ compensation claim) arising from your workplace accident. If your case qualifies, you can win far more compensation than you could by filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Your lawyer might, for example, see that you have a premises liability claim against a third party who owned your construction worksite. If your lawyer is experienced in personal injury law, they could press your claim and win you far more compensation than a mere workers’ compensation claim would have yielded.
Help You Pursue a Claim for Retaliation
Employers don’t like workers’ compensation claims very much. In many cases, they are tempted to simply “get rid of” any employee who asserts one, possibly including you. They might also retaliate in some way short of firing you to intimidate your co-workers to thereby prevent them from “getting any ideas.” This practice is strictly illegal under federal law—you have the right to press your claim free from fear of retaliation.
Having rights, however, doesn’t guarantee that you can enforce them. A lawyer experienced in handling workers’ compensation retaliation claims, however, can fight for you from start to finish. In actual practice, employees seldom dare to retaliate against an employee who has hired an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to represent them.
Appealing an Adverse Decision
You might receive an adverse dedication—an outright rejection or less compensation than you believe you deserve.
A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you fight all the way up to the Supreme Court of Georgia if you need to.
Injured at Work? Contact a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer ASAP
You might not be certain whether your injury qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. Even if it does, you might be unsure how much your claim is worth. And you might have no idea how to enforce your claim effectively. Fortunately, a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer can help you with all of these matters. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the better your chances are to end up with a generous settlement.
Remember this much: it is the strength of your claim, not the size of your wallet, that matters most. That’s because most workers’ compensation lawyers won’t charge you anything upfront, and they will work for free unless they win or settle your claim.