Stephen Hasner | Workers' Compensation | November 24, 2016
When you have been injured on the job, workers’ compensation benefits can provide the safety net you need to continue to provide for yourself and your loved ones.
It covers costs you may incur during the time it takes to recover such as medical expenses and lost wages. It also compensates you for any temporary or permanent disabilities you may suffer.
Unfortunately, like any insurance plan or government program, there are numerous rules and procedures that have the potential to seriously impact your claim and the overall amount of benefits you may be able to receive.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance for workers who are injured on the job. Administered in Georgia through the State Board of Workers’ Compensation (SBWC), it provides medical, rehabilitative and income benefits during your recovery.
To receive these benefits, you must report your injury immediately to your supervisor, seek medical care as soon as possible and follow all of your doctor’s instructions.
Additional facts you should be aware of concerning workers’ compensation claims in Georgia include:
- Can you get workers’ compensation benefits even if you are responsible for the accident or injury occurring?
According to the SBWC Employee Handbook, workers whose own haste or inattentiveness causes an accident or injury may still receive benefits. However, those workers whose injuries result from willful misconduct such as fighting, horseplay or using alcohol or drugs on the job are not able to be compensated.
- Will your workers’ compensation benefits stop automatically if your employer fires you?
Georgia is an employment at will state. This means that, without a formal, legal contract stating otherwise, employees can be fired for good cause, bad cause or for no cause at all. While your employer does have the right to terminate your employment for any reason, or even for no reason at all, you are generally still entitled to any workers’ compensation benefits you are owed.
- Can you collect benefits for your pain and suffering?
Workers’ compensation provides for medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for disabilities, but it does not compensate injured workers for pain and suffering caused by their injuries. This type of compensation is available only through a personal injury claim.
- Can you file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer for your injuries?
Under the workers’ compensation law, you are entitled to bring a personal injury lawsuit against third parties that are at-fault for your accident. However, you can’t pursue a personal lawsuit directly against your employer because workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy.
- Can you choose your doctor for your workers’ compensation appointment?
Your employer is required to post a list of medical providers for employees to seek treatment from in the event of an on-the-job injury. This list must include a panel of at least six qualifying physicians or a Managed Care Organization (MCO) that provides even more options. While you may choose your own provider from among these offerings, you may not choose a doctor outside of the panel unless the panel is invalid.
- Can you receive a lump sum settlement?
Settlement in workers’ compensation is voluntary. There is no mechanism in Georgia to go to court and seek a lump sum settlement. However, the parties involved can voluntarily agree to a lump sum settlement which closes out rights to future benefits.
- Can you claim workers’ compensation for a pre-existing condition?
Workers who suffer from a pre-existing condition may claim workers’ compensation benefits if their condition is aggravated by accidents or injuries on the job or during the course of their employment. These benefits would cover only for the aggravation and not the underlying condition.
- Can you continue to receive benefits, even after you return to work?
In certain situations, you may return to work and still receive benefits. Those situations include:
- If you suffer a permanent partial disability, you can receive benefits while you are back to work.
- If you have been returned to work and are making less than your pore-injury average weekly wage.
In these scenarios, you may be entitled to partial income benefits for periods up to 350 weeks.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Represent You in Your Workers’ Compensation Claim?
While you always have the right to represent yourself in these matters, hiring an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to represent you is always in your best interests. Having a trusted legal advocate on your side can help ensure you have the proper evidence in support of your claim and that the law and SBWC rules and regulations are followed.