The length of time that you can collect workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia will depend on your injury and the facts of your case. Factors include things like the severity of your injury, whether you can work at all, and whether you have permanent impairment are all factors in how long disabled workers are covered under workers' compensation medical benefits.

Catastrophic Injuries

The Georgia workers' compensation program divides workplace accidents as catastrophic or non-catastrophic.

If you have an injury that prevents you from performing your prior work or any other available job, you might have a catastrophic injury that might mean you will receive benefits as long as you cannot return to work. Examples of catastrophic injuries include:

  • Severe head injuries
  • Significant burns
  • Paralysis
  • Amputations
  • Blindness

If the workers’ compensation program determines that your injury is catastrophic and you cannot work at all, you can get two-thirds of your average weekly salary up to the statutory limit. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation provides additional benefits, like medical care and vocational rehabilitation services.

For most people, workers’ compensation benefits only last for up to 400 weeks. In the event of a catastrophic injury, however, there is no pre-set limit on the number of weeks for these benefits. People with catastrophic injuries can receive “temporary” total disability benefits on a permanent basis, but they must continue to be unable to work, even part-time. This is something to consider when determining how long disabled workers are covered under workers' compensation medical benefits.

How Temporary Total Disability Benefits Work

A person who earns $800 a week can collect about $533 a week in temporary total disability workers’ compensation benefits, which is two-thirds of the person’s average weekly income. The worker’s injury must be severe enough to make him unable to work, even part-time, to get these benefits.

As soon as the worker is able to return to work, full-time or part-time, the temporary total disability benefits will stop. At that point, the worker might be eligible for a different type of assistance from the workers’ compensation program.

Non-Catastrophic Injuries

You do not have to experience a catastrophic injury to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia. Let’s say that a worker sustains a repetitive stress injury at work that causes carpal tunnel syndrome. The workers’ compensation doctor recommends surgery with several weeks of recuperation away from the job. The employee can collect temporary total disability workers’ compensation benefits during those weeks.

The temporary total disability benefits are only available for the period during which the worker cannot work at all. If the employee completes the recuperation and the doctor releases him to return to work part-time, the temporary total disability benefits will stop when he returns to work part-time. This impacts how long disabled workers are covered under workers' compensation medical benefits.

What Happens After Temporary Total Disability Ends

The worker in our scenario can seek temporary partial disability benefits to help make up some of the difference in his income while he is working reduced hours. For instance, if the doctor recommends that the employee work for 20 hours a week for one month and then full-time thereafter, the employee will have a shortfall of 20 hours per week during the first month back on the job.

The Georgia workers’ compensation program will pay two-thirds of the wages the employee loses during the phase of temporary partial disability, up to the statutory maximum. The worker can only receive up to 350 total weeks of benefits, including the initial period in which he could not work at all and collected temporary total disability benefits. A worker who received 350 weeks of benefits during the temporary total disability phase will not get additional benefits for temporary partial disability.

Let us go back to the example of the worker who earned $800 a week before the injury. If he can only work for 20 hours a week during the first month back on the job, he will earn $400 a week that month instead of his previous $800 a week. Georgia workers’ compensation temporary partial disability benefits can pay him around $267 a week to help make up some of the difference in income.

Permanent Partial Disability Benefits

If you have a lasting impairment from a work-related injury or illness and the workers’ compensation doctor expects the disability to last for the rest of your life, you might qualify for permanent partial disability benefits. This is yet another way disabled workers are covered under workers' compensation medical benefits. The benefit payments are not permanent; only the impairment is permanent.

The number of weeks that you can receive permanent partial disability benefits will depend on your injury. By way of example:

  • The loss of vision in one eye qualifies for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits for 150 weeks.
  • Losing an arm or the use of one arm can result in PPD benefits for 225 weeks.

The Georgia statutes dictate how long these benefits last, by type of impairment.

S. Burke Law can take care of your Georgia workers’ compensation claim so that you can focus on getting better and getting back to work or adjusting to your new normal. We treat our clients like family. We will work tirelessly to get you all the compensation that you deserve. Call us today at (404) 842-7838 for a free consultation.