Before the state of Georgia adopted workers’ compensation laws, the welfare of workers was up to employers. If a worker suffered an injury on the job, an employer could get out of paying for the injury by claiming the employee assumed inherent risk. The state also barred employees from filing an injury claim against their employers for injuries. And if the employer made a small contribution to his injury, he could not sue his employer.
To protect workers, Georgia passed workers’ compensation laws in the early 1900s. Below is a breakdown of Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws.
Who Is Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Employers must have workers’ compensation coverage if they have three or more full-time, part-time, or seasonal employees. Also, if the company is incorporated or an LLC, corporate officers count towards this total.
Employees exempt from benefits include:
- U.S. government agencies
- Railroad carriers
- Farm laborers
- Domestic servants
If you work at a company with three or more employees (and are not one of the exempt workers above), you are likely covered under workers’ compensation laws. If the law requires your employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance, you are covered on your first day.
It is important to note that not all injuries that occur at work are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Injured workers must meet the following requirements to collect compensation:
- Your injury was work-related.
- You are not an independent contractor.
- Your injury did not result from “willful misconduct” (e.g., horseplay, drinking on the job, etc.)
What Workers’ Compensation Benefits Can I Collect?
There are two primary benefits to which you are entitled if you suffered a work injury in Georgia:
- Medical Benefits: Your medical benefits include all hospital and therapy expenses. There is no deductible and you should not receive a bill. Rather, your employer’s insurance company will pay for any reasonable medical expenses. Be aware that you should receive compensation for the cost of traveling to doctor’s appointments as well.
- Wage Benefits: You are eligible to receive up to two-thirds of your average weekly wages. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation determines this number by calculating your average wages for the previous 13 weeks. The maximum amount victims can receive is $575 per week. In some cases, you can still collect workers’ compensation benefits if a doctor places you on limited or light duty.
You are eligible to receive benefits for up to 400 weeks. However, you can exceed that total if your injuries are catastrophic.
When Do I Begin Receiving Benefits?
You should receive your first check within 21 days of the first day you missed work.
Do Workers’ Compensation Laws Require Me to Use a Specific Doctor for My Medical Care?
Yes. Your employer must post a list of at least six doctors or a “certified Workers’ Compensation Managed Care Organization which provides medical care.” You must choose one of those six doctors if you want your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer to pay your medical expenses.
If you require emergency care, you can go to any doctor; however, once the emergency is over, you must switch to one of the doctors on the list.
You also have the option to change your doctor once without the permission of your employer. If you want to change again, you must receive permission.
How Long Do I Have to Report My Injury?
Per Georgia law, you have 30 days to report your injury to your supervisor. If you do not report within these 30 days, chances are you will be unable to recover workers’ compensation benefits.
Do Workers’ Compensation Laws Allow Me to Sue My Employer for My Injury?
No, workers’ compensation laws do not allow you to sue your employer for your work injury. By receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you give up your right to hold your employer liable.
Note: You can sue another party if it caused or contributed to your injury. We can help you determine if you might have a case for a third-party claim.
Call an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Atlanta residents suffering from work injuries are entitled to the minimum benefits listed above. However, if your injuries are particularly serious and result in disfigurement or loss of limbs, your compensation should exceed those minimums.
Unfortunately, workers’ compensation insurers are businesses and will do what they can to save money. In many cases, this involves giving injured parties less than they deserve — or giving them nothing at all. If you are just starting the process or if your employer’s insurer has already denied your claim, an Atlanta work injury attorney at S. Burke Law can help.
We can help guide you through the process of collecting evidence and filing a claim with Georgia’s State Board of Workers’ Compensation. If you already received a denial, we can help you file an appeal. Call us now at 404-842-7838 for a free consultation.