The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) of the United States Department of Labor regulates conditions at job sites and requires employers to provide safe working environments. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created OSHA. If a state has a federally-approved occupational safety and health regulatory program, the state can operate under that system.
Georgia does not have a federally approved plan, so the federal OSHA regulations govern this area in our state. Public-sector state employees are an exception to this general rule. The Public Employee Hazardous Chemical Protection and Right-to-Know Act (PEHCPA) controls workplace safety issues for these workers.
If unsafe working conditions in Georgia relating to workers’ compensation caused you to sustain an injury or develop an illness, you can file a complaint with OSHA or the state employee’s agency. If you have a work-related injury or illness, whether because of unsafe working conditions in Georgia or some other reason, you might be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
When Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits Start
Unlike some other employee benefits, there is no waiting period for workers’ compensation coverage in Georgia. You have coverage beginning on your first day on the job.
Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Georgia
If the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation (Board) approves your claim, you can get multiple benefits, depending on the facts of your case. Some examples of benefits for a work-related illness or injury include:
- Medical treatment (100 percent of the cost)
- Rehabilitation time
- Income to help replace some of your lost earnings
- Approved surgery
- Imaging tests, like x-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan
- Physical therapy
- Approved prescription drugs
- Reimbursement for pre-approved mileage, meals, and lodging for needed medical treatment
Workers’ Compensation and Lawsuits for Money Damages
If you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia, the program is your exclusive remedy. In other words, you cannot sue your employer for money damages.
If a third-party who is not a co-worker caused your injury or illness, you can sue that person or company, but your boss might get a portion of your settlement or award from the third party to offset the costs of your workers’ compensation claim. Your employer would only receive funds after you get full compensation for your losses.
What Constitutes a Work-Related Injury or Illness
The Board defines a compensable work-related claim as any illness, injury, or death that arose out of and in the course of a person’s course of employment. If you were performing assigned job duties during your work hours when you sustained an injury, you have coverage.
On the other hand, if you get hurt during lunch or another work break, or when you are doing something that is not an assigned duty, you will not be eligible for benefits. Also, you are not covered when you are in the course of your usual commute to and from the job.
Disability Benefits Under Georgia Workers’ Compensation
You must miss more than seven days from work to get Temporary Total Disability benefits, but if you miss more than 21 days in a row because of your work-related injury or illness, you will get paid for the first seven days as well as the following time. Workers’ compensation will pay two-thirds of your regular wage, up to the set limit.
If you can return to work but have limited duties that lower your income, you can get two-thirds of the difference up to the set maximum. These benefits are Temporary Partial Disability.
You can get compensation for long-term impairment from a work-related illness or injury through Permanent Partial Disability benefits. Your authorized doctor will assess your level of disability and assign a rating that will be a factor in your compensation.
Your eligible dependents like your surviving spouse and minor children can collect benefits if you lose your life from a qualifying injury or illness. Your dependents can get two-thirds of your regular wages up to the maximum. Georgia worker’s compensation can also pay funeral costs, up to the set limit.
Reasons the State Board of Workers’ Compensation Denies Claims
Sometimes the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation refuses to provide medical treatment or pay for an injured worker’s lost wages, ongoing impairment, or death. Some of the reasons the board denies claims include:
- The injured worker went to her own doctor for treatment instead of using a doctor from the employer’s approved list of physicians. In an emergency, you can get medical care from the nearest emergency provider, but after the emergency passes, you must use a doctor from the list.
- The employee got hurt while engaging in willful misconduct.
- The injury happened when the worker was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or misusing controlled substances.
- The employee did not report the injury or illness to the employer by the deadline.
- The worker refused to take a drug test or submit to a medical examination.
Many other factors can jeopardize your benefits award. You should talk with a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer right away if you have a work-related illness or injury to protect your right to collect benefits.