The purpose of workers’ compensation benefits is to provide medical treatment and pay a portion of the wages lost when someone gets hurt on the job or develops a work-related illness. Even if you meet the initial requirements to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Atlanta, there are quite a few ways that you could lose your eligibility for these valuable benefits.
The Top Seven Mistakes People Make That Can Cost Them Their Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you get sick or hurt because of your job, you need to know what pitfalls to avoid so that you do not inadvertently lose your right to workers’ compensation benefits. The most common missteps that can result in a loss of eligibility include:
1. Not Reporting Your Injury or Illness Immediately
Sometimes people try to tough it out and see if an injury will heal on its own without medical treatment. Let’s say that you hurt your back while lifting boxes at work. You take some over-the-counter medicines, apply ice, and try to rest when you are at home. After about six weeks, you cannot stand the pain, so you go to the doctor.
The physician tells you that you have a severe back injury that will require surgery. You report the accident to your employer and write the date of the injury on the accident reporting form. Your boss tells you that workers’ compensation might not pay for your surgery or the time you will lose from work while recuperating from the operation because you waited too long to report the injury.
“You must report any accident immediately, but not later than 30 days after the accident, to your employer, your employer’s representative, your foreman or immediate supervisor. Failure to do so may result in the loss of the benefits.”
2. Using the Wrong Healthcare Provider
Even if you report the illness or injury immediately, you could lose your right to covered medical treatment if you go to your regular doctor. You might have to pay your doctor’s bills out of your own pocket because, in this situation, neither your health insurance nor the workers’ compensation program is likely to pay for your doctor.
Health insurance usually excludes coverage for work-related treatment because they want people to use their workers’ compensation (WC) program’s medical services whenever applicable. The workers’ compensation program will only pay for treatment by doctors and hospitals on the program’s list of approved providers.
Your boss can authorize one visit to your regular doctor, but after that, you have to use an approved healthcare provider. Your employer should give you a copy of the list of approved doctors and hospitals.
3. Failing to Cooperate with Any Part of the Claims Process
You must follow your WC doctor’s orders and complete the medical treatment plan. Failing to do so will jeopardize your eligibility for benefits. If you are experiencing side effects or adverse reactions to the treatment plan, talk with your doctor immediately.
If the doctor refuses to listen to your concerns, an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer can help you navigate the situation in a way that protects your right to benefits.
4. Refusing to Return to Your Job When Asked
When your employer asks you to return to work or your treating doctor releases you to go back to the job, refusing to do so can make you ineligible for WC benefits. Talk with a workers’ compensation lawyer in Atlanta about what to do if you do not think you are ready to go back to work.
5. Working Somewhere Else While Collecting TTD Benefits
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits get paid to injured or sick workers while they are unable to work at all because they are recuperating. If you work somewhere else while getting TTD benefits, you are technically able to work, so you will not qualify for TTD benefits. If you collect TTD benefits while working somewhere else, you might have to pay back the TTD compensation you received.
6. Submitting False Information
If you stretch the truth or submit fraudulent information during any stage of the WC program, you can lose your benefits and be forced to pay a fine. Make sure that you do not exaggerate or make any false statements to your doctor or employer.
7. Refusing to Take a Drug Test or Have a Medical Exam
The Georgia workers’ compensation program requires you to take drug tests and submit to medical examinations when your boss requests these things. If you refuse to comply, you can lose your eligibility for benefits.
Getting Help from an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
A lawyer can help to protect your claim and offer guidance on how you can avoid making a mistake that could cost you the right to receive benefits. At S. Burke Law, we take pride in helping people who get injured on the job or develop work-related illnesses. We know what benefits workers’ compensation will cover and how to protect your right to receive them. Call us today at 404-842-7838 for a free consultation.