Georgia State Workers Compensation Laws, Rules & Regulations
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Georgia State Workers Compensation Laws, Rules & Regulations
Usually, employees who are injured while on the job in Georgia are able to collect workers' comp benefits that pay for their medical care and provide weekly disability checks while they recover. The ability to apply for these benefits is a legally protected right. Even so, getting a claim approved to start receiving these benefits can sometimes be frustratingly problematic. Your employer or the insurance company that is responsible for paying out on a workers' comp claim can throw up all kinds of roadblocks in an attempt to escape their obligation. You may find that your claim is denied, or an approved one doesn't pay for adequate medical care or sufficiently cover your lost income.
If you find yourself in this situation, an expert Georgia workers' compensation lawyer can provide you with legal representation to ensure you get fair compensation. Morgan and Morgan have been staunch advocates of workers' rights since the inception of our law firm back in 1988. We work for the people, not the powerful. To better help employees understand their rights, here is a breakdown of Georgia state workers' compensation laws, rules, and regulations.
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What Is Georgia's Workers' Compensation Bill of Rights?
Georgia workers' compensation law gives rights and responsibilities to workers who become injured on the job. Here is an explanation of your entitlements and obligations under this law:
Rights of Employees
- You may receive medical care and wage replacement benefits if you're hurt on the job. The purpose of these benefits is so you can recover and return to work. Your dependents are entitled to lost income and funeral benefits if you die from a work-related injury.
- Your employer must post a listing of a minimum of six doctors or the name of the certified Workers' Compensation/Managed Care Organization that provides medical care unless otherwise approved by the Board. You have the right to choose a doctor from that list and may switch to another doctor on the list with your employer's permission. In case of a medical emergency, you can receive care from any doctor until the crisis is over. Then you must continue treatment with an approved doctor from the posted list.
- Authorized medical bills and necessary travel expenses will be paid for in case of an on-the-job injury up to 400 weeks after the date of the accident. Workers who sustain catastrophic injuries may be eligible for lifetime benefits.
- If you miss working for more than seven days because of a job-related injury, you are entitled to receive weekly pay benefits. You can expect the first check to be mailed within 21 days after your first missed workday. You will receive payment for the first week if you miss more than 21 days in a row.
- Accidents are ranked as either catastrophic or non-catastrophic. Catastrophic injuries include severe burns, blindness, paralysis, and amputations, or injuries that prevent the worker from performing their pre-accident job functions or fulfilling the job functions for work available in sizable numbers within the nation's economy. Should you suffer catastrophic injuries, you're entitled to receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage (untaxed) up to $575 per week for the timeframe you're physically unable to work. You're further entitled to medical care and vocational rehabilitation to assist in recovery.
- For workers whose injuries fall under non-catastrophic, you are entitled to wage benefits of two-thirds of your average weekly wage (untaxed) up to $575 per week as long as you're totally disabled. These benefits may last up to 400 weeks. If you are not working, but it has been concluded that you have been able to work with restrictions for 52 weeks in a row or 78 aggregate weeks, your weekly check will be decreased to two-thirds of your average weekly wage, not to exceed $383 per week and limited to 350 weeks.
- When you've recovered but must take a lower-paying job as the result of your injury, you are entitled to a weekly pay benefit of no more than $383 a week and limited to 350 weeks.
- Dependants of employees who die due to a workplace injury are entitled to compensation for burial expenses up to $7500. Additionally, they may receive pay benefits of two-thirds of the deceased's weekly wage up to $575 per week. A childless widowed spouse will be paid up to a maximum of $230,000. Benefits will continue until they remarry or openly cohabitate with a member of the opposite sex.
- If you do not receive benefits when they are due, your employer or their insurance company may be subject to a financial penalty which will be added to your payments.
Responsibilities of Employees
- You are subject to abide by safety rules and other reasonable employer policies and procedures.
- You must notify your employer, their representative, foreperson, or immediate supervisor of a workplace accident immediately and no later than 30 days after or risk loss of benefits.
- Employees are obligated to cooperate with medical providers during their treatment for work-related injuries. You must allow reasonable medical and rehabilitative care when ordered by the State Board of Workers' Compensation or risk suspension of benefits.
- Injuries or fatalities brought about by willful employee misconduct are grounds to deny benefits.
- You must notify your employer or their insurance carrier of a change of address. You should alert your employer or their insurance carrier when you're able to return to work, either full or part-time, and report the amount of your weekly pay because you may be entitled to ongoing income benefits even though you're back working.
- Dependent spouses of a deceased employee are obligated to alert the employer or their insurance carrier of address changes and if they remarry.
- You must endeavor to work a job approved by the authorized treating doctor, even if it pays less than the job you had prior to your injury. Should you refuse, benefits can be cut off.
- If you think you are due benefits and your employer or their insurance carrier denies your benefits, you must file a claim within one year after the last instance of approved medical care or within two years of your last benefit payment or lose your entitlements.
- If dependents do not receive their allowable benefits, they must file a claim with the State Board of Workers' Compensation within one year after the death of the worker or lose rights to entitlements.
- All expenses incurred for mileage or other medical care-related expenditures must be submitted to the employer or their insurance carrier within one year of the date of the receipt.
- Should an employee refuse a reasonable drug test after an on-the-job injury, it will be presumed the accident was related to alcohol or drug use. If contrary evidence is not produced to overcome this presumption, access to workers' comp benefits will be denied.
- Making false or misleading statements regarding your claim for benefits can be punished by a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both upon a guilty conviction. Furthermore, making false statements or providing false evidence while under oath during administrative or appellate division hearings is perjury.
How Long Do I Have to Be Employed to Be Eligible for Workers' Comp Benefits in Georgia?
You can be injured on the first day of your job and still be covered by workers' comp benefits. These benefits are available to full-time, part-time, and even seasonal employees if you regularly work for the business in question. Volunteers and independent contractors are not eligible for workers' comp benefits. Still, if you have a question regarding your status and eligibility, a workers' compensation lawyer can provide you with verification.
Are Employers Required to Carry Workers' Compensation Insurance in Georgia?
Georgia law requires any business with three or more employees to carry workers' compensation insurance. Failing to carry workers' compensation insurance may result in penalties of up to $5,000 per violation and be subject to a misdemeanor. To verify your employer is covered, visit this State Board of Workers' Compensation link.
When Should I Hire a Workers' Compensation Lawyer in Georgia?
When you run into complications filing for and receiving benefits for your claim, having your own legal advocate can tremendously help. While you have a right to represent yourself without the help of a lawyer, you can be sure that your employer's insurance carrier will have their lawyers involved, which doesn't make it a fair playing field. Here are some common situations that indicate legal help would be warranted:
Your claim is denied or goes unpaid for an unreasonable amount of time - While unethical, your employer may have a blanket policy to deny legitimate claims in an attempt to frustrate you so that you'll abandon your rights to medical care and wage benefits. When you have a workers' compensation lawyer representing you, they quickly understand you're serious.
You get fired, or your employer takes other retaliatory measures after you file a claim - Filing for workers' compensation is a protected right. Employers who retaliate against workers for exercising their rights are violating the law. You might be entitled to collect compensation for your mistreatment.
Your employer wants you to return to work before the treating physician has released you - There are specific guidelines concerning how and when you are to return to work if you're currently getting benefits. Your employer has no right to circumvent these procedures just because they want you back on the clock because they could be cheating you out of recovery time and wage benefits.
Your employer's insurance carrier offers a settlement - Insurance companies rarely have your best interests in mind when it comes to a voluntary settlement offer. Instead, they're trying to get released from their obligations for as little as possible. If you take a settlement, you'll be required to sign a release and can collect no further payments or medical care reimbursements, so it's crucial to have a lawyer review the settlement offer to ensure you get the maximum compensation possible.
How Morgan and Morgan Can Help You With Our Workers' Compensation Claim
In an ideal scenario, you will have no problems getting medical attention and the wage benefits you deserve after a workplace injury. However, ideal conclusions are a rarity in this world, especially if you've been seriously injured. While Georgia doesn't offer many worker protection policies, access to workers' compensation benefits is your right by law.
A workers' compensation lawyer can advise you on how the process works, explain Georgia state workers’ compensation laws, rules, and regulations, and be there for you when you need guidance and representation. We understand how a workplace injury can make life very difficult, and we're here to help you with the burden. It’s our goal to make sure you get the compensation and care you deserve.
Contact us for a free case evaluation today.