Frequently Asked Questions about Workers' Compensation
People who suffer workplace injuries in Atlanta are protected by Georgia workers’ compensation laws. However, many people don’t fully understand how workers’ compensation can provide them with benefits when they get hurt on the job.
As an employee in Georgia, it is important that you know your rights. The Atlanta workplace accident lawyers at Parsons & Associates, P.C., can assist you with a free, confidential evaluation of your case and help you to make a claim for benefits.
We have also prepared some answers to frequently asked questions for those who want some basic information about their rights after an on-the-job accident.1. What is workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation laws in Georgia provide protection to injured workers. Employers are required to buy a workers’ compensation insurance policy, except in cases where they are self-insured or where they fall within one of the narrow exceptions to workers’ comp laws.
This insurance policy covers you if you are hurt at work. The workers’ compensation policy guarantees that your bills and costs will be covered so you can get the medical help you need after a workplace accident and so you can support yourself and your family if your injury makes it impossible for you to work or to return to the job you had before you were injured.
Workers’ compensation provides you with broad protection, covering virtually all work injuries, regardless of whether the employer was at fault. However, it is also an exclusive remedy system. This means you generally cannot sue your employer if you get hurt on the job except in very rare cases. You must file a workers’ compensation claim in order to get benefits from your employer.
There are some situations in which a third party – someone other than your employer or co-workers – contributes to an accident, and it may be possible to recover additional compensation in a third-party lawsuit. However, it is still important to file for workers’ compensation benefits after any workplace accident.2. What types of injuries are covered by Georgia workers’ compensation?
Any type of injury that you sustain in the workplace or as a direct result of doing your job is covered by workers’ compensation in most situations. This includes injuries that occur away from the place where you normally do your job. For example, if you are required by your boss to attend a retreat for the company and get hurt during the retreat, then your injury may be covered by workers’ comp. If you are sent on a company errand and get hurt in a car accident, then this could also constitute a work injury covered by workers’ compensation.
A key factor is whether you were required to do what you were doing as a part of your job. An injury at a voluntary company party, for example, might not be covered. Injuries sustained while commuting to and from work are also generally not covered by workers’ compensation.3. Are workers’ comp benefits available for repetitive stress injuries?
Repetitive stress injuries resulting from your job could be considered covered workplace injuries. This can include injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or damage done to your back or knees as a result of repetitive lifting at work.
You will need to show that the injury was caused by your job duties. For example, if you developed carpal tunnel syndrome, but you frequently knit at home, then your employer might try to argue that the injury was caused by the knitting rather than by your job. Medical testimony and information about exactly what you do at work could be helpful in proving that the repetitive stress injury resulted from your job.4. I got sick from chemicals at work. Can I get workers’ comp benefits?
Many people suffer workplace injuries as a result of exposure to toxins. These toxins may include lead, asbestos, mold or chemicals. If you become ill as a result of being exposed to a dangerous substance at work, then this could constitute a compensable workplace injury. This is true even if the illness developed many years after you were first exposed to the toxin, as long as you can prove it was connected to your job.5. When should I report a work injury to my employer?
You should report your work injury to your employer as soon as you can after the accident. In order for your medical treatment costs to be covered, you will need to see a doctor authorized by your employer. Furthermore, a delay in reporting your injury could make it more difficult to prove that your injury was related to your job and could result in a denial of your workers’ compensation claim.
You should report every on-the-job injury, even if it seems at first to be relatively minor. This is because an injury that initially seems to be minor could become worse over time. You do not want to do anything to jeopardize your right to make a workers’ compensation claim and get the benefits you deserve.6. I think the accident was partially my fault. Does that mean I can’t get workers’ comp?
Workers’ compensation claims are not based on negligence or fault. You can make a claim and get benefits even if your employer was not negligent. You can also make a claim and get benefits even if you did something wrong or made a mistake. As long as you did not do something on purpose to hurt yourself and were not intoxicated or impaired by drugs, you should be able to recover benefits through the Georgia workers’ compensation system.7. How do I make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits?
If you get hurt at work, you should report your injury to your employer as soon as you are able to. Your employer will fill out a report of the injury and provide notification to the insurance company and to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
If your claim is denied or if you are making a claim that is for repetitive stress injuries, an occupational disease or toxic exposure, then things could become much more complicated. In these instances or in other special situations where getting benefits is not as straightforward as just telling your employer you got hurt, you should get help from an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation law firm such as Parsons & Associates, P.C. We fight every day for the full benefits that every injured worker deserves.8. My employer told me that I don’t need to report my injury. What should I do?
You should never let your employer convince you not to report a workplace accident or injury. Sometimes, employers will tell injured workers that they do not need to report an injury because they can just use health insurance to cover it. This is a bad idea because health insurance requires co-pays, but workers’ compensation does not. Furthermore, health insurance does not pay disability benefits or provide certain other types of monetary compensation available from workers’ compensation. You have a right to workers’ compensation if you have suffered a compensable injury, and you should not have to rely on your own insurance.
You cannot be fired for reporting a work injury, and if your employer is trying to tell you not to report it, you should contact an experienced Atlanta workplace injury lawyer.
You also need legal help if your employer denies your claim or if your claim does not pay the benefits that you deserve. There is an appeals process for workers’ compensation denials that is designed to make sure that workers are not left without the benefits they need after they get hurt at work.9. What types of benefits are available through workers’ compensation in Georgia?
Workers’ compensation covers all medical bills related to a workplace injury. You are also entitled to payment of partial lost wages after you have missed seven or more days from work. If your injury results in you being unable to work at all, then disability benefits are available. If your injury results in you being restricted to light duty or needing to take a different job, then you may be entitled to partial disability benefits. Death benefits and certain other types of compensation are also available under Georgia workers’ compensation rules.
You are not, however, entitled to compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress, both of which would potentially be available in a personal injury lawsuit. If a third party was responsible for your work injuries or played a role in causing your work accident, then you might be able to file a lawsuit to get broader benefits than those available under workers’ compensation.10. What if I cannot go back to work after getting hurt?
If you cannot go back to work after an on-the-job injury, then disability benefits could be available from workers’ compensation. Disability benefits are available for total disability and partial disability. They are also available on either a temporary or a permanent basis.
Temporary disability benefits are paid out until you have reached your maximum medical improvement. At this point, if you can go back to work at a lower-paying job or go back to work part-time, then you could receive partial disability benefits to make up for some of the difference in wages. If you cannot go back to work at all, you could receive permanent disability benefits equal to a portion of what you were making prior to the injury.11. My employer wants me to return to work, but I’m not ready. What can I do?
You cannot be required to return to work without a doctor’s clearance. If you believe that your doctor has cleared you to return to work too soon, then you could appeal and try to fight the mandate that you go back to your job. You should contact an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer for help.12. How can a workers’ compensation lawyer help me?
Workers’ compensation claims in Georgia are handled through an administrative system. This means there are special rules for applying for benefits, for appealing denials and for resolving disputes that arise surrounding benefits.
An Atlanta workplace injury lawyer at Parsons & Associates, P.C., can help you navigate the workers’ comp system every step of the way, from making an initial claim, to appealing a denial of benefits, to disputing an award amount, to fighting an order to return to work too soon.
To learn more about how we can assist you after you have suffered an injury at work, contact us now at 770-422-9000770-422-9000, or fill out our online contact form for a free and confidential claim review. We return calls within 24 hours from our offices in Atlanta and Savannah.