Workplace injuries are surprisingly common. When injuries like these occur, they can have serious, life-altering consequences. After an injury, you not only have to deal with the pain and struggle of recovery but you also have to overcome the financial challenge of paying for medical treatment. Sadly, some employers try to get out of paying for these injuries by claiming that they were not at fault.
If you experience an on-the-job injury, don’t try to handle the situation alone. Instead, reach out to an experienced Albany workers’ compensation lawyer today. At Calvin Smith Law our personal injury attorneys can deal with your employer and their insurance company for you so that you can pay attention to your recovery. Call (404) 383-7552 to set up a free consultation and learn how we can help your claim.
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An Introduction To Workers’ Compensation
In the state of Georgia, workers’ compensation insurance covers injuries that occur while employees are on the job. The following expenses are usually covered:
- Medical expenses including hospital bills
- Disability benefits for long-term disruptions in your ability to work
- Prescription medications
- Physical therapy appointments
- Any travel expenses related to your injuries
Employees who are injured may also be eligible for vocational rehabilitation. Every state handles workers’ compensation differently. That is why it is important to work with a lawyer who is familiar with the laws in the state of Georgia.
What Are Some Of The Most Common Injuries Covered By Workers’ Compensation?
Workers can sustain injuries in just about any type of job. Construction workers are particularly prone to injuries since they work in a high-risk environment. Injuries that occur at work are tracked closely by the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA). Their goal is to eliminate the primary ways that workers get killed on the job, which include being electrocuted, falling, getting struck by an object, or getting caught in or between objects.
The list below highlights ten injuries that workers commonly experience:
- Injuries to the neck or back
- The loss of fingers or limbs
- Fractured or shattered bones
- Hearing damage
- Falling or slipping
- Pain in the joints
- Travel-related accidents while on the road for business
- Accidents at construction sites
- Accidents that occur when handling heavy machinery or tools
An Overview Of Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Laws
Companies that employ three or more people are required by the state of Georgia to carry insurance that will pay for the medical expenses and lost wages of their employees if they are injured on the job.
When accidental deaths occur at work, the employee’s dependents, including their spouse or children, can also receive compensation.
In some situations, a third party may be involved in these claims. For instance, if a subcontractor creates a hazardous situation on a job site that leads to an accident, they could also be held liable for your injuries. Regardless of how you were injured, we will work with you to identify all of your options. Some of the most frequently asked questions about workplace injuries are outlined below.
What Steps Should I Take Right After An Injury Occurs At Work?
Along with receiving medical treatment right away, you should also let your employer know about the injury as soon as possible. In many cases, one of your coworkers or a manager or supervisor will have already let your boss know about the injury. It is still important to verify that they are aware of what happened. Once you notify your employer, the next step is to reach out to an attorney. At Calvin Smith Law, we advise our clients to avoid giving statements. If you say anything wrong, it could be used against you in your case.
Ultimately, the purpose of workers’ compensation insurance is to allow you to fully recover from your injuries. In some cases, however, your employer may pressure you to return to work before you have fully healed.
Does Your Employer Provide Workers’ Compensation?
If you haven’t ever been injured at work before, you may not know whether or not your employer has workers’ compensation coverage. Sadly, many people who are injured fail to file claims since they aren’t familiar with how workers’ compensation works.
Oftentimes, people mistakenly think that big companies are the only ones that offer workers’ compensation coverage.
The way your employer has structured their company will affect whether or not they are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In Georgia, anyone who owns a company that employs three or more people is legally obligated to offer workers’ compensation.
These laws apply to small businesses, as well. It doesn’t matter how big or small the business is in terms of its revenue or sales volume. If they employ three or more people, they must carry this type of insurance.
If you are doing work for an uninsured subcontractor when you are injured, the primary contractor will typically be liable for providing workers’ compensation coverage.
Regardless of the circumstances of your case, the lawyers at Calvin Smith Law can help you determine how best to proceed to improve your chances of getting compensated for your injuries.
What Benefits are Provided by Workers’ Compensation?
An employee handbook published by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation provides detailed guidelines about the specific benefits provided by workers’ compensation. These benefits may include:
When injuries occur at work, workers’ compensation insurance will cover any related medical expenses, within reason. This can include hospital stays, doctor’s appointments, surgery, prescription medications, ongoing rehabilitation, or other medical expenses. You are free to decide which doctor you want to see as long as the doctor you choose is on a list approved by the workers’ compensation insurance company.
If you are unable to work as a result of your injury, you can be compensated for your lost income. Workers who have been absent from work as a result of their injuries for more than seven days are eligible for this benefit. If you are out of work for 21 days or more, you can also get compensation for the initial seven days that you missed. If the injury is classified as catastrophic, you are eligible for benefits for the entire time that you are unable to return to work. In cases classified as non-catastrophic, on the other hand, benefits are paid out for a maximum of 400 weeks.
Sadly, injuries are sometimes so severe that they result in the death of the employee. In cases like these, the victim’s dependents are eligible for death benefits. This includes coverage for their funeral and burial as well as for their lost income.
If you qualify for income benefits, the amount you are paid will be equal to two-thirds of what you would have made if you were working. You can receive this benefit until the maximum limit has been reached.
How Should You Handle Workplace Injuries?
When an accident occurs at work, it can cause pain, embarrassment, and anxiety. Sometimes, workers try to keep going, working through their shift despite their injury. They may try to minimize how severe the injury is or they may not even tell anyone about it.
Employees are often hesitant to make any waves at work. This is particularly true if they are in a competitive position where there are a lot of people waiting to apply for their job.
When injuries occur, however, timing is everything. To improve your chances of getting compensated for your injuries in Albany, GA, follow all of these steps:
- Let someone in charge know about the injury right away. Initially, this may mean verbally notifying your manager or supervisor. As soon as possible, you should also send a notification in written form, either via email or by standard mail. Having a written document makes it easier to prove that you are in compliance if your employer balks at following through on your case.
- See a doctor or medical professional. Getting medical treatment will help back up your claim that you were injured. When you see a medical professional, they will create a detailed record of your injuries based on their examination.
- If your job has on-site medical personnel available, see them right away. Otherwise, visit a local hospital, emergency room, or walk-in clinic. Depending on the situation, you may need to see a doctor that has been preapproved by your employer.
- Be open about any symptoms you are experiencing and make sure that the doctor conducts a thorough examination. All of your injuries should be carefully documented by a trained medical professional.
- Reach out to a lawyer who specializes in workers’ compensation cases. Working with a lawyer is the best way to make sure that you don’t miss any essential steps in your case. Your lawyer will help you determine what information you need to share with your employer and your doctor.
- Work with your attorney to file a WC-14. This is the official notice required to file a claim.
How Are Workers’ Compensation Claims Filed?
When an accident happens at work, fast action is essential. If you wait too long to file a claim, you may inadvertently give up your right to seek compensation by missing the filing deadline.
As the injured party, you are responsible for reporting the accident right away. The law requires you to let your employer know about the accident or injury within 30 days of when it occurred.
They are legally required to file an Occupational Disease Form or a First Report of Injury. If they don’t follow through on this obligation, they may have to deal with civil penalties. If they are unwilling to properly report your injury, talk to a lawyer right away. Otherwise, the time to file the claim can elapse without your knowledge.
Submitting the claim to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation is also an option. With this strategy, the claim needs to be filed within a year of when the accident occurred.
Is There a Timeframe for Filing Workers’ Compensation Claims
Taking action quickly after an accident is important in workers’ compensation cases.
People often mistakenly believe that they can file a claim whenever they want without having to meet any deadlines. Sadly, this often results in them forfeiting their right to file a claim at all. Don’t allow a fear of making waves or causing conflict at work to keep you from pursuing the compensation you deserve.
This is one situation where time is not on your side. Workers’ compensation lawyers all provide their clients with the same advice: act quickly if you don’t want to miss out on your chance to file. If the accident isn’t reported within the 30-day window after it occurs, you may never be able to file a claim, regardless of how or where your injuries occurred.
What Are The Benefits Of Working With A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
The workers’ compensation program is designed to benefit not just injured employees but also employers and their insurance providers. Sadly, however, insurance companies frequently try to deny claims. If you find that they are dragging their feet when it comes to compensating you for your injuries, give us a call right away. We can help you pursue legal action to speed up the process so that you get your compensation as quickly as possible.
Workers’ compensation fraud sometimes occurs. In cases like these, workers may file false claims or try to pretend that they were injured more severely than they really were so that they can get more money from the insurance provider. This is one reason why insurance companies sometimes balk at paying claims.
Employers are also occasionally guilty of denying claims. Usually, this is because they are afraid that it is going to increase the amount of money that they have to pay for their insurance premiums. To avoid any problems, they may pretend like the accident never happened or try to cover it up.
Hiring a lawyer is the best way to improve your odds of getting fairly compensated for your injuries. Your claim is much more likely to succeed if you have a qualified lawyer on your side. There are many benefits associated with employing legal counsel. For one thing, your lawyer can put together evidence to help you build a more solid case. Some of this evidence could include your medical records, safety reports from your employer, or eyewitness testimony.
If your claim is denied despite having all of this evidence, the attorney can file an appeal on your behalf with the Georgia Workers ‘Compensation Board, demanding that you are paid the benefits you deserve.
A qualified attorney will also be able to help you figure out whether or not there are any other damages that you can claim in relation to your injury. For example, Georgia law allows workers to claim partial or permanent disability, medical costs, and any lost income.
If a third-party contributed to your accident, the lawyer may recommend filing a lawsuit against them. An example of a third-party would be a company that manufactured equipment that turned out to be defective, leading to the accident.
What Should You Do If Your Workers’ Comp Claim Is Denied?
If either your employer or the insurance company that provides their workers’ compensation coverage chooses to deny your claim, you should seek help from a lawyer. Hiring a workers’ compensation attorney in Albany who has previous experience with cases like these is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected. They will help you file an appeal for the claim that was denied.
If your claim is denied, you will receive a notice from the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. This notice will include details about why the claim was denied. At this point, you are entitled to request a hearing in front of the board.
This will allow you to show evidence in support of your claim. This evidence can fall into several different categories. Along with your own testimony, you can provide testimony from experts such as doctors. Witnesses may also testify at the hearing. If there is any other evidence that supports your claim, you can present it, as well. The hearing is held in front of a judge who is responsible for deciding whether or not to approve your claim.
Even if the judge rules against you, however, you still have options. The next step is to file an appeal with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation Insurance’s Appellate Division. The appeal must be submitted no later than 20 days after the day you are notified about the claim being denied.
Are Independent Contractors Eligible For Workers’ Compensation?
In Georgia, independent contractors typically aren’t covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Because of this, many employers now label their employees as independent contractors, eliminating the need for them to carry workers’ compensation coverage.
As an independent contractor, however, you still may qualify for benefits. Some of the ways that you can qualify include:
- If you are receiving a structured work schedule from another party
- If your working conditions are controlled by someone else
- If a business, individual, or other entity tells you how you have to do the job
At Calvin Smith Law, our lawyers will work closely with you to figure out if your employer incorrectly classified you as an independent contractor. If this turns out to be true, we can then begin filing a workers’ compensation claim on your behalf.
Can Workers’ Comp Cover A Pre-Existing Injury?
Having a pre-existing injury doesn’t automatically mean that your claim will be denied. Imagine, for instance, that an employee had pre-existing pain in their back. They are afraid to file a workers’ compensation claim because they believe their employer will try to show that the medical issue existed before the accident occurred.
Luckily, in the state of Georgia, you can claim workers’ compensation benefits regardless of whether or not you have a pre-existing injury that is worsened by the accident. A lot of people have pre-existing problems like these. If these individuals were excluded, practically no one would qualify for workers’ compensation. Because of that, pre-existing conditions don’t come into play when dealing with workers’ compensation claims.
Am I Eligible for Workers’ Compensation If I Caused The Accident?
When it comes to workplace injuries, it doesn’t make a difference if you or your employer were responsible for the accident. For instance, imagine that you are using a machine to clean the floor and the machine is leaking water. You step into a puddle of the water, slip, and fall, sustaining an injury. Even though you are technically partially responsible for your fall, you can still file for workers’ compensation benefits under Georgia’s laws. Ultimately, the system is designed to provide workers with protection, even if they are responsible for the accident.
The only exception is if the injury or death occurred while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In cases like these, you typically won’t qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
If an employee is intoxicated, high, or stoned when the accident occurs, the claim will most likely be denied. If any drugs or alcohol are found in your system, you still may be able to get compensated, although the chances are a lot slimmer than if you were sober. When filing a claim like this, you need to prove that the accident would have occurred even if you weren’t intoxicated. If the cause of the accident is clearly not linked to the intoxication, the claim still may be approved.
Am I Allowed To File A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Although there are benefits to the no-fault system, there is one major downside: it eliminates your right to sue the company that employs you, even if they caused the accident. In Georgia, employers and coworkers are immune from lawsuits because of the workers’ compensation program. If your employer or someone you work with caused the accident, you can’t file a lawsuit against them.
On the other hand, if the accident was caused by another party besides a coworker or your employer, you may be able to file a personal injury suit. For instance, if someone that works for another business is responsible for the accident, you may be able to claim damages against them. This is in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.
Talk To An Albany Workers’ Compensation Lawyer As Soon As Possible
When injuries occur at work, pick up the phone right away and reach out to Calvin Smith Law for a free consultation. Our experienced lawyers will help you get a swift resolution to your case so that you can get the money you are owed and get back to living your life again.