Getting injured while on the job can be very devastating and inconvenient. The pain and suffering, countless doctors bills and the constant battle with your employer over whose fault the accident was. If you have been injured on the job don’t let it stress you out, instead, contact an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer.
Our personal injury lawyers in Atlanta are experts in the field and know exactly what to do which means you can focus your energy on recovering from your injuries.
What is Workers Compensation?
When a worker is injured when on the job, and Georgia Workers Compensation entitles you to:
- Medical treatment, and will include hospital stays, and the insurance of the employer is going to cover it.
- Temporary total disability benefits if you are forced to be out of your job for a given amount of time.
- Physical therapy
- Necessary travel expenses
An employee can also be entitled to getting vocational rehabilitation. The laws on workers’ compensation will vary from one state to the next, which is why it is a good idea to talk to an attorney who has specialized in this field in Georgia.
What are the Common Reasons for Workers’ Compensation?
Injuries can happen in any type of work. One of the most dangerous is working on a construction site, which is not a surprise to many people. The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration, monitors on-the-job injuries very carefully to try and put an end to the “Fatal Four” causes of death at the workplace, electrocutions, falls, “caught-in/between”, and “struck by object”
Below are the 10 common injuries:
- Back/Neck Injuries
- Hearing loss
- Slip and fall
- Joint Pain
- Accidents when traveling for business
- Construction accidents
- Accidents when working with tools or machinery
Facts About Compensation Law in Georgia
Employers in Georgia who have three or more employees are required to have insurance covering medical bills and a percentage of employee wages when there is a workplace injury or you are not able to work because of the injuries.
If the worker is killed in a workplace accident, the spouse or dependent children (this is for instances when no spouse is there) are entitled to compensation.
There are some cases where the injuries involve a third-party, and this is usually when another party besides the employer created the hazard (like a contractor in a factory, a maintenance contractor, a sub-contractor on a construction site). No matter how the injury occurred, we will be there to meet with you and see what options you have. Below are some common questions people have.
What Should I Do Immediately After a Work Injury?
The first thing to do is to inform your employee about your injury. You are given 30 days to do it, and there is a good chance that a supervisor or a coworker contacted the manager. We strongly advise you to contact an attorney after that. You don’t have to give a recorded statement to the employer or insurance company, and this is according to the law. Here at Calvin Smith Law, we advise against giving out the statement because it can be easily used against you.
The goal of worker’s compensation is getting you back to full health and on your feet. You might be pressured to go back to your job before you are ready.
Is Worker Comp Available From Your Employer?
You might not know if your employer has worker’s compensation if you have never been a beneficiary of it. One thing that prevents a substantial number of cases from being filed each year is lacking knowledge in regards to workers’ compensation.
Many people think that worker’s compensation applies to only the big corporations and large companies and comes as an “employee perk” alongside other benefits.
How Can You Know if Your Employer Has Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
It might not be an option at all, depending on the structure of the company.
In the state of Georgia, is a legal requirement for employers with more than three employees to have workers’ compensation.
Even if it is a small business, they will need to get this coverage if they have three or more employees.
If you are working for a sub-contractor that doesn’t have workers’ compensation coverage, then the actual contractor can be held liable for that coverage.
If the above situations apply to your situation, then you need to contact Calvin Smith Law as soon as possible so you can start talking to a lawyer who is going to give you advice and guidance on the case.
Benefits Available Under Workers’ Compensation
The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation provides an Employee Handbook detailing the benefits a worker injured is entitled to. Some of the benefits a worker injured in the workplace can get include;
Medical benefits. When a worker is injured while working, they are entitled to reasonable medical benefits, and this will include hospital visits, doctors’ visits, rehabilitation, surgeries, medications and more. You don’t have the freedom to choose your own physician, but what you will do is select from a list provided by the workers’ compensation insurance provider.
Income benefits. If you are forced to miss work because of the injury, you can recover income benefits. This is available for workers who have missed seven or more days because of the accident. If the days extend to more than 21 days, you are going to get pay for the first seven days of work. If it is catastrophic, you can get benefits for the time you haven’t been able to get back to your job; if it is non-catastrophic, the benefits can be paid for 400 weeks.
Death benefits. There are times when the injury causes death. If this is your case, then the dependents can get death benefits, and this will include funeral and burial expenses, and lost wages.
If you are eligible for income benefits, it is going to equal two-thirds of weekly wage, until the allowed maximum amount.
What Steps are Involved After Suffering a Workplace Injury?
After getting involved in an accident, it is normal to start getting overwhelmed by confusion and pain, along with pain and anxiety. There are some instances where a person can feel a little embarrassed. This can make you feel like the best option is going on with your shift, while misrepresenting the severity of the injury, or even failing to disclose the injury.
The last thing many employees want to do is “rock the boat” – especially if the position they have is competitive and there is a long list of people interested in it and waiting for the employer to start hiring.
Keep in mind that timing is very important after getting involved in a workplace accident resulting in injury. Below are the steps you need to take;
Reporting the injury to the supervisor or manager as soon as possible. Verbal notification will be the first thing to do, then document it in an email or letter. This is going to help your lawyers prove that you complied regardless of how the employer handled the issue.
Seeking medical attention. Your words will be used for the case, and the credibility is going to be fortified by a licensed medical professional. Maybe the employer has an in-house medical team who will provide an onsite examination.
If this is not the case for you, then go to the emergency room, hospital, or clinic. There are some cases where you have to be examined by a doctor approved by the employer.
Disclosing all associated symptoms and showing any signs of damage to ensure the injuries have been documented properly and addressed by the doctor or healthcare professional.
Contacting a workers’ compensation attorney. The attorney is going to help you through the steps needed. This is going to include the points that you need to tell your employer and doctor and make sure all the bases have been covered.
When you have an attorney, they will help in filling the Form WC-14 – which is the official claim notice.
Filing a Claim for Workers’ Compensation Claims
If you want to make sure that your rights to benefits are properly protected, then you need to start taking action as soon as possible after the workplace accident. The last thing you want to do is forfeit your rights to get compensated just because you delayed.
When you are injured, it is your responsibility to report the incident immediately. You are required to report the accident to your employer within thirty days after the injury.
Once you have reported the accident to your employer, they are required by law to file a First Report of Injury or the Occupational Disease Form. If they fail to do this, they can face civil penalties. If they refuse to report the injury, you should look for legal counsel in the shortest time possible – or the time can easily run out without you even knowing.
Another option if filling the claim with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation; and the time limit for doing this is one year from the day of the accident.
Why Time is Important When Dealing with the Claims Process
It is very important to take prompt action when filing the claim.
One mistake many people make is thinking they have all the time in the world to file the workers’ compensation claim, but this never ends well. You might think that you have the money to keep you protected after the accident -maybe you don’t want to “rock the boat” by starting the process of seeking compensation by filing the claim.
If you want to properly handle the workplace injury, it is important to keep in mind that you don’t have the luxury of time. Every worker compensation lawyer is going to advise you that acting fast is important because the window of opportunity can be closed and cannot be reopened again. If you fail to report the workplace accident within thirty days of the accident, the window might be closed before you get the chance of doing anything about the claim.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney for Workers’ Compensation?
The main goal of workers’ compensation is benefiting everyone involved – this is from the employer to the insurance carrier – but there are times when the carrier will do their best to deny the claim. When you notice that they are reluctant to give you the compensation you deserve, talk to us because we can help you get started with the process of getting your compensation.
Insurance companies know that some employees are involved in workers’ compensation fraud. This happens when the employees exaggerate or make fake claims so they can get a payout from the insurance company. Insurance companies might be reluctant to pay out because it is not in their interest to do so.
The employers can also deny the claim because they fear it is going to increase the premiums they pay, or they can decide to cover up the incident and say that the accident did not happen.
When you work with an attorney, you will increase your chances of getting the benefits you deserve compared to what you would get if you were to do it on your own. The lawyer is going to help you with the case in several ways. They can help in gathering evidence to make your case stronger, and this will include safety reports, medical records, and even witness accounts when possible.
If with all this information the claim is denied, the next step is an attorney filing an appeal with the Georgia workers’ compensation board to demand that the benefits be paid.
The attorney is also going to look at the facts of the case and determine whether you can seek additional damages as a result of the injuries sustained during the workplace accident. In Georgia, it can cover medical treatment, lost wages, partial or permanent disability funds.
If there is another person who is not your employee responsible for the accident, then the lawyer is going to consider a lawsuit against the third-party. A third party can be the manufacturer of defective equipment that might have contributed to the accident.
How to Appeal a Denied Claim
If your claim is denied by the insurance carrier responsible for the workers’ compensation coverage or your employer, then you can take legal action. If you want your interest to be safeguarded, then make sure you work with an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer who will be able to handle the process of appealing a denied claim.
The State Board of Workers’ compensation is going to send a notification when your claim is denied, and it will explain why it was denied. When this happens, you have the right of requesting a hearing before this board.
You will be given the chance of presenting your evidence supporting your claim of worker’ compensation. There are some pieces of evidence that you are allowed to present to the board, and this includes your testimony, expert testimony (medical professional), testimony from witnesses, and any other evidence that might help in supporting your claims The hearing is going to take place before a judge, who is going to make the decision on your workers’ compensation claim.
If the decision issued by the judge is not in your favor, the claim is not yet over. You can go ahead and appeal by filing an appeal with the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation insurance. The appeal has to be filed within 20 days from the day that you go the notice that the claim has been denied.
Is Workers’ Compensation Available for an Independent Contractor?
Independent contractors in Georgia usually don’t have workers’ compensation coverage. This has made it easy for an employer to classify their employees as independent contractors so they don’t have to pay for workers’ compensation coverage.
If you are an independent contractor, there are ways of being eligible for the benefits. Some of the ways are:
- If they are getting structured work schedule from a third party
- If they are not personally controlling their working conditions
- If another individual, company, or entity dictates means by which the victim completes the job.
Attorneys from Calvin Smith Law are going to work with you in determining whether you were misclassified by your employer. If this happens to be the case, then we will go ahead and get started with the process of filing a claim.
What About Preexisting Injury?
There are people who are afraid that they will not be able to succeed with their claim because they have a preexisting injury. Let’s say someone had prior back pain but is worried that they might not get the compensation they deserve because the employer is going to claim that the medical problems were there before the accident.
The good thing is that Georgia protects such people, you are entitled to get the workers’ compensation benefit even if you have a preexisting injury that gets exacerbated or aggravated by the incident. The reality is that many people are dealing with preexisting conditions, and trying to exclude such people means almost no one is going to be protected by the law when they want compensation.
What if the Accident Was My Fault?
It doesn’t matter whether you or the employer caused the accident at the workplace. Let’s say you slip and fall on a wet floor after the machine you have been using has leaked water, while you might have been somehow responsible for the injury, it is not going to prevent you from getting compensated under the Georgia workers’ compensation laws. The compensation system is there to protect workers, even if they played some part in the accident.
The system uses the no-fault basis, but there are some exceptions to this rule. According to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, compensation cannot be claimed for injury or death because of intoxication by alcohol or working while under the influence of controlled substances and drugs like marijuana.
If a worker was high or drunk when the accident happened, the claim can be denied. The presence of drugs or alcohol in your system doesn’t automatically mean that you cannot recover the compensation. If you can show that the accident would have happened even if you were sober, which will mean that the cause of the accident was not intoxication, and this is when the claim can move forward.
Can I Sue My Employer?
One downside of the no-fault system is that you cannot sue your employer, even if they are at fault. The workers’ compensation system in Georgia provides immunity from such suits for employers and co-workers. You cannot sue your employer for personal injury even if they were negligent. This is the same for the co-workers, you cannot sue them even if they were the one who caused the workplace accident.
With that said, you can still file claims against a third party who is not your employer or co-worker. If someone from another company comes and causes the accident as a result of their actions or negligence which then leads to the injury, you can file for damages against the third-party on top of the compensation claim.
Speak to an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today!
If you have been injured on the job don’t hesitate to contact the Atlanta workers compensation lawyers at Calvin Smith Law, we will help you get your life back on track and get you the money you deserve for the injuries you sustained.