While rare, catastrophic injuries do happen, often because of a preventable worksite incident or a defective product or machine.
A catastrophic work accident can leave a person physically, mentally, and emotionally scarred for the rest of their life. Hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, medication, and surgeries can soar into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The injured victim and their family are left with many questions about medical benefits and financial compensation. If you or a loved one were severely injured in Georgia while working, here’s what you need to know about workers’ compensation law and your rights.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
An injury receives the catastrophic designation if it involves one of the following:
- Crush injury
- Disfigurement and significant scarring
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
- Head trauma, which includes traumatic brain injury, skull fracture, brain bleed, etc.
- Hearing loss
- Internal injuries, such as organ damage, lung diseases, and multiple bone fractures
- Severe burns
- Spinal cord injury, particularly one that results in partial or total paralysis
- Any injury that results in long-term or permanent disability
In essence, a catastrophic injury disrupts a person’s life, leaves them significantly impaired, and prevents them from attaining gainful employment.
Having a debilitating injury often means losing a vital part of one’s self. It could mean losing a limb, the ability to run or walk, the ability to earn a living, loss of consortium, or the ability to think clearly and hold regular conversations. Intensive medical treatment or long-term care is often required.
A personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyer can help an injured victim get compensated for the life-altering and wrongful harm done to them.
Catastrophic Injury Compensation
According to the Georgia Code, employers have a legal obligation to cover “medical, surgical, and hospital care and other treatment, items, and services which are prescribed by a licensed physician” to an employee suffering from a severe injury for as long as necessary.
Workers’ compensation covers non-catastrophic injuries up to 400 weeks from the date of injury. Compensation for a catastrophic injury, however, has no such limit. The severely injured worker is entitled to their benefits for as long as is required.
Workers’ compensation for catastrophic injuries in Georgia covers medical expenses. The more serious and numerous the injuries, the greater the medical cost. The injured person may be facing multiple surgeries, rehabilitation, appointments with different specialists, and the permanent use of a medical device or medication.
More than likely, the injury also forced the person to leave work permanently or for an extended amount of time. Even if they think they can recover enough to go back, the plaintiff may not be able to work as many hours or perform the same tasks as they used to. In such cases, they may be entitled to pursue lost wages compensation.
Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Pain and Suffering?
In a typical workers’ compensation case, "pain and suffering" is not covered. However, in a severe injury case, a personal injury lawyer could argue for damages if the emotional distress has proven to have a serious impact on the injured victim’s life.
Since pain and suffering is subjective, it will require personal testimony and the backing of medical experts, including doctors and mental health care providers.
Burden of Proof
A claim involving catastrophic injuries comes with a unique set of challenges. We have to prove that the survivor’s suffering severely impacts their daily life, both in the present and future.
It would seem obvious that the more severe a claimant’s injuries, the more they should expect to receive in a settlement. However, the injured employee and their attorney will have to provide extensive facts, arguments, and medical evidence to prove the full extent of their injuries and damages.
The process can be long and complicated. The employer and their insurer will try to counter the catastrophic designation with reports from other medical and vocational experts.
That is because if an injured worker receives the catastrophic designation, they are eligible to receive a lifetime of necessary medical treatment and indemnity benefits. A full understanding of the plaintiff’s injuries and medical needs is required in order to negotiate an injury settlement that is acceptable to both parties.
In terms of economic damages, medical experts and financial advisors may be needed to lay out the course of care, the anticipated cost of care, the impact of the plaintiff’s inability to work, and other economic damages.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
A catastrophic injury affects not only the life of the survivor but also the lives of those with whom they are close. Family members are suddenly required to care for someone with mobility or cognitive issues. Spouses may be forced to choose between quitting their jobs or trying to find the money to hire a full-time caretaker.
Our attorneys are well-versed in both workers’ compensation and personal injury law. If you or a loved one has been involved in any kind of severe incident that resulted in catastrophic injuries, then you need a highly skilled legal team on your side to handle this type of complex case.
Contact us today for a free evaluation of your catastrophic injury claim.