Whenever an employee is hurt on the job, it is extremely important that the injured worker understand all of their rights. As far as the insurance company is concerned, the less a worker knows about their benefits, the better.
Workers should also know that the insurance companies and lawyers that represent their workplace do not serve them — they serve the business. Their job is to protect the employer’s legal and financial interests.
Insurance companies are for-profit entities. They are out to make money. If the injured worker is not aware of the benefits they have access to under workers’ compensation, then the insurance company will use that ignorance and lack of advocacy to pressure the person into dropping their claim or settling for less than what they deserve.
One of the best ways to keep from being taken advantage of by your employer and their lawyers is to familiarize yourself with the Workers’ Compensation Act of Georgia (or similar rules for the state in which you reside).
State Board of Workers’ Compensation
One of the best resources to start understanding your rights under the workers’ compensation system is the Georgia workers’ compensation board’s website. There you will find a list of divisions, offices, new rules, publications, forms, and answers to frequently asked questions.
The official statutes for workers’ compensation in Georgia can be found under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) in Title 34, Chapter 9, Articles 1-12.
While the code outlines the law, many judicial rulings and interpretations have informed when and how workers’ compensation is awarded. These nuances, combined with intricate bureaucratic processes, make the workers’ compensation process tedious and frustrating for many people.
To help people have a better grasp of the workers’ compensation claims process, the state board created the Employee Handbook. It contains a PDF summary of Georgia employees’ rights and responsibilities.
Here is a summary of the main points:
- If you suffer an injury on the job, you may receive medical, rehabilitation, and income benefits.
- Your employer is required to post a list of at least six doctors that you may choose from or the name of the certified WC/MCO (Workers’ Compensation Management Care Organization) which provides medical care.
- Your authorized treatment bills, physical therapy, prescriptions, and necessary travel expenses must be covered if the injury was caused by an on-the-job accident.
- You are entitled to weekly income benefits if you miss seven days of work due to an injury.
- If you suffer a catastrophic injury (amputations, severe paralysis, severe head injuries, severe burns, etc.), you are entitled to receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage up to the maximum allowed under the law for a job-related injury for as long as you are unable to return to work. Medical and vocational rehabilitation benefits are also available while recovering from your injury.
- For non-catastrophic injuries, you are entitled to receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage (but not more than the maximum allowed under the law) for a job-related injury. These weekly benefits continue as long as you are totally disabled (up to 400 weeks).
- If you return to work and can only take a lower-paying job as a result of your injury, you are entitled to a weekly wage benefit (up to 350 weeks).
- In the event you perish as a result of an on-the-job accident, your dependents will receive burial expenses and two-thirds of your average weekly wage (but not more than the maximum allowed under the law).
- If you do not receive your workers’ comp benefits as scheduled, the insurance carrier/employer must pay you a penalty on top of your regular payment.
It’s Normal to Feel Overwhelmed
The workers’ compensation system is not set up in a way that makes it easy for injured employees to file a claim and receive a settlement. The system is heavily-skewed in favor of employers and businesses.
One of the best things you can do is to consult with an attorney that specializes in Georgia workers’ compensation claims. Most offer free consultations and can advise you on the strength of your claim.
Taking the next step and hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer provides a solid buffer between you and the insurance company. They can’t harass, pressure, or give you the silent treatment with an attorney in your corner.
Most importantly, you will be getting the medical care and financial support you need while you rest and recuperate. For more information about your rights after a work accident, contact our experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers.
Workers’ Compensation Resources
At Gary Martin Hays & Associates, we know how complicated the workers’ compensation system can be. So we made a playlist of videos that answer common workers’ compensation questions, including:
- What Is My Workers’ Compensation Case Worth?
- Third-Party Claims: Workers' Comp/Personal Injury Combo Cases
- Workers' Compensation: Weekly Wage Checks
Our legal blog also covers other important topics, ranging from what to expect at a workers’ compensation hearing to returning to light-duty work. Here are some of our most popular articles: