A work injury can leave you with a lot of questions. You’re worried about health care expenses and need to know how you’re going to be paid while having to take time off from your job.
In Georgia, workers’ compensation helps pay for:
- Lost Wages - The injured employee receives a percentage of their average weekly wages. The amount depends on whether their injury is designated as a temporary total disability or temporary partial disability.
- Medical Expenses - The injured worker is entitled to timely and reliable medical care by an authorized treating doctor. The employer/insurer is required to cover surgical care, hospital stays, prescriptions, physical therapy, prosthetics, and other treatments.
- Permanent Partial Disability - This covers loss of a body part, loss of use of a body part, or impairment of the body as a whole. Once the injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement, their treating doctor performs a disability evaluation to determine their PPD rating. Based on the PPD rating, the employer must pay an additional sum of money to the injured worker.
Your employer has to cover your on-the-job injury, regardless of whose fault it is (some exceptions include injuries caused by an intentional act or willful misconduct). In exchange for covering a worker’s injuries through workers’ compensation insurance, the law states that employers cannot be sued for pain and suffering or emotional suffering.
How Much Does Workers’ Comp Pay?
Weekly wage benefits are calculated based on the formula set forth in the Georgia Code OCGA 34-9-260. To determine your average weekly wage:
Add up the wages you earned during the 13 weeks that immediately preceded the injury, then divide by 13. The result is the dollar amount of your average weekly wage.
Once your average weekly wage is determined, you will receive two-thirds of this amount (but no more than $675 per week for total disability and $450 per week for temporary partial disability) as part of your workers’ compensation. (This amount can change depending upon your date of accident).
If you haven’t been working at your job for very long, the law instructs your employer to calculate the average weekly wage you should receive based on an employee of similar status to you.
Should neither method prove to be fair or reasonable for the injured employee, then their full-time weekly wage should be used.
Wages for a workers’ compensation calculation include salary, hourly pay, tips, as well as food, housing, and other benefits provided by the employer at no cost to the employee.
When Does Workers’ Comp Start Paying?
Before an injured worker can receive wage benefits (also known as indemnity benefits), an authorized treating physician has to declare them physically disabled for more than seven days. Wage benefits start on the eighth day of treatment.
After 21 days of disability, the employer is required to pay the employee for the first seven days of injury.
Employers have the option to continue paying an injured employee their full wages during the disability period. If they choose to do this, then workers’ compensation wage benefits are no longer necessary.
If workers’ compensation benefits are delayed, the employer/insurer is subjected to a 15% penalty.
How Many Weeks Does Workers’ Comp Pay?
In most circumstances, workers’ compensation benefits for temporary total disability can only last up to 400 weeks (about 7 years and 8 months). However, if an injured workers’ disability is considered catastrophic, there is no limit to the number of weeks they may draw compensation.
When an injured employee is cleared by their authorized treating physician to return to light-duty work, their wage benefits are adjusted to temporary partial disability. These indemnity benefits are limited to 350 weeks (about 6 years and 6 months) starting from the date of the injury.
How Workers’ Comp Sends Payment
Workers’ compensation checks can be sent via mail or deposited directly into the injured workers’ bank account.
For many workers who rely on their weekly disability checks to pay bills or buy groceries, physical mail is not always reliable. Checks may arrive later in the week or not at all. This can either be the fault of the insurance company or the U.S. postal service.
If the insurance company is vague about why the checks are missing or delay sending a direct deposit, talk to one of our attorneys at Gary Martin Hays & Associates about your case. By law, insurance companies cannot deny rightful workers’ comp payments and should be held immediately accountable.
Paying Taxes on Workers’ Comp
Thanks to an update to the Workers’ Compensation Act, Georgia residents generally don’t have to pay taxes on their workers’ compensation benefits. But be careful: workers’ compensation and taxation fall under different IRS codes.
All states, including Georgia, must follow the federal income tax codes as set forth by the IRS. Federal law states that compensation payments for occupation-related injuries or illnesses are not taxable. This includes payments made to a deceased worker’s beneficiaries.
Workers’ compensation is not considered income. Therefore, an injured worker does not have to report the money to the IRS. Both the benefits and workers’ compensation settlements are generally considered tax-free.
However, you should consult with a tax specialist regarding your specific circumstances.
What to Do When Workers’ Comp Won’t Pay
This is an incredibly stressful time for you. Workers’ compensation will be of enormous help in covering expensive medical procedures and covering part of your lost wages while you’re unable to work.
However, your employer might be refusing to pay for your work injury, or the insurance company is disputing your workers’ compensation claim. Maybe the workers’ comp checks have suddenly stopped coming.
When you aren’t receiving your rightful benefits, you need an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer to fight for you. Our workers’ comp attorneys at Gary Marin Hays & Associates have seen every trick and delay tactic companies use to try to get out of paying benefits. We know how to stay one step ahead of them and negotiate the maximum settlement you are entitled by law to receive.
You’re already suffering physically — you shouldn’t have to suffer financially as well. Our Georgia lawyers for workers’ compensation have been helping injured and disabled workers cover all necessary medical treatment, lost wages, unemployment benefits, and long-term disability for more than 30 years.
Contact us any time for a free, confidential consultation. Call (770) 934-8000.