So you sustained a workplace injury. Your doctor told you that you can't return to work until you make a full recovery. Meanwhile, your medical bills keep piling up. You're likely wondering who will pay for your medical expenses and lost wages. The bad news is you can't sue your employer. The good news is you're likely eligible for workers' compensation benefits while you recover. You might even be entitled to additional compensation, depending on the cause of your workplace accident.
An experienced attorney at The Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates in Atlanta explains how to pursue a workers' compensation and third-party workplace injury claim. If you're not sure if your employer carries workers' compensation benefits, click here to conduct an Employer Insurance Coverage Search.
Why you can't sue your employer
When you bring a case against another party's insurance company, you often have to prove that negligence occurred. That is not the case with workers' compensation claims. Your employer already likely pays for workers' compensation insurance. In fact, Georgia law requires it for employers who hire three or more full-time, part-time, or seasonal employees.
Workers' compensation in Georgia employs the "no-fault" rule. That means you don't have to prove that someone else was responsible for your workplace injury. You do, however, have to prove the following:
- You sustained an injury within the scope of your employment. This includes injuries that happen while driving for work-related purposes, attending company events, and going on unscheduled breaks. To establish that your injury occurred at work, be sure to notify your employer in writing as soon as possible. This allows you to create a record of the incident. It's important that you act fast. Waiting 30 days or longer to report an injury hurts your chances of obtaining compensation.
- Your injury or illness is legitimate. Let's face it. Insurance companies don't want to pay you. If they can argue that your injuries are exaggerated or aren't related to work, pursuing benefits may be difficult. To maximize your chances of pursuing a solid claim, you should see a doctor as soon as possible and inform them that you've been injured at work. Be sure to get documentation of your diagnosis, doctor recommendations and treatment. Your employer must post information pertaining to medical care providers, which you can choose from. Typically, it's a panel of at least six physicians. Exceptions may be made if any of the physicians are not "reasonably accessible."
What does workers' compensation pay for in Georgia?
Georgia workers' compensation pays for weekly benefits if you are unable to work for more than seven days due to your injury. You should receive your first check within roughly 21 days from the date you first missed work. These benefits include:
- Medical bills. Workers' compensation covers all authorized hospital and doctor bills, prescription medications, physical therapy, surgery, X-rays and MRIs. It also pays for travel expenses, medical rehabilitation and vocational rehabilitation.
- Temporary total disability. Georgia workers' compensation pays for two-thirds of your average weekly wages prior to your injury ($675 per week is the maximum). For instance, say you earned $700 per week prior to your injury. Workers' compensation would pay you around $466 per week.
- Temporary partial disability. This type of coverage applies if you're able to perform modified tasks at work for less pay. Temporary partial disability pays for two-thirds of the difference between your average weekly wages before your injury and what you're currently earning. For example, let's say you earned $700 per week before your injury. You now earn $500 per week. Workers' compensation would pay you around $133 per week.
- Disability benefits. Workers' compensation pays for partial permanent or total permanent disability benefits if you sustained a permanent injury. The amount of money you receive depends on whether you're completely disabled or able to perform modified tasks at work for less pay.
Who can I sue if I sustained a workplace injury?
There are some cases when you can sue a negligent party for a workplace injury (also known as a third-party liability claim). It only applies if someone other than your employer caused your injury. Here are some examples:
- A contractor or employee from another company caused your injury while working on the same site as you.
- The driver of a car or truck hit you while within the scope of your employment.
- You slipped and fell on someone's property (other than your employer) while within the scope of your employment. The property owner knew or should have known about the hazard that led to your fall.
- You sustained an injury in an accident involving defective equipment or machinery.
A third-party workplace injury claim acts as any other personal injury claim. Eligible damages include:
- Medical bills
- Additional lost wages not covered by workers' compensation
- Lost future income or earning potential
- Damage to property
- Non-economic damages (pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.)
Why hire an Atlanta workplace injury attorney?
If you were hurt at work, speak to an experienced workers' compensation and personal injury lawyer in Atlanta who can help you explore all of your legal options. At the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C., our goal is to help you through the recovery process and make you whole again. We'd be glad to go over the details regarding your workplace injury during a free and confidential case evaluation.
We have six law offices conveniently located throughout the greater Atlanta area. Contact us online or call us to find out how we can help you.