WORKERS' COMPENSATION FAQ
There are a few reasons why those injured in a Georgia workplace accident should consider hiring a workers’ compensation attorney to represent them. First, there are an array of deadlines that must be carefully paid attention to. Missing even one may mean that your claim is barred from court and you lose your ability to collect money for your serious injury. Another reason why an attorney can be of use is that some employers look for ways to deprive workers of the full range of benefits they are entitled to. You may think your employer has done all they can to secure you the compensation you need, but only an experienced workers’ comp lawyer will know whether you are missing out on benefits that you would otherwise be entitled to.
Georgia law says that any company that regularly employs three or more people are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage. This count includes part-time employees.
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act contains all the necessary rules and regulations pertaining to those injured in a workplace accident. The law says that anyone who has been injured in a workplace accident and who is unable to work is entitled to receive certain benefits. These benefits include payment of two/thirds of your weekly income (not to exceed $550 per week) for up to 400 weeks. In some especially serious cases, those who have suffered truly catastrophic harm may be entitled to receive income benefits for the rest of their life. Additionally, employers are obligated to pay any and all reasonable medical expenses that result from your workplace injury.
Some people may worry that a preexisting injury will prevent them from filing a successful workers’ comp claim. For instance, someone who had prior back pain may worry that they will be prevented from collecting in a workers’ comp case because the employer may simply blame any medical problems on the prior injury. The good news is that in Georgia, workers are entitled to workers’ comp benefits even if an injury aggravates or exacerbates a preexisting condition. The reality is that many people have preexisting conditions and to exclude everyone who has ever been injured in their life would mean that almost no workers would have protection under the law.
In most cases involving an injury, it matters a great deal who was at fault. For example, in a personal injury case, the very first thing a plaintiff would have to do is demonstrate that the defendant was in some way responsible for the harm suffered by the plaintiff. If the plaintiff were later found to be responsible for some of the harm suffered, he or she could see their claim disappear or the damages reduced by the percentage of their fault. That is not how it workers under the Georgia workers’ compensation system which operates on a no-fault basis.
In Georgia, the workers’ compensation system operates on a no-fault basis, meaning that the employee is not required to establish fault on the part of the employer or another coworker to recover benefits. This makes it dramatically easier to bring a successful workers’ comp claim because injured workers do not have to spend time and energy fighting over who was to blame for a workplace accident.
The short answer to this question is, no, it doesn’t usually matter whether you as the employee caused the workplace accident. For example, if you slipped and fell on wet floor after a machine you were working on leaked water, the fact that you were somewhat responsible for causing your injury would not prevent you from receiving benefits under the Georgia workers’ compensation system. The workers’ comp system is designed to protect all workers, even those responsible for causing their own injuries.
Though the Georgia workers’ comp system operates on a no-fault basis, there are a few exceptions. The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act clearly states that “No compensation shall be allowed for an injury or death due to intoxication by alcohol or being under the influence of marijuana or a controlled substance.” This means that if a worker is drunk or high at the time of the injury, his or her claim for workers’ comp benefits may be denied. That being said, having drugs or alcohol in your system at the time of an accident is not a guaranteed bar to recovery. If an employee can prove that the accident or injury would have occurred regardless of the intoxication, meaning the intoxication was not the cause of the accident, the claim may be allowed to move forward.
If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident, the very first thing you should do is seek medical care. Injuries, left untreated, can be made worse, increasing your recovery time and potentially leading to complications. Your health is the most important thing and serious injuries need to be addressed as soon as possible.
If your injuries were not severe and you are able to wait, or you already received medical care, the next thing you need to do is report the incident to a supervisor. It’s unfortunate that those injured in a workplace accident aren’t able to just focus on their recovery, but the law says that speedy reporting is essential to a successful workers’ comp claim. If you’ve been injured, you need to report the incident to your employer as soon as you are safely able to do so. This may mean your boss, your foreman, a supervisor; anyone in a position of authority that can initiate the process.
Some people may be unaware of the urgency with which injuries need to be reported. In these cases, waiting can prove very costly. Those who have been injured and wait longer than 30 days to report the injury to their employer may actually lose the ability to collect important benefits, including payments for medical care and lost wages.
In Georgia, the law says that injured workers have one year from the date of their accident to file a notice of claim. In some cases where a worker is able to continue working following the injury this deadline can be extended, but this should always be discussed first with an experienced Georgia workers’ comp attorney who can advise you with more specific detail about the deadlines applicable to your case.
You may know someone who was injured on the job and have an idea of how the process works. Many people hope that if someone they know received a sizable payment for a workers’ comp claim that means they are entitled to a similar payment. The reality is that workers’ comp claims vary greatly depending on the particular facts of the case. Every claim is unique and must be evaluated on its own facts. Only after an experienced lawyer has reviewed your case file and familiarized him or herself with the circumstances would they be able to provide an estimate of how much you stand to collect.
Under Georgia law, true independent contractors are not considered employees and are thus not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The key word in the last sentence is “true” independent contractors. This means that just because an employer labels a worker an independent contractor doesn’t necessarily make it so. If the employer controls the time, manner and means of employment for the worker, then that person will be deemed an employee rather than an independent contractor and will have the right to claim workers’ compensation benefits in the event of a workplace injury.
The downside to the easy no-fault workers’ comp system in Georgia is that workers are unable to sue the employer even if the employer is at fault. The workers’ comp system is what’s known as an exclusive remedy for employees against their employers and co-workers. That means if the employer was negligent, the employee will not be able to sue for personal injury. The same goes with coworkers, they too cannot be sued in the event of a workplace accident.
That being said, workers are allowed to make claims against third parties who are not coworkers or employers. That means if someone from another company came in and their actions resulted in your injury, you could file a third-party claim for damages in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.