Important Terms to Know For Your Workers’ Compensation Case

If you have been in a workplace accident and sustained a debilitating injury, the very thought of filing a workers’ compensation claim and submitting the necessary forms can seem like a daunting task. The problem is exacerbated by the specific language and terms used by the Georgia Board of Workers’ Compensation. Soon you may be wishing you had a dictionary to help you figure out what information you are being asked for. If you are having trouble understanding the claims process, it is important that you consult with a qualified workers’ compensation attorney. Before beginning your workers’ compensation claim, make sure you familiarize yourself with these important workers’ compensation terms.

Average Weekly Wage (AWW)

How amount of workers’ compensation benefits an injured worker is entitled to is determined by their average weekly wage. In Georgia a worker will receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage, but no more than $550/week, for the time they cannot return to work. The number of weeks a worker can continue to receive this benefit depends on the severity of the injury.

Catastrophic Injury

Injuries that are considered catastrophic under workers’ compensation are extremely severe, such as loss of limbs, severe burns, blindness, etc. Generally a worker with catastrophic injuries will be able to collect permanent partial disability benefits for an unlimited period of time. The employer must provide the injured worker with a rehabilitation supplier who is an expert at handling catastrophic cases.

Death Benefits

If a work-related accident leads to a fatality, the deceased worker’s eligible dependents, such as a spouse or minor children, can receive death benefits. Benefits are calculated as two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage at the time of the injury. In addition, funeral expenses may be available as a benefit.

Disability Rating

When a work-related accident leads to a permanent disability for the worker, the treating physician will assign the injured worker a disability rating. The rating depends on the medical condition, the worker’s occupation, injury date, age of the worker at the time of injury, degree of the disability, and how reduced future earning capacity is. Disability ratings are used to calculate permanent disability benefits.

Independent Medical Examination

There are cases where an injured worker may be asked by the employer or insurance company to have an evaluation done by a different physician. This typically only happens if there is a disagreement about the extent of injuries or if there actually is an injury.

Maximum Medical Improvement

After completing all treatment prescribed by a treating physician, a worker’s injuries will heal or stabilize. If it is unlikely the injury will change substantially regardless of receiving treatment or not, the worker has reached maximum medical improvement. Either the worker will be able to return, fully healed to their job, or have some kind of permanent disability.  

Panel of Physicians

After a worker is injured they must seek medical treatment from a panel of physicians chosen by the employer. The panel of physicians must be listed in the workplace. It should consist of at least six qualified physicians, including an orthopedic surgeon and a minority physician. Seeing another doctor is only allowed in cases of emergency.

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)

An injured worker who can only return to a job that pays less than their original job, due to a work-related accident which resulted in a permanent partial disability, may be entitled to PPD benefits. The benefit will be a percentage of the disability rating and number of weeks assigned by O.C.G.A 34-9-263(c).  

Permanent Total Disability (PTD)

If an injured worker is unable to recover from their injuries after reasonable medical care, they may be entitled to PTD benefits if they are permanently and totally disabled from work. A worker may receive PTD for up to 400 weeks after the date of the injury if it was non-catastrophic or unlimited benefits if their injury was catastrophic.

Physical Therapy

Injured employees can be entitled to receive physical therapy as part of the medical treatment needed to recover from their work injury. It is often referenced as “PT” on forms. If PT is necessary, the treating physician will refer the injured worker to a provider.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The Social Security Administration offers benefits to disabled individuals through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Injured Georgia workers can collect both workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security benefits, at the same time. However, SSDA benefits would be reduced.

Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)

Injured Georgia workers can receive TPD benefits if they are can only work at a job paying less than the job they were injured on. A worker may receive these benefits up to 350 weeks after the date of the injury. The amount is calculated by taking two-thirds of the difference between the average weekly wage before and after the injury occurred.

Temporary Total Disability (TTD)

If the authorized treating physician determines that an injured worker is unable to return to their job, they can receive TTD benefits. The worker will receive two-thirds their average weekly wage for a maximum of 400 weeks if the injury is non-catastrophic. Benefits are unlimited in the case of catastrophic injuries.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)

An injured worker receiving temporary total disability benefits may also be eligible for vocational rehabilitation (VR) opportunities. These VR opportunities may include educational courses, job search assistance, transferable skills assessments, and a variety of other vocational aids.

Need Help With Workers’ Compensation

While many workers’ compensation cases are relatively straight-forward, when injuries are severe or result in a disability, it can be difficult to navigate a claim on your own. If you have sustained a work related injury in Georgia, contact our dedicated workers’ compensation attorneys in Atlanta to discuss the specifics of your case. Our legal team will answer any questions you have about your rights and how best to receive the maximum available benefits for your injury. As an injured Georgia worker, you have the right to receive compensation for injuries sustained on the job.]]>