When a work-related accident leads to an injury that prevents the worker from being able to work, there is assistance available to the injured worker. For most workers in Georgia, the obvious answer is to file a workers’ compensation claim. A worker, however, may also choose to claim disability benefits from the Social Security Administration or other programs. Both outlets can help a worker and their family by providing some form of weekly or monthly benefits while the injured worker is off the job. The eligibility and type of benefits, however, vary and it’s important for injured workers to know the differences so they can get the help they need.
Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits In GeorgiaWorkers’ compensation is a type of insurance that is specifically geared towards providing injured workers with compensation for lost income and medical expenses that are the result of on-the-job accidents. In Georgia, employers with three or more employees are required to have workers’ compensation insurance to provide their workers with benefits in the case of injury. To receive any type of workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia, an injured worker must file a claim for workers’ compensation. Any type of injury or illness sustained on the job is eligible for workers’ compensation, whether it is an acute injury from an accident, or an illness developed over time due to exposure to harmful chemicals. Because Georgia is a “no-fault” state for workers’ compensation, the injured worker does not need to prove anything in terms of negligence, but it also means they cannot sue their employer for the injury. How much an injured worker receives due to an injury depends on the type of injury, the extent to which it affects their ability to work, their average weekly wage, and the maximums rates set by Georgia law. There are three types of benefits a worker may collect in Georgia:
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) – When a worker’s injuries only partially limit their earning capacity, they can receive temporary partial disability (TPD) through workers’ compensation. The worker is then entitled to two-thirds of the difference between the wage before and after the injury occurred, though this amount may not be more than $367/week. A worker can be eligible to TPD benefits up to 350 weeks after the injury.
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD) – If a worker has missed more than seven days of work due to their work-related injury, they are entitled to receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. The first seven days of missed work will only be paid if the worker misses more than 21 days in a row due to their injury. A worker’s benefit amount is calculated as two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage at the time of injury. To receive benefits, the treating physician must confirm the disability. Unless the injury is catastrophic, a worker can only collect TTD benefits up to 400 weeks after the injury occurred.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) – Once a worker has receive appropriate treatment and has reached the maximum medical improvement possible, they will either be healed or continue to have some kind of disability. If the disability is permanent, the treating physician will assign a disability rating from which permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits can be calculated. PPD is determined by the percentage of impairment as opposed to lost wages and cannot begin until a worker stops receiving TTD or TPD benefit payments.
Social Security Disability Insurance and Other ProgramsA disabled worker doesn’t necessarily need to rely only on workers’ compensation to receive disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers benefits through their disability insurance. Unlike workers’ compensation, Social Security disability benefits are established by federal law and do not require that injuries or disabilities were the result of work-related accidents. In order to qualify for Social Security benefits for a work injury, the worker would need to have a long-term disability, specifically one that will last at minimum 12 months. This means that a worker with a disability, such as a lost limb, could expect to receive some kind of Social Security disability benefit because their injury would be life-long. There is an extensive list of severe conditions for which the SSA will pay benefits. Additional restrictions for benefits include having a sufficiently long work history or a low enough income and limited family resources if applying for Supplemental Security Income benefits. Finally, a worker may receive compensation from a private insurance policy they have purchased or that’s part of a benefits package. How much and when a worker can expect to receive compensation for their injuries from such a source depends entirely on the policy itself and the insurance company.
Differences Between Workers’ Compensation and Social SecurityIn Georgia, injured workers are legally allowed to collect benefits from both workers’ compensation and Social Security. However, the amount they are able to collect from workers’ compensation may be diminished if they are also receiving Social Security benefits. The main differences between the disability benefits are:
- Anyone with a long-term disability can seek benefits through Social Security, whereas workers’ compensation benefits are exclusively for those injured at work.
- Workers’ compensation covers both short-term and long-term disabilities. Injured workers can begin receiving payments for lost income after seven days of missed work through workers’ compensation while Social Security only covers impairments that last longer than a year or lead to death.
- Even minor injuries are covered by workers’ compensation while Social Security disability benefits are only for extremely disabling conditions.
- Workers’ compensation gives workers coverage for all medical expenses related to their work injury. Social Security benefits don’t guarantee immediate or full payments for medical costs, but may make you eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.