Imagine you are a dishwasher in a restaurant and you’re at your job scrubbing dishes on a busy night. Naturally, the floors have gotten a bit messy and suddenly you slip, coming down hard onto the ground. Because you were at work, surely your boss will have your back because workers’ compensation is required. Your medical bills are piling up, but when you go to file a claim with the supervisor, they tell you the company does not have workers’ compensation. Now what?
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that states require employers to buy in case of worker injuries. If an employee suffers from a job-related injury or illness, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance will provide benefits to cover any medical expenses resulting from the injury as well as time missed from work. The federal government provides workers’ compensation for federal and certain types of employees while individual states have their own regulations and programs within their state. In Georgia, the laws governing workers’ compensation and administration is the prerogative of the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Georgia Employer Requirements for Workers’ Compensation
According to Georgia law, any business that has three or more employees is required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This includes part-time employees as well. If you are unsure of whether or not your company has coverage, you can verify workers’ compensation coverage online with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
In addition to providing coverage, your employer also has the duty to post a notice in a prominent part of the workplace to prove they are in compliance. Employers should post the name of the insurance company or a self-insured certificate in a conspicuous place. In addition to this, they must also post the State Board of Workers’ Compensation Bill of Rights for the injured workers as well as the Panel of Physicians from which injured workers may seek treatment.
Employer Liability and Civil Penalties
Just as an employer is liable for providing workers’ compensation coverage for their employees, they are also legally responsible for any injuries if they fail to provide coverage. If a worker or workers are injured in an accident and the employer is found to willfully have neglected securing insurance, there are consequences. In these cases, the State Board of Workers’ Compensation can assess fines, civil penalties, and a 10 percent increase in compensation to the injured employee.
Civil penalties for employers who willfully fail to report required forms to the Board or follow regulations can be fined anywhere from $100 to $1,000 per violation. In addition, knowingly making false or misleading statements in order to deny benefits or workers’ compensation benefits can also lead to fines between $1,000 and $10,000 per violation. Finally, for intentional failure to provide coverage specified by the Workers’ Compensation Act, an employer may be fined $500 to $5,000 per occurrence of violations.
Criminal Penalties for Failing to Provide Workers’ Compensation
Employers who knowingly fail to provide workers’ compensation coverage for their employees are not only subject to civil penalties, but also to criminal penalties. Not providing workers’ compensation is considered a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, the employer is subject to another fine of $1,000 to $10,000 and/or a prison term of up to one year.
If you wish to report your employer for breaking any provisions of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act or failing to provide coverage, you can contact the Enforcement Division at 404-657-7285.
Suing Your Employer
With no workers’ compensation available to cover them, injured employees of an employer who failed to acquire workers’ compensation could still be stuck with mounting medical bills and trouble earning an income. One of the options an injured employee has in these cases is suing their employer to recover the necessary expenses. Suing their employer in court gives an injured worker the benefit of being able to seek compensation for the full amount of their losses in contrast to workers’ compensation which offers full medical expenses, but only two-thirds of wage loss (with a maximum amount established). By suing their employer, the injured worker can also collect compensation for any emotional distress, referred to as “pain and suffering” in legal jargon, caused by their injury and consequent loss of work. Sometimes, injured employees are even able to collect punitive damages if their employer willfully neglected to provide workers’ compensation.
Unfortunately, suing an employer in court is much slower than the normal workers’ compensation process. While a workers’ compensation benefits check might arrive within a few weeks (or less), a court case can be drawn out for months or even years. This is why it is very important to understand the process from the beginning and work with a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer who can advise you on the costs and benefits as well as the timeframe.
Temporary Disability and Social Security
Suing your employer is not the only way to get compensation for injuries if your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance. Certain temporary and permanent disabilities will qualify the worker for Social Security Disability Insurance. Georgia, like some other states, also has a temporary disability insurance program that can provide some form of short-term benefits while the injured worker is unable to do their job. In some cases, the injured worker may be able to get their medical bills paid for through funds from the Uninsured Employers’ Fund.
Hiring a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you are an Atlanta worker who has been injured at work and your employer does not have insurance or is refusing to cover your injuries, you need to contact a dedicated Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney. Call Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Atlanta – our expert legal team will answer any questions you have and ensure your rights are protected. Contact us today to discuss the specifics of your case and we’ll get you the help you need and work hard to get you the compensation you deserve.