Georgia Workers Compensation Law

Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides medical benefits and wage replacement to employees who are injured or become ill due to their job. In Georgia, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means that employees are entitled to benefits regardless of who caused their injury or illness. So you can get paid for workers’ comp in Georgia even if your mistake caused your injuries.

Who Is Eligible for Georgia Workers’ Compensation?

In Georgia, almost all employees are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits from Day One on the job. Georgia workers’ compensation law requires all businesses with three or more employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This includes both full-time and part-time employees, as well as seasonal workers. Certain types of workers, such as domestic servants, farm workers, and railroad employees, are exempt from this requirement. Freelance workers are generally not considered employees of a company.

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In order to determine whether someone is considered an “employee” under the Workers’ Compensation Act, Georgia courts use tests such as whether the employer has the right to control how the work is done, whether the employer can fire the worker, and whether the employer benefits from the worker’s services.

Payment of wages is also a factor, but it alone does not decide the worker’s status as an employee. Other factors like tax forms and wage reports are also relevant but not decisive in determining if there is an employer-employee relationship.  The Georgia Workers Compensation Act does not apply to “farm laborers” under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2(a)(2) (“This chapter shall not apply to … farm laborers.”).

Workers’ compensation benefits are available regardless of who was at fault for the employee’s injury. As long as the injury occurred while the employee was performing work-related duties, they are generally eligible for benefits. It is important for employees to notify their employer of their injury as soon as possible, as there are strict time limits for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

If you are injured on the job in Georgia, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. You should report your injury to your employer as soon as possible, and seek medical attention immediately. Failure to report your injury within 30 days could jeopardize your ability to receive benefits.

What Benefits Are Available Through Georgia Workers’ Compensation?

Georgia workers’ compensation provides the following benefits:

  • Medical Benefits: If you suffer an injury while on the job, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance will cover the costs of your medical treatment. This includes doctor visits, surgeries, prescription medications, and any other medical expenses that are deemed reasonable and necessary to treat your work-related injury or illness.
  • Wage Benefits: If you are unable to work for more than seven days due to your work-related injury, you may be eligible for weekly wage benefits. You can receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $575 per week. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be eligible to receive wage benefits for up to 400 weeks. There are two categories:
    • Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits: If a worker is completely unable to work due to the injury, they may receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage, up to a cap set by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
    • Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) Benefits: If a worker can return to work but can’t earn their usual wage due to injury restrictions, they might be eligible for TPD benefits, which amount to two-thirds of the difference between the worker’s average wage pre-injury and post-injury.
  • Rehabilitation Benefits: If your injury or illness prevents you from returning to your previous job, you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation benefits. This can include job training, job search assistance, and other services to help you return to work.
  • Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits: If a worker has a lasting disability, even after reaching maximum medical improvement (when their condition won’t get any better or worse), they might receive PPD benefits, based on a doctor’s assessment of their impairment.
  • Death Benefits: If a work-related injury or illness results in the death of an employee, the employee’s dependents may be eligible for death benefits. This includes funeral expenses and weekly wage benefits for the dependents.

If you are unable to work due to your injury or illness, you may be eligible for wage replacement benefits. You may receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $675 per week, for up to 400 weeks. If your injury prevents you from returning to work at your previous job, you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services to help you find a new job.

How Are Wages Calculated for Workers’ Comp?

According to O.C.G.A. § 34-9-260, compensation for workers’ compensation is calculated based on the average weekly wages of the employee at the time of the injury. The term “wage” means any payment given by the employer to the employee for services rendered during their employment, which results in a net economic gain for the employee. If an employer provides food to an employee for free, for example, it counts as part of their wages because it represents real economic gain for the employee resulting from their employment.

How Long Will It Take to Get a Settlement Check?

Approved expenses should be reimbursed within 15 days after submission. Some carriers move even faster. If reimbursements are not paid within 15 days of receiving the reimbursement request, additional penalties will be added to the amount owed. It’s crucial to submit your approved expenses within a year of the service date, or you’ll lose the right to collect the charges from the employer or workers’ compensation insurer.

How fast can a workers’ comp claim be settled? It depends on the initial offer made by the insurance company and how quickly the injured worker accepts.  The biggest bottleneck to get to a Georgia workers’ compensation settlement is waiting for the treatment to be completed and to fully understand the scope of the victim’s injuries.

Are Workers’ Compensation Benefits Taxable?

Thankfully, workers’ compensation benefits are not taxable and are not considered income for the purpose of calculating federal income taxes.

How Long Can You Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Georgia?

The length of time that you can receive workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia depends on the nature and severity of your injury or illness. If you are unable to work for more than seven days due to your injury, you may be eligible for wage replacement benefits.

In some cases, you may be able to receive wage replacement benefits for up to 400 weeks. If you are able to return to work, but at a lower wage or in a different job due to your injury, you may be eligible for reduced wage replacement benefits for up to 350 weeks.

If your injury is permanent and prevents you from returning to work, you may be eligible for lifetime wage replacement benefits.  Conversely, workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia can be terminated if a person’s condition improves, or if they are able to return to work without any restrictions.

Do I Have to Pay Back a Workers’ Comp Lien If I Get a 3rd Party Settlement for the Same Injuries?

In Georgia, if an employee is injured while working and has the right to sue another person or entity for the injury, the employer or the employer’s insurer has a right to a subrogation lien on any recovery received by the employee. This means that if the employer has paid any workers’ compensation benefits to the employee, they have the right to be reimbursed from any money the employee may receive from a lawsuit against a third party.

The employer or insurer may intervene in any action to protect and enforce their lien, which is similar to a cross-claim. Once a settlement is reached or a judgment is entered, the lien attaches to any recovery the employee receives, such as money from a lawsuit.

The trial court must determine whether the injured employee has been fully and completely compensated after a verdict or settlement. If the employee has been fully and completely compensated, the lien will be satisfied from the proceeds of the verdict or settlement in the hands of the injured employee.

Can You Work a Second Job While Getting Workers’ Compensation?

This is tricky. An injured employee is not prohibited from working a second job while receiving workers’ compensation benefits. But you want to pay this straight. You do not want to risk being accused of workers’ compensation insurance fraud.

Any income earned from the second job must be reported to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. If the employee’s ability to work has been limited due to the work-related injury, the carrier may reduce the workers’ compensation benefits based on the amount of income the employee is earning working another job. Additionally, if the second job causes further injury or aggravates the existing injury, the workers’ compensation carrier may deny benefits or reduce the amount of benefits being paid. It’s important for employees to consult with their workers’ compensation attorney and their doctor before taking on a second job while on workers’ compensation.

What Happens if Your Employer Denies Your Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Not all workers’ compensation claims go smoothly. Disputes can arise regarding the severity of the injury, the appropriate medical treatment, or the amount of compensation due. When these occur, they’re typically resolved through the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Both employees and employers have the right to be represented by a workers’ compensation attorney in these proceedings.

In case either party disagrees with the Board’s decision, they can appeal to the Appellate Division of the State Board and, subsequently, to the superior courts.

What Is the Georgia Statute of Limitations for Workers’ Compensation Claims?

The statute of limitations for filing a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia is generally one year from the date of your injury or illness. So a claim with the State Board must be filed within one year of the date of injury.

If you have an occupational disease, you have one year from the time you become aware of your disease or should have known of the relationship between your disability and your employment to file a claim. In the case of asbestosis or mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos, you have one year from the date of first disablement after diagnosis to file a claim. For all occupational diseases, you cannot file a claim after seven years from the last date you were exposed to employment hazards related to your disease.

It is important to file your claim as soon as possible to ensure that you do not lose your right to benefits.

Can You Sue Your Co-Worker in Civil Court?

When an injury is covered under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, the affected worker is precluded from seeking tort damages not just from their employer, but also from a coworker employed by the same organization.

The Georgia Supreme Court has determined that the term “employee of the same employer” refers to an individual who is functioning in an employee role rather than as an external party in the employment relationship when the injury in question occurred.

So you can bring a civil suit against another employee for the harm that was done to you but not an employee of your same company.  But it gets more complicated if the other employee is in a “joint venture” with your company like in a classic multiple subcontractor situation.

What Happens If I’m Hurt on My Lunch Break?

The Supreme Court of Georgia has clarified that while eating lunch may not be the direct responsibility for which an employee is hired, an ordinary mid-day lunch break taken on the employer’s premises still falls within the scope of employment under the Workers’ Compensation Act, O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1 et seq.

Talk to a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

If you have been injured on the job in Georgia, it is important to understand your rights under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you navigate the process and ensure that you receive the full benefits and compensation to which you may be entitled. Our lawyers are not in Georgia. But we work with a team Georgia lawyers on workers’ compensation claims.  If you have a potential claim, call 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.

 

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