Injuries occur all the time in the workplace, even in environments you wouldn’t expected to be riddled with injury risk. This is why the workers’ compensation system was created – to protect both employees and employers when injuries occur. Injuries might happen when someone makes a mistake or because a piece of equipment or other environment factor creates an issue. A workers compensation claim can be caused by something as simple as slipping and falling in the workplace.
The bottom line is there are all sorts of ways you can be injured in the workplace, and when it happens you need to understand your rights under the Carrollton, GA workers’ compensation laws and you need to understand how important it is to work with an experienced workers’ comp attorney.
What are Common Workplace Injuries?
Despite the wide variety of ways an injury can occur in the workplace, the actual injuries themselves tend to fall into just a few categories. Repetitive injuries are those that are caused by workers making the same movements over and over, day in and day out. For instance, carpal tunnel syndrome is considered a repetitive injury and often occurs in workplaces where employees spend a lot of time typing.
Other common injuries in the workplace include those involving the head, neck, back, and joints. As anyone who has experienced an injury involving any of these body parts knows, even minor pain can feel debilitating and affect your quality of life.
It’s also fairly common for injuries involving burns, cuts, and lost limbs to occur in the workplace, especially if a person works in a factory or manufacturing environment.
Workers Compensation in Carrollton and throughout Georgia
Though some workers’ compensation laws are governed by federal regulations, most of the programs are state-funded and organized on the state level, which means they are different from state to state.
Like most states, Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws can seem complicated, especially if you’ve never been injured in the workplace before and if your claim is initially denied.
Clarifying workers’ compensation laws begins with some understanding of how the system works. Workers’ compensation is actually insurance. Employers pay into a workers’ compensation insurance system that prevent them from being sued if a worker is injured on the job.
The second purpose of workers’ compensation insurance is to offer employees the comfort of knowing if they are injured to the point they cannot perform their job duties, they will receive wage and medical benefits during their recovery. In some instances, an employer will be able to offer an employer “light duty,” which makes it possible to continue working during recovery. If this occurs, the employee must take the offer and continue to work.
Like many other types of insurance, in order to operate a business with more than three employees, workers’ compensation is mandatory. It doesn’t matter if employees are part-time or full-time – if there are more than three people on staff, employers are required to cover them with a workers’ compensation policy (with a few exceptions). Employees who are minors, working without proper documentation, working under contract for hire, written or implied, no matter how many hours they work in any given period have the right to workers’ compensation insurance when you are injured on the job.
This results in most workers in Carrollton and throughout Georgia being covered under a workers’ comp policy. If you find out your employer does not carry workers’ comp coverage and you are injured, you might have a right to sue your employer. Otherwise, your rights are limited under workers’ compensation laws.
What If I Played a Role in My Injuries?
Many people assume if they made a mistake while working and it led to their injuries that workers’ compensation would not apply. This is not true.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system and it doesn’t matter how an employee is injured, as long as that employee was not behaving recklessly, breaking the law, or working while intoxicated. Basically, making a mistake it OK, but egregiously creating a dangerous workplace is not.
According to the law, workers in the state of Georgia are eligible for benefits when they sustain an acute injury or acquired injuries or illness. Assuming an injury, illness, or death arose out of and in the course of employment, the worker is eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim and receive benefits.
There are times when employees had no control over their injuries, nor did the employer. For instance, if a piece of equipment malfunctions in the workplace, it was out of the control of the employer and employee. However, the manufacturer of the equipment can be held legally responsible. In these cases, the employee might be eligible to file coinciding workers’ compensation claims and third-party personal injury lawsuits.
Workers’ compensation benefits do not include non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. Obviously, these issues might be a part of your circumstances, but the only way you can file a claim for pain and suffering is if you file a third-party claim. Workers’ compensation only provides coverage for actual medical expenses and only two-thirds of your lost wages.
What Needs to Be Done When Filing a Carrollton Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Filing a workers’ compensation claim in Carrollton, GA is an organized process that must be followed in order to have a claim approved. Once you’ve been injured and told your employer about your injuries, you must seek medical treatment and notify your employer in writing that you have done so. It’s also important you see a company- and workers’ compensation-approved physician for treatment.
You must report your injury within 30 days after it occurs. Preferably, you will do so the instant it occurs. Even if an event seems minor, you should let your employer know about it because an injury could surface later and you want to have record of the event to avoid any issues. Your employer is legally required to file a First Report of Injury or Occupational Disease form once you report an injury. Filing to do so can result in civil penalties.
It’s reasonable to expect your employer to assist you throughout this process. Human resources or whoever is in a supervisory position in your workplace should assist you with filling out an incident report, providing a list of approved physicians, and notifying the insurance company of your claim.
What Benefits Can I Receive When I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Benefits under workers’ compensation are only for medical expenses and a portion of the employee’s lost wages. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation provides detailed information about the benefits available. A general overview of the benefits includes:
Workers’ injured on the job are entitled to payment and compensation for all of the necessary and reasonable medical benefits provided to help them recover. This includes doctor and hospital visits, surgery, rehabilitation, medication, and more. Employees must visit approved physicians, so don’t expect to be able to see your regular doctor. You’ll receive a list of approved physicians when you report your injury to your employer.
Of course, you have a right to see your personal doctor for a second opinion, but you’ll need to pay for that visit on your own or with your own health insurance.
Employees who file for workers compensation are also entitled to receive a portion of their lost wages. Often when a person is injured, they miss time from work. Sometimes this is due to ongoing treatment and doctor’s visits, while other times a person is just too injured to work. Income benefits are available for employees who miss seven or more days of work.
Should this miss time extend beyond 21 days, the employee receives pay for the first seven days and might be eligible to recover benefits for the entire time if the injury is ruled catastrophic. If the injury is non-catastrophic, wages are paid for up to 400 weeks. Wage benefits are paid at 2/3 the average weekly wage up to maximum benefit allowed, so employees should not expect to receive their full salary during their time missed from work.
In some cases, workers’ compensation claims are filed by the surviving relatives of an employee that has died in a workplace incident. When this occurs, dependents are eligible to receive death benefits, including money for burial and funeral expenses, as well as lost wages.
What Do I Do If My Employer Resists My Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Should your find your employer is resistant to your claim – they won’t help you with paperwork, they deny you have a valid claim, etc. – you have a right to contact the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation and initiate a claim on your own. Though it’s possible to do this without the support of a workers compensation lawyer, it’s a good idea to contact one as soon as you sense your employer is resisting your claim. Some injured employees contact a workers compensation lawyer as soon as they seek medical attention for an on-the-job injury.
Some employers take resistance a step further. They not only avoid helping you, they retaliate against you for filing a claim. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to prove retaliation, but it is illegal and can get your employer into a great deal of legal trouble.
A few examples of workers’ compensation retaliation might include:
- Disciplinary action, including being written up or demoted
- Mistreatment in the workplace
Basically, any action an employer takes against an employee because he or she filed a claim is retaliation. Georgia law protects employees against employer retaliation, so if you believe negative actions taken by your employer are a result of your having filed a workers’ compensation claim, you need to contact a workers comp lawyer immediately.
What Should I Do If My Workers’ Compensation Claim is Denied?
Denial of a workers’ compensation claim can feel devastating. In addition to being injured and unable to do your job as usual, or at all, your claim being denied can feel as though you are being victimized. You’ll know your claim was denied because you will receive a notice from the State Board of Workers’ Compensation explaining the reason for denial.
Should you have a claim denied that you know is valid, you have a right to appeal the decision and request hearing. Again, this is something you can handle on an individual basis, but most people choose not to because it is an intimidating experience. The last thing you need when you are trying to recover and get your life back to normal is to be forced to deal with legal issues.
The hearing can be an intimidating experience, so even if you were able to file the appeal request on your own, it’s a good idea to have a workers compensation lawyer at your side during the hearing. This is the time when you will present all evidence to a judge in support of your claim. You can share your own testimony regarding the events related to your injury and details of your injury, expert testimony from doctors, testimony from any other witnesses, and any other information or evidence that is relevant to your case.
Should the judge uphold the denial of your claim, you still have a right to file an appeal with the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation insurance. This must be done within 20 days of receiving the notice denial of your claim was upheld.
What If I Need to File a Third-Party Claim?
In some cases, in addition to your workers’ compensation claim, you’ll need to file a lawsuit against a third-party that played a role in your injuries. For instance, if your injuries were caused by a piece of equipment malfunctioning, you might have a right to file a claim against the manufacturer.
You cannot file a civil action against your employer, unless there were circumstances in which willful or wanton actions caused your injuries. For instance, if your supervisor pushed you over a ledge and you were injured in the fall, you would have a right to file a civil suit. In most cases, civil suits against and employer are unnecessary because of workers’ compensation insurance.
It’s essential you work with a workers compensation attorney when filing a third-party claim. In most cases, you’ll hire an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation claims to help you with your workers’ comp claim and another attorney specializing in personal injury to help with your civil lawsuit. The workers’ comp attorney you speak to can better explain the process and who you need to work with in your initial meeting.
Why is It Important to Hire a Carrollton Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
There are instances in which a workers’ compensation claim is simple and straightforward. This is often the case for minor injuries that make it possible for an employee to return to work after just a single doctor’s visit and a few days away. For instance, if an employee is cut and receives stitches, the claim would be simple and cover the cost of the emergency room visit and the hours or few days away from work.
Unfortunately, not all claims are this simple. There are instances in which an employer denies coverage, even for a simple claim. In other cases, a worker is required to return to work before he or she is medically ready to do so. There might also be a dispute over how a workers’ injuries occurred and whether or not they behaved in a reckless manner. In each of these cases, it’s essential to have a workers’ compensation lawyer on your side defending your rights.
An experienced Carrollton, GA workers compensation lawyer can handle the paperwork needed to file an initial claim and to appeal a denied claim. They can also be a valuable asset when it comes to building your appeal case. Most workers comp attorneys have a network of resources that can speak on your behalf and serve as expert witnesses in your hearing. Your workers compensation lawyer is your advocate and your support system. And you can rest easy knowing that working with a workers’ comp attorney will not cost a great deal of money – state law limits fees for attorneys in workers’ compensation cases to just 25 percent of your benefits.
If you are an employee in America, chances are you are protected under some form of workers’ compensation insurance. Regulations and rules vary from state to state, but in most cases, you do not need to worry about the cost of medical care or lost time from work if you are injured on the job. An employee should never avoid medical treatment for an injury because he or she is concerned about the cost or concerned that workers’ compensation rules do not apply to them. As a matter of fact, avoiding medical treatment when you are injured on the job is one of the worst things you can do when it comes to workers’ compensation benefits.
For more information or to speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Carrollton, GA, contact the Law Office of John B. Jackson at 770-834-0345.