Workplace injuries are common. Every day people are injured or made ill on the job, often having done nothing more than their daily work duties. When this happens, employees are entitled to workers’ compensation and many will seek the expertise of an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure that their rights are protected.
The workers’ compensation system was designed to protect both employees and employers. The program prevents employees from filing lawsuits against their employees for injuries that occur on the job and it provides compensation for medical bills and lost wages for injured employees. The system ensures workers’ are protected, but also protects businesses from being threatened with expensive lawsuits that could put them out of business – something that isn’t good for employers or employees. If you suffered a workplace injury, call the Law Office of John B. Jackson to make sure the system works for you!
Workers’ Compensation in Georgia
Workers’ compensation in Atlanta is run by the state of Georgia. Like most state-run workers’ compensation programs, the laws associated with the program can be complicated, especially for those who find their claim denied. Understanding the laws is easier when you view the program as insurance coverage, which it actually is. Employers pay for workers’ compensation coverage which protects them from being sued if an employee is injured on the job.
This insurance also provides compensation to employees for their medical treatment and their time missed from work. So much like you would place a claim with your homeowners’ insurance if your home is damaged or your car insurance if you are in an accident, your employer places a claim with its workers’ compensation insurance company if an employee is injured. Your employer pays out of pocket for insurance coverage, but not for the benefits paid directly to you.
Employers in Georgia with more than three employees must invest in workers’ compensation insurance. It doesn’t matter if these employees are full- or part-time, if they are working legally with proper documentation, if they are over the age of 18, or if they are working a contract for hire arrangement, their employer must have workers’ compensation coverage.
In nearly all cases, an employee working in Atlanta, GA will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, as long as they are working with a company that employees at least three people and their claim fits the description of a workplace injury. Should you determine your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you might be eligible to file a lawsuit with the help of workers’ compensation lawyers.
How Can I Be Injured at Work?
There are numerous ways employees can be injured while on the job. Sometimes it’s because of an environmental factor or because of machinery malfunctions. Sometimes it’s a misstep or accident caused by the injured employee or a co-worker. Other times it’s just circumstantial, such as a worker slipping and falling on a wet spot in the workplace.
What to Expect at Your First Meeting
Workplace injuries come in all shapes and sizes. Many people experience head trauma, back or neck injuries, or repetitive damage to their joints. There are also many instances of cuts, burns, and lost limbs due to workplace injuries. Even when these injuries are minor, they can create a great deal of pain for the employee and make it difficult for him or her to perform workplace duties. Luckily, there are protections in place through the workers’ compensation program.
Workers’ compensation applies in most cases when there are injuries in the workplace, but it’s important to understand your rights because employers and insurance companies sometimes try to deny a worker his or her right to compensation. An experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer can explain your rights and help you navigate the complex and intimidating system of workers’ compensation benefits.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Atlanta
Filing a workers’ compensation claim in Atlanta can seem complicated, but it is organized in a way to make the process consistent. Immediately following an injury, you should report the event to your employer so you can take advantage of your workers’ compensation benefits. Even if the injury seems minor and you think it’s “no big deal,” it’s still important to begin a paper trail in case you suffer pain or side effects in the future.
Once reported, you should see a physician. Again, even if your injuries seem minor, it’s important to get an expert opinion and have the information officially on file with your company. Be sure to see a doctor who is within the network of approved physicians from your employer and its workers’ compensation insurance company.
On-the-job injuries must be reported within 30 days of the date they occur. It’s better to report an injury immediately, but there are circumstances in which a person is injured and they don’t realize it until later. There are also cases in which a person is made ill over time, and in these cases, injuries must be reported within 30 days of their notice.
For instance, if your doctor diagnoses you with an illness or injury directly related to ongoing exposure to something in the workplace, you have 30 days from the time you noticed your symptoms to file your report. The bottom line? The sooner you take action the better.
Once reported, your employer is legally required to file a First Report of Injury or Occupational Disease form. This gets the ball rolling regarding workers’ compensation insurance.
This process of claiming your workers’ compensation benefits can seem overwhelming and in many cases, your employer will assist you throughout. They might help you with paperwork and appear to take a genuine interest in your well-being and recovery. Some workers’ compensation claims are easy and relatively unpleasant, aside from the employee’s injuries. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and if your employer refuses to help you, it is within your rights to contact an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer for assistance filing a claim.
What If I’m at Fault for Work-Related Injury?
There are plenty of instances in which insurance coverage for workers’ compensation benefits does not apply if you are to blame for the incident. This is not the case with worker compensation, as long as you were not reckless or wanton in your behavior. For instance, if you are drunk or you broke the law and the result was an on-the-job injury, chances are your workers’ compensation claim will be denied and that denial will pass any appeal you might file.
Even if an injury was caused by a mistake you made, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. Based on Georgia state law, you are entitled to compensation when you’ve sustained an acute injury or acquired illness or injury on the job. The same is true if a person is killed while on the job. His or her family can file a workers’ compensation claim and use the benefits to help pay for funeral and burial costs, and to replace lost wages.
In instances in which an injury is caused because of actions take or not taken by a third party, you could be eligible to file a third-party civil lawsuit, in addition to your workers’ compensation claim. For example, if a piece of equipment malfunctions and causes you injury, you could file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the equipment. This lawsuit would have no bearing on your workers’ compensation claim.
Keep in mind, workers’ compensation does not provide any award for non-economic damages, as you might receive in a civil lawsuit. You will receive only money to cover your medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages, but there are no awards for pain and suffering regardless of how devastating your injury might have been.
Can You Be Fired for Filing Workers’ Compensation in Georgia
It’s also possible for an employer to retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This is illegal, but it happens all too often. Retaliation can take many forms, including:
- Workplace harassment
- Disciplinary action
- Other mistreatment in the workplace
If your employer takes any negative action against you for filing a workers’ comp claim, you have a right to take legal action. If you believe you lost your job or were disciplined in any way after a workplace injury, you should contact an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer immediately.
What Happens If Your Employer Denies Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Though it seems as if workers’ compensation claims should be cut and dry, there are many cases that result in a dispute. If your employer refuses to assist you with filling you claim or they deny your claim, you have the right to contact the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation and begin your own claim. It’s best to speak to an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as you receive any indication your employer might be putting up a fight over your claim.
Who to Speak to About a Denied Workers’ Compensation Claim in Atlanta
You’ll know your claim was officially denied if you receive notice from the State Board of Workers’ Compensation explaining the reason for your denied workers’ compensation claim. If you believe your claim is valid, but it was denied, you have a right to request a hearing. If you haven’t spoken to a workers’ compensation lawyer yet concerning your claim, now is the time. Your Atlanta workers’ comp lawyer will help you prepare for the hearing and assist you in building your strongest case.
During the hearing, you will present evidence to a judge supporting your claim. This includes your version of the events, as well as expert testimony and testimony from any witnesses that were there when you were injured. The goal is to show the judge that your claim is valid and you deserve workers’ compensation.
Should the denial be upheld, you have another opportunity to appeal to the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation Insurance. You have 20 days from the date you receive your denial of benefits to file this final appeal.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Benefits
As nice as it might be to think you’ll receive hundreds of thousands of dollars or more if injured in a workplace event, this is rarely the case. There are two types of benefits injured employees receive medical benefits and lost wages.
Medical benefits are compensation paid to you or your medical treatment providers to cover the cost of medical care. This includes:
- Doctor visits
- Hospital visits
- Additional medical expenses
Just as you did when you went for an initial evaluation or treatment, you’ll need to see medical care providers within the approved network. You can choose to see your own doctor, but you will not be reimbursed for care through workers’ compensation benefits.
The other type of benefit provided through workers’ compensation is lost wages. Employees who are injured on the job and forced to miss time from work, either for medical treatment or to recover, are entitled to receive a portion of their lost wages. In Georgia, employees receive 2/3 of their average weekly pay up to the maximum benefit allowed. You will not receive your full salary through workers’ compensation, but you will be given compensation to offset the time you spent away from work.
Filing a Third Party Lawsuit in Georgia
Sometimes it’s necessary to file a lawsuit against a third party that played a role in your workplace injuries. For instance, if you were injured because equipment malfunctioned, the manufacturers could be responsible for your injuries. You don’t have the option of filing a civil lawsuit against your employer, but you can file a third-party civil lawsuit at the same time you are filing a workers’ compensation claim. The only time you’d be able to file a civil action against your employer is if an action in the workplace was reckless and led to your injuries. For instance, if someone intentionally injured you, there might be a civil case.
Third-party claims can be complicated and are standard personal injury lawsuits. This means it’s best to work with an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you file the claim. If you believe you might have a third-party claim, explain your situation to your workers’ comp lawyer and he or she can guide you in the right direction.
Benefits of a Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia
It is possible to file a claim and receive workers’ compensation benefits without the assistance of a workers’ comp lawyer. This is sometimes the case when an event is straightforward, you have one or two doctors’ visits and your time away from work is limited to at most, a few days.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case and the more complicated the claim, the more likely it is you’ll benefit from working with a workers’ compensation lawyer. This applies even if your claim is not denied, but if your claim is denied, it’s essential you hire an Atlanta workers’ comp lawyer.
If your employer claims your injuries were caused outside of the workplace or that you did something that was reckless and led to your injuries, there is a good chance your claim for workers’ compensation benefits will be denied. This means you are at risk for having to pay for your medical expenses out of pocket and to not receive reimbursement for your lost wages. This is a serious financial issue and you need the support of an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer.
In addition to ensuring your rights are protected, a workers’ comp lawyer will help you with the administrative tasks associated with your claim. They’ll ensure paperwork is submitted on time and they will provide advice on how to proceed with your claim and any necessary appeals.
There is no reason to be concerned about paying out of pocket for an Atlanta workers’ comp lawyer. Georgia law limits the amount of money an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer can charge to just 25 percent of your benefit award. This means anyone injured in a workplace incident with a valid claim can afford a workers’ comp lawyer to help them.
Chances are good if you are injured on the job you are eligible for benefits. Most every employee in Georgia has some kind of workers’ compensation in place. It’s important to never let the cost of a doctor emergency room visits interfere with your seeking medical treatment. Not only are you putting your health at risk, you are also putting a future workers’ compensation claim at risk. You are better off seeking medical treatment and not needing it than avoiding it and eventually having to pay for it on your own.
Contact Our Experienced Atlanta Workers’ Comp Lawyer Today
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If you’ve been injured on the job our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers can help. We are an experienced workers’ comp law firm that has been helping Atlanta, GA residents with their claims and their appeals for years. We understand how devastating it can be to have a workers’ compensation claim denied and we will do everything we can to help you get the compensation you deserve, even if it means pursuing multiple appeals.
For more than a decade we’ve worked with those injured on the job. We know that every case is different and that in addition to being injured, you probably feel intimidated and concerned about your own well-being, as well as that of your loved ones. If you have been injured in the workplace and you would like to schedule a consultation to discuss your case, or you want to speak to a workers’ comp lawyer in Atlanta, GA, call a workers’ comp lawyer at the Law Office of John B. Jackson at 260 Peachtree St NE Suite 200 Atlanta, GA, at 770-988-6155.