Along with a duty to represent our clients, all of us at Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLC - SWS Accident & Injury Lawyers feel we owe a duty to give back to our community whenever possible. For the 2023-2024 school year we have the pleasure of sponsoring the teachers of the month at each of the Carrollton City Schools. Every month we present the teachers of the month at Carrollton Elementary School, Carrollton Upper Elementary School, Carrollton Middle School, and Carrollton High School with a check to show our gratitude for their hard work educating the children in our community. Afterwards, we take a picture of the winners and place them on a digital billboard to help introduce our community to these wonderful educators. Below are some examples of our billboard designs recognizing the winners.
A special thank you to Superintendent Dr. Mark Albertus and principals Dr. Kylie Carroll (Carrollton Elementary), Tabitha Walker (Carrollton Upper Elementary), Eric Simmons (Carrollton Middle), and Ian Lyle (Carrollton High) for allowing us to support these wonderful educators.
Navigating workers’ compensation proves intricate, often clouded by misinformation and uncertainty, especially within Georgia's legal landscape where individuals may inadvertently err due to limited knowledge or confusion regarding federal and state statutes.
Immigrant laborers encounter heightened hurdles, contending with language barriers and unfamiliarity with the legal framework of their adopted nation. This piece endeavors to dispel prevalent misconceptions encircling workers’ compensation in Georgia.
Through debunking these fallacies and offering lucid elucidations, we seek to embolden both immigrant and native workers to comprehend their entitlements more fully. By the conclusion of this discourse, you will possess a firm grasp of the fundamental tenets of workers’ compensation and a heightened awareness of the safeguards afforded to you as an employee in Georgia.
This is incorrect. In the realm of Georgia workers’ compensation, a "no-fault" principle reigns, rendering fault or negligence largely inconsequential in ascertaining eligibility for benefits. Should the injury or illness stem from work-related circumstances, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, irrespective of culpability.
Workers’ compensation benefits extend to all injuries incurred in the course of employment, regardless of their magnitude. Whether you sustain a minor strain or a severe accident, you may qualify for medical care, rehabilitation, and wage supplementation under Georgia’s workers’ compensation framework.
Having pre-existing conditions doesn't automatically disqualify you from accessing workers’ compensation benefits. If a work-related injury worsens or aggravates a pre-existing condition, you may still qualify for assistance. The aim of workers’ compensation is to address work-related injuries, regardless of existing health conditions.
It's essential to debunk the myths and misunderstandings surrounding workers’ compensation, particularly for workers in Georgia. Understanding the laws and institutions safeguarding employees, the interplay between federal and local regulations, and the rights of immigrant workers empowers individuals to navigate the system confidently.
Remember, workers’ compensation serves as a vital safety net, ensuring that workers receive the necessary care and benefits in cases of work-related injuries or illnesses.
This is incorrect. Promptly reporting your work-related injury or illness is essential, even if you are currently undergoing medical treatment or unable to work. You must inform your employer as soon as possible following a work accident to secure your eligibility for benefits. Timely notification initiates the claims procedure and guarantees access to medical treatment and income replacement benefits.
Workers’ compensation extends its coverage to include occupational illnesses, which can manifest over time due to work-related factors. Examples of occupational illness include respiratory ailments, specific cancers stemming from workplace exposures, infections, etc. Eligibility for medical treatment, wage replacement, and additional benefits is possible in Georgia if you suffer from an occupational illness.
If you have been injured at work give our lawyers a call today at (770) 214-2500 for a free consultation.
In the aftermath of a workplace injury, it's crucial to address both immediate and lasting concerns. In the short term, securing medical care, reimbursement for transportation to medical appointments, and weekly wage benefits are paramount. As a representative for recently injured clients, I dedicate a significant amount of time to these pressing matters.
However, it's equally important to consider the long-term implications of the workplace injury. Questions about the ability to return to work and the potential work restrictions become central to discussions about settlement.
It may not be common knowledge, but employers and their insurance companies are not obligated to present a settlement offer. Unlike a negligence case where a jury might award a lump sum, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation lacks the authority to mandate such settlements. The resolution of your case through a lump sum settlement is contingent upon mutual agreement between you and the insurance company to close out the claim.
Recognize that time can become a critical factor in your workers' compensation case. According to Georgia law, your eligibility for temporary total disability benefits is limited to 400 weeks (approximately 7.5 years). Additionally, once a treating doctor assigns a "PPD" (permanent partial disability) rating, the insurance company can determine your PPD payment by multiplying your weekly benefit amount by the PPD percentage.
For instance, if you've been receiving TTD benefits for an extended period, say 390 weeks (though unlikely), and you have a 10% PPD rating, your case becomes relatively predictable with limited settlement value.
When an insurance adjuster assesses your case, their central queries revolve around minimizing costs and pondering the worst-case scenario in terms of financial implications.
Regardless of your long-standing dedication to your company, having been a loyal employee for two decades and a repeat recipient of "employee of the month" awards, these accolades lose significance once you file a workers' compensation case. In the eyes of the employer and their insurance company, you transform from a valued contributor to an expense that needs elimination.
This explains why, as part of a settlement package, your employer and their insurer might insist on your resignation – viewing you as damaged goods they wish to move beyond.
From our standpoint, it's essential to present compelling evidence and arguments to convince the insurance company that allowing your case to remain active could potentially incur significant costs for them in the ensuing months and years.
Over the past 30 years of representing injured workers, we've learned that approaching the insurance company either too early or too late can result in unreasonably low settlement offers.
In our experience, the optimal time to pursue a settlement is when numerous uncertainties still surround your case. These uncertainties may include:
While these represent just a handful of potential unknowns, the insurance company perceives them all as potential costs. Simultaneously, they understand that delaying the settlement process can lead to a decrease in the overall value of your case.
You have the opportunity to exchange the uncertainties listed above for a more substantial lump sum settlement, provided you are open to embracing the inherent risks associated with the unknown factors. By consenting to a specific settlement amount, you are relinquishing certain entitlements, such as the right to receive future weekly wage benefits and company-paid medical care.
While we can assist you in understanding these risks, and provide insights into the optimal timing for settlement, the ultimate decision to settle rests with you.
If you are a loved one has been injured at work give our lawyers a call today at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation
We receive calls all of the time asking about Georgia workers' compensation settlements. Some of the more frequently asked questions include:
To gain a better understanding of settlements, it's essential to remember one thing: you are not obligated to settle your case, and likewise, the insurance company is not required to settle either. As such, not even a judge can force you to settle your case.
While settlement is not mandatory for either party, many workers' compensation cases do eventually reach a resolution. However, predicting a specific timeframe for a settlement remains uncertain.
Despite the absence of a fixed timeline for settlements, there are instances where it might be advantageous to contemplate settling your case.
The response to this question is maybe. Certain cases can be resolved within a few months, while others may extend over several years before reaching a settlement
You have the flexibility to settle your case at any time by reaching an agreement with the insurance company regarding the settlement amount and its terms. Technically, you could settle your case as soon as a week after your injury.
However, settling your case too early is generally not advisable. Doing so might lead to unfavorable outcomes in the long term. Many individuals make the mistake of settling prematurely, especially when they haven't received all the necessary medical treatment. Settling before a comprehensive diagnosis by the doctor occurs can result in uncertainty about the appropriate settlement amount, as the full extent of the injury may not be accurately known at that early stage.
Numerous severe injuries can hinder individuals from resuming physical jobs, potentially making a return to work with the same employer unfeasible.
In such circumstances, there's a hope that you might eventually find employment in a different capacity. However, re-entering the workforce after an extended absence poses challenges for many. A prolonged gap in your work history may raise questions among potential future employers.
If the time between your injury and settlement results in a significant hiatus in your employment, particularly if your current employer terminates your contract, it could be advantageous to consider settling sooner rather than later. This choice may help mitigate the potential negative impact of an extended work gap on your employability.
Determining the optimal time to settle a workers' compensation case lacks a straightforward answer. Several crucial factors should be taken into account when making this decision.
A pivotal factor to consider is reaching maximum medical improvement, a term used by doctors to signify that your injury has essentially reached its peak recovery point. At this stage, you gain valuable insights into the future impact of your injury, allowing for a more accurate assessment of necessary future medical treatments.
As you approach maximum medical improvement, you can better gauge your ability to return to work, as well as the type of work you can handle. This period becomes opportune for contemplating a settlement since you have a clearer understanding of your future medical needs and work capabilities.
It's important to note, however, that a doctor's declaration of reaching maximum medical improvement doesn't guarantee absolute accuracy. Doctors may not always be infallible in their assessments. Therefore, the decision to settle should align with your personal assessment of being at maximum medical improvement and not requiring further medical treatment.
If you have been injured at work, give us a call today for a free consultation 770-214-2500.
It is not something people in Georgia typically think about on their way to their job in the morning or as they drive home in the evening. Statistics about work injuries are often more meaningful after a person has sustained an injury while on the job or has been denied workers' compensation benefits.
That is when the statistics might make it clear just how common workplace injuries are and how important it is for all of us to be safe when we are doing our jobs, whether it is in construction, an office, factory, store or other type of business.
Research by The National Safety Council shows that a worker somewhere in the U.S. is injured on the job every seven seconds. Think about that for a moment: that is one injury taking place every seven seconds of every minute, hour and day of the year.
The most common causes of the injuries:
The Council breaks that figure out in several ways, pointing out that the figure translates to the following:
Yet another way of looking at the rate of injuries: 104,000,000 work days are lost each year to on-the-job injuries.
If you have been injured on the job contact one our experienced workers' compensation lawyers today for a free consultation 770-214-2500.
Georgia's workers' compensation law is set-up to replace your income (to an extent) if you are injured at work. The amount you are entitled to receive while unable to work depends on multiple factors which we will discuss below.
If you are injured at work, and a physician says you are unable to work because of this injury, you are entitled to receive weekly temporary total disability benefits until you are cleared to return. Additionally, if a physician places you under work restrictions or some type of modified duty work, and your employer does not have a job for you to perform within the restrictions, you are temporary total disability benefits until they accommodate your restrictions.
The amount you will receive depends on how much money you earned during the 13 weeks prior to being injured. The employer is provided to calculate an "average weekly wage" based on your earnings for the 13 weeks prior to your injury. If you receive temporary total disability benefits, you are entitled to receive 2/3 of your "average weekly wage" per week in benefits. As of July 1, 2023, the maximum weekly benefit is currently capped at $800 per week. The maximum weekly benefit cap has changed throughout the years, as demonstrated below.
|Date of Injury
|Maximum TTD weekly payment
|July 1, 2023 - present
|July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023
|July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2022
|July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2019
|July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016
For example, a worker who earns $600 per week is entitled to receive TTD benefits in the amount of $400 per week until they are able to physically return to work. This is because $400 is 2/3 of their pre-injury average weekly wage of $600.
Another example would be an injured worker who earns $2,100 per week. Although 2/3 of their average weekly wage is $1,400, Georgia law caps the weekly benefit at $800. So in this scenario, the injured worker would only be entitled to receive $800 per week in TTD benefits.
If you are injured at work and are forced to work less or earn less due to the work injury, you are entitled to payment of temporary partial disability benefits. You are entitled to receive temporary partial disability benefits until you:
Temporary partial disability benefits use the same 2/3 calculation, but you are only entitled to receive 2/3 of the difference in your pre-injury and post-injury wage. For example, say an injured worker earned $1,000 per week before their work injury, and is now only able to earn $400 per week. They are now earning $600 less per week due to their work injury. As such, they would be entitled to receive weekly temporary partial disability benefits in the amount of $400 per week. Temporary partial disability benefits are also capped at a maximum of $533 per week. This cap has changed over time, as shown below.
|Date of Injury
|Maximum TPD weekly payment
|July 1, 2023 - present
|July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023
|July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2022
|July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2019
|July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016
If you or a loved one has been injured at work, give our lawyers a call today at 770-335-0355 for a free consultation.
You may already be familiar with how a law is passed in Georgia. First, a bill is passed by both parts of the state legislature (House of Representatives and Senate). The bill is then sent to the governor to sign. If the governor signs the bill, it becomes law. This is same method established by the Georgia Constitution in 1789 (with minor changes made since that time). It is a tried and true method, but have you ever wondered how a bill makes it to the legislature to begin with? Below is a description about how changes to the law involving Georgia's Workers' Compensation Act occur and the people responsible for submitting those changes.
In 1992, the Georgia General Assembly endured a particularly divisive legislative session when multiple issues emerged in competing bills filed on behalf of stakeholders with opposing interests in the Georgia workers' compensation system. Governor Zell Miller responded by calling then State Board of Workers' Compensation (SBWC) Chairman Hal Dawkins to ask if there could be a better way to evaluate proposed legislation on workers' compensation. This incident gave birth to the current Chairman's Advisory Council, replacing the prior 10-member statutory Governor's Workers' Compensation Advisory Council. The newly formed Advisory Council, with a membership that today includes 91 people, is organized around six committees which focus on specific areas of Georgia's approximately $2 billion workers' compensation industry and its administration. Members of the Advisory Council are well versed in one or more aspects of workers' compensation and bring their individual expertise to the table to discuss and vet workers' compensation legislation, rules, medical treatment/expenses, and all other issues that impact injured workers, employers, insurance companies, and claims/benefit levels.
The six committees and their mission statements are:
To propose and advance legislative enhancements to the Georgia workers' compensation system, to oppose unwise legislative initiatives adversely affecting the Georgia workers' compensation system, and to assist the Georgia Legislature and SBWC in otherwise reviewing, considering, and taking appropriate action on legislative proposals. The Legislative Committee keeps the House and Senate Committee of jurisdiction apprised of the work of the Advisory Council.
To improve and enhance the Georgia workers' compensation system by continually reviewing and recommending necessary changes to the Rules and Forms of the SBWC and by facilitating the Alternative Dispute Resolution process to assist in the more efficient and effective administration of the Workers' Compensation Act. The Rules & Mediation Committee also keeps the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction apprised of the work of the Advisory Council.
To advise the SBWC on the best ways to establish and maintain a system that provides excellent, timely and cost-effective care for the injured workers in Georgia, while also balancing the needs of the employers, employees, and providers.
To be an advocate and consultative resource for the licensure and self-insured employer programs and the SBWC. To work in collaboration with the SBWC to advocate for the accountability, efficiency and security of the licensure and self-insured employers in Georgia. To propose changes and recommendations in the processes, procedures, rules, statutes, and licensure matters to provide for a more efficient workers' compensation system for medical providers, insurers, and employers in the State of Georgia.
To provide advice to the SBWC regarding statutory & regulatory initiatives that support and encourage the appropriate utilization of rehabilitation and managed care to provide the most effective medical care and path to return to work for Georgia's injured workers. One of our own lawyers, Joseph Brown, has proudly served on this committee for the past 5 years.
To provide positive and proactive education to the participants in the Georgia workers' compensation system through all available forms of communication and to prepare regional educational seminars on an annual basis.
If you have been injured at work, give our lawyers a call today at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation.
An insurance company’s primary goal is to maximize profits for its shareholders. The main way they do this is by minimizing the amount they pay out in claims. Some workers’ compensation insurance companies use delay tactics to slow down the claims process, hoping claimants will eventually give up or accept lowball settlement offers. Below are some of the more common tactics seen in Georgia workers' compensation claims.
When communication falls by the wayside, it compromises your claim. Some adjusters will refuse to answer emails or phone calls promptly to either slow down the claim process, or because they are over worked. The best way to respond to this type of behavior is to keep detailed records of all communication between yourself and the insurance company. Note the dates and times of your requests for information, and keep all written correspondence as proof of lack of communication.
Insurance companies do not want to pay for ANYTHING. Sometimes an adjuster might delay your claim by disputing your injuries or requiring you to undergo multiple medical examinations by doctors chosen and paid for by the insurance company, claiming that pre-existing conditions are responsible for the injury, or trying to prove any injury was caused by a non-work-related event. If an injured worker provides documentation from a personal doctor, workers’ comp adjusters may try to contact the injured worker’s physician directly with “follow-up questions,” when really they are attempting to discredit the doctor’s findings and downplay the severity of the injury.
Even if the claim is ultimately accepted, the punishment for unreasonably delaying/denying a claim is generally not steep enough to prevent this type of behavior. Yet another reason to hire an experienced Georgia workers' compensation lawyer as quickly as possible following a work accident.
It is rarely in your best interest to provide an insurer with a recorded statement before speaking to or hiring a lawyer. An insurer can use your words against you to limit your benefits, or possibly deny your workers’ compensation claim entirely. Consult an attorney immediately if an insurance company asks you for a recorded statement.
Your employer might tempt you to return to work by offering you a light-duty job. However, accepting this type of offer could be used as evidence against you in your workers’ compensation claim. For instance, an adjuster might argue that since you can return to work in a light-duty capacity, you can’t be too seriously hurt, and your workers’ compensation benefits should be reduced or denied.
Medical providers expect payment for their services. However, some adjusters might delay payment to providers or claim they are waiting on authorization to avoid covering your medical expenses. Some adjusters could even argue that specific medical treatments are unnecessary, meaning workers’ compensation benefits won’t cover them. Delaying payment for medical bills can have multiple negative impacts, including a downgrade of your credit rating.
At SWS Accident & Injury Lawyers we are committed to helping you understand your legal rights and fighting against these common delay strategies. If you are experiencing unnecessary insurance delays after a work-related accident, now is the time to get legal help. Give our lawyers a call today at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation.
Most of the time when someone thinks about being compensated after an injury in Georgia they think about filing a lawsuit. Visions of lawyers, judges, juries, and courtrooms may run through your mind. Well in Georgia, it is a little different. In Georgia, a workers' compensation case is a hybrid. It begins as an insurance claim, that if not handled properly, can turn into a lawsuit.
In order to fulfill the hybrid insurance/legal requirements the workers' compensation act, the legislature created the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation. The State Board's duties include handling the insurance claim portion, as well as any claim that turn into a lawsuit. Read further for a more in depth explanation on the structure of the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation and how it works.
Established in 1920 by the Georgia legislature, the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation is tasked with implementing Georgia's workers compensation act. The Board serves over 3.8 million Georgia workers as well as 250,000 Georgia employers. The State Board is funded by assessments from insurance companies and self-insured employers.
The Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation is tasked with implementing all aspects of the workers' compensation act. This includes keeping records of claims, conducting hearings, approving settlements, and investigating fraud.
No. The Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation is an administrative body that is limited in it's authority by law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.
Yes. The legislature has given the State Board permission to pass rules to help implement laws passed by the legislature. The Board generally updates the rules yearly, with new rules coming into effect on July 1.
Since 1994, any changes or addition to the Board Rules are supposed to be vetted and approved by an entity known as the Advisory Council. The Advisory Council is a group of leaders from all aspects of workers' compensation--insurance, labor, medical, legal, small business, and business. This includes lawyers, insurance executives, business/ corporate representatives, medical providers, and members of the State Board. The Advisory Council is composed of 6 committees. These include:
Every year the Advisory Council meets during the first week of October to come up with changes to the Board Rules, recommendations to send to the legislature for changes to the workers' compensation act, and addressing any other concerns with the entire workers compensation system. Since it's inception there has been a "gentleman's agreement" to only propose Rule changes, and changes to the law, which are agreed to by consensus amongst members of the Advisory Council. Although recently the State Board has chosen to make some changes over the objections of certain groups. Our firm has been fortunate enough to have one of our lawyers, Joseph Brown, appointed by the Chairman of the State Board as a member of the Advisory Council since 2019. As such, Joseph spends the first week of October fighting to improve the types of benefits and medical treatment workers injured workers are able to receive.
In the event a party believes the other side is not performing their duty involving a claim, the aggrieved party can request a hearing in front of an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). An ALJ is able to conduct court hearings where they receive evidence and testimony, evaluate legal arguments, and issue legal opinions. These hearings are similar to what you might think of, when you think of court. The main difference is there is no jury. The ALJ is the ultimate decision maker on who is right and who is wrong in any workers' compensation dispute.
Yes. You can appeal a decision of an ALJ to the Appellate Division. The Appellate Division consists of 3 judges (Chairman and 2 Directors) who will hear the appeal and issue a decision.
You can appeal any decision by the Appellate Division to the Superior Court of the county where the work injury occurred. After the Superior Court, a case can be appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals, Supreme Court of Georgia, or ultimately the Supreme Court of the United States. It is important to note that you have a right to appeal any decision up to the level of the Superior Court. Any appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeals, Supreme Court of Georgia, or Supreme Court of the United States is only allowed if the given Court grants an application for appeal, also knows as granting "certioari".
If you have been injured at work and need help navigating the winding road of Georgia's workers' compensation system, give our lawyers a call today at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation.
After a work injury in Georgia, it is normal to have questions and concerns. Below are answers to some of the more frequently asked questions our clients have about workers' compensation following a work accident in Georgia.
Workers’ compensation is an accident insurance program paid by your employer which may provide you with medical, rehabilitation and income benefits if you are injured on the job. It also provides benefits to your dependents if you die as a result of a job-related injury.
Georgia's workers' compensation act is a section of laws contained within the Official Code of Georgia. The workers compensation act is found under Title 34, Section 9 and currently contains 432 sub-sections.
No. Only employers who have 3 or more employees are required to obtain workers' compensation insurance.
No. Railroad workers, domestic servants, and farm laborers are specifically excluded from the protections afforded under Georgia's workers' compensation act. Additionally, independent contractors are not covered unless it can be shown that the employer exercised a sufficient right of control over the independent contractor at the time of a work accident.
Possibly. Georgia residents who are injured while on the job in another state are subject to Georgia's workers compensation as as long as their employment meets certain requirements. These requirement include: the employee was hired while living in Georgia, the employer’s place of business or the residence of the employee is in the state of Georgia, and the job you were hired for was not exclusively for work outside of the state of Georgia.
You are covered from the first minute you start work for an employer.
All Georgia employers are required to post information identifying medical providers you can choose to see following a work injury. This includes:
You are entitled to medical treatment for your injury immediately. You are entitled to weekly income benefits if you are unable to work for more than 7 days. Your first check should be mailed to you within 21 days after the first day you missed work.
If you are injured at work in Georgia, you are entitled to receive medical and income benefits for up to 400 weeks (a little more than 7 1/2 years). If your injury is deemed "catastrophic" in nature, you may be entitled to lifetime benefits.
You are entitled to receive two-thirds (2/3 or 66%) of your average weekly wage, with a maximum benefit amount currently being $800.00 per week.
You will receive what are called permanent partial disability ("PPD") benefits based upon an amount set by law. For example, if you lost an arm or leg, you will receive benefits of 225 weeks.
You are eligible to receive a reduced benefit called temporary partial disability. The amount you receive is based upon your earnings prior to your injury, and can be received for a maximum of 350 weeks following your injury. The maximum temporary partial disability benefit is currently $533.00 per week .
While tough to think about, it is possible that a work accident can cost you your life. In these terrible instances, your dependents will receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage or a maximum of $800.00 per week for death. Your dependents include your surviving spouse/partner, children/step-children, any other family member who can prove you supported them financially at the time of their fatal work accident. A widowed spouse/partner, with no children, is limited to a total amount of $320,000.00 unless he or she remarries or cohabitates in a meretricious relationship. Children are allowed to receive benefits until they turn 18 years old, unless they can show they are attending college, which allows them to receive benefits until the age of 22.
If you have been injured at work give our lawyers a call today at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation.