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.

Chairman's Advisory Council History & Purpose

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:

  1.  Legislative Committee

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.

  2.  Rules & Mediation Committee

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.

  3.  Medical Committee

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.

 4.  Licensure & Self-Insurance Committee

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.

 5.  Rehabilitation Committee & Managed Care Committee

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.

 6.  Public Education Committee

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.

 

Georgia work injury lawyer

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.

What is the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation?

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.

What does the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation do?

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.

What is the structure of the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation?

The State Board is comprised of several levels and divisions.

  1. Chairman - Appointed by the Governor of Georgia.  Highest position in the State Board.    Also serves as a judge in Appellate Division cases.
  2. Directors (2) - Appointed by the chairman.  Serve as judges in the appellate division.
  3. Executive Director - Appointed by the chairman.  In charge of day to day operations of the State Board.
  4. Administrative Services - In charge of running the State Board offices.
  5. ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolutions) - In charge of mediations and similar services.
  6. Appellate Division - Responsible for hearing appeals from hearing decisions.  Consists of the 3 judges (Chairman and 2 Directors.)
  7. Claims and Document Processing - In charge of filing and processing claims and other types of paperwork.
  8. Enforcement Division - In charge of investigating compliance with the workers' compensation act including fraud and ensuring proper insurance coverage for employers.
  9. Information Technology - Responsible for maintaining ICMS, which is the electronic filing system implemented by the State Board.
  10. Legal Division - Consists of Administrative Law Judges who preside over legal hearings, rule on motions, etc.
  11. Licensure & Self-Insurance - Responsible for licensing insurance companies to provide coverage for employers.
  12. Managed Care & Rehabilitation - In charge of policing individuals involved in catastrophic cases, such as CAT suppliers and nurse case managers.
  13. Settlement Division-  In charge of reviewing and approving settlements.

Does the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation make the law?

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.

Does the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation make rules?

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.

How does the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation decide what rules to make/change?

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:

  1. Legislative
  2. Licensure
  3. Medical
  4. Public Education
  5. Rehab
  6. Rules

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.

How does a Georgia workers' compensation claim turn into a lawsuit?

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.

Can I appeal a decision from an Administrative Law Judge?

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.

What if I disagree with a decision of the Appellate Division?

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.

SWS Accident and Injury Lawyer Law Firm in Carrollton GA

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.

What is workers' compensation?

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.

What is Georgia's Workers Compensation Act?

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.

Does Georgia's workers' compensation act cover all employers?

No.  Only employers who have 3 or more employees are required to obtain workers' compensation insurance.

Does Georgia's workers' compensation act cover all employees?

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.

Am I covered by Georgia's workers' compensation act if I am injured in another state?

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.

How long do I have to work for an employer to be covered under Georgia's workers' compensation act?

You are covered from the first minute you start work for an employer.

What doctor do I see if I am injured at work in Georgia?

All Georgia employers are required to post information identifying medical providers you can choose to see following a work injury. This includes:

How long do I have to wait to receive Georgia workers' compensation benefits after an injury?

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.

How long can I receive Georgia workers' compensation benefits?

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.

How much will my benefits be if I am unable to work due to a Georgia work injury?

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.

What happens if I lose a body part (arm, leg, finger, etc.) due to a work injury in Georgia?

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.

What if I am able to return to work at a lower paying job following my work injury in Georgia?

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 .

What happens if someone is killed due to a work accident in Georgia?

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.

 

Georgia work injury lawyer

 

If you are injured on the job in Georgia, it is important to perform the following steps in order to have a successful claim.  Below is a checklist of things to do if you are injured while working in Georgia.

1)  Report ALL injuries

In Georgia, you have 30 days to report your injury to your employer.  Although 30 days is the maximum amount of time you can wait to report an injury, the old adage "the sooner, the better" applies.  The sooner you report an injury to your employer, the sooner the workers' compensation system can kick in to provide you with medical treatment, and possibly replacement of lost income.

It is also important to report ALL injuries, even if you believe they are small or will heal on there own.  Injuries, particularly the older you get, can be tricky.  Things that may have healed with rest when you were younger, might now require medical intervention.  So it is extremely important to report ALL injuries, no matter how small.  Reporting the injury protects you and is the first step in bringing a successful workers compensation claim.

2)  Seek medical treatment

After reporting an injury, you should always ask for medical treatment.  Whether it be with a plant nurse, or with a workers' compensation doctor, it is important to have any injury evaluated quickly.  Evidence supports the fact that quick medical treatment results in faster recovery time.  Additionally, medical providers generally keep detailed records, which will help prove your injury was the result of working rather than being caused by something else.

3) Follow the advice of your medical provider

Most injuries are initially treated conservatively.  This type of treatment includes medication, rest, physical therapy, and work restrictions (i.e. no lifting more than 10 pounds).  It is important to follow your medical providers instructions in order to increase the chances of making a full recovery.  This includes telling your employer that you can not perform your regular job in the event a doctor places you on work restrictions.

4)  Document everything

Georgia workers' compensation cases can hinge on whether or not you have proper documentation for an injury.  It is extremely important to document everything relating to your work accident and injury.  So be sure to keep any documents you receive from your employer and any medical providers.  It may also be beneficial to start a journal, or take notes, regarding medical treatment you receive and the types of symptoms your injury is causing.

5)  Find a Georgia workers' compensation attorney

Georgia's workers' compensation system is a specialized part of the law.  As such, many of the issues involving a workers' compensation claim are unique and different from common law used in personal injury claims.  Due to this specialization, it is crucial to hire an experienced workers' compensation lawyer to maximize the compensation and medical treatment you receive following an accident.

If you, or a loved one, has been injured while working in Georgia.  Give our experienced lawyers a call today for a free consultation at (770) 214-2500.

3 Georgia workers' compensation lawyers

Workplace injuries in Georgia can be devastating and financially costly for employees and employers alike. Even a minor injury that forces an employee to miss work, or limits their ability to perform their normal job duties, can have negative consequences for both employees and businesses.  Here a some of the most common work injuries we see through Georgia.

Slips and falls

Injuries related to slips and falls are among the most common workplace injuries, accounting for approximately 33 percent of all worker injuries. Falls at work can result from a number of factors, including wet or slippery floors, poor lighting, uneven surfaces, hidden or misplaced cords and other obstacles.

These injuries can vary in their severity but may result in:

Equipment Strikes

Workers across many industries are at risk of being hit by equipment or falling objects, but these injuries occur most frequently at construction sites, factories, and warehouses.  These accidents can result in serious injuries that often lead to lengthy recovery periods and significant medical treatment, including surgery and rehabilitation.  These injuries can also lead to 3rd party claims against individuals or companies responsible.

Repetitive Motion Injuries

Repetitive motion injuries, also know as cumulative trauma, injuries are a common occupational hazard in all industries.  In particular, manufacturing and assembly line workers, as well as office workers who use a computer are at an increased risk of developing repetitive motion injuries as a result of their job duties.

Repetitive motion injuries can include conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. While these conditions can often be treated conservatively, which means without surgery, theycan be extremely painful and cause decreased mobilization over time.

Lifting injuries

Lifting injuries can occur anytime someone picks up, carries, or handles a heavy or oversized objects.  Lifting is a common activity in almost every industry, and it presents a risk of injury when done improperly or without proper safety equipment.

While these injuries are rarely fatal, they can result in long-term back, shoulder, knee, and hip injuries that make it difficult to carry out normal work duties.  When lifting objects of significant size or weight, is is extremely important to observe the proper technique and use any safety devices provided by an employer.

Motor Vehicle crashes

Many industries involve transportation, including taxi services, mail and delivery services, schools and construction. Now that home-delivery services are becoming increasingly popular, more drivers are on the roads than ever before, making accidents inevitable.

These accidents can result in severe injuries that can lead to temporary or permanent disabilities which require extensive medical care.  This is particularly true if the accident involves large trucks or buses.

If you have been injured at work give us a call at (770) 214-2500 for a free consultation.

Georgia workers' compensation lawyers

There are many types of Georgia workers' compensation injuries.  These can range from the typical back strain from lifting a heavy object, all the way to catastrophic injuries which prevent an injured worker from ever working again in the future.  Today's post will discuss common work related injuries and how they are handled in Georgia's workers' compensation system.

Are all work injuries covered in Georgia?

Workers' compensation is a no fault system, so in general, as long as a worker is injured while performing their job the injury is covered.

What is a cumulative trauma injury?

A cumulative trauma injury is an injury that is not the result of a single accident, but occurs over time.   A common type of cumulative trauma injury is carpal tunnel syndrome.  Carpal tunnel syndrome generally occurs as a result of repetitive gripping, grasping, and use of your hands.  A worker suffering from this type of injury generally does not notice any pain at first, but as they continue to to perform repetitive motions with certain body parts they begin to experience pain or numbness.  These injuries can often be treated with rest or modified/light work activity, but may end up requiring surgical intervention.  It is important that you report any type of pain or discomfort caused by any repetitive work, as a paper trail can assist in having your cumulative workers' compensation claim approved.

What is considered a catastrophic injury in Georgia?

In Georgia,  a catastrophic workers' compensation injury typically refers to a severe and life-altering injury.  These injuries usually prevent an individual from ever being able to work again in the future.  In Georgia, some injuries are automatically considered catastrophic.  These include:

Additionally, any injury which would prevent someone from performing their past job, or any other job available in decent numbers, can be deemed "catastrophic."  In addition to rehabilitation benefits not normally offered to an injured worker, individuals suffering a catastrophic injury are eligible to receive replacement income and medical benefits for the rest of their life.  In contrast to the typical workers' compensation injury which has a 400 week limit on replacement income and medical benefits.

What is considered an occupational disease in Georgia?

An occupational disease in Georgia, refers to a medical condition or illness that arises as a direct result of an employee's work  or exposures in the workplace. These diseases are typically caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to hazardous conditions, substances, that are specific to the employee's job.  For example, a fireman who develops asthma due to repeated smoke exposure.  Occupational diseases may not manifest immediately but can develop over time due to cumulative exposure.

Common examples of occupational diseases in various industries include:

 

In Georgia's, for a disease to fall under the workers' compensation act, it generally needs to meet certain criteria, which may include:

  1. Causation: The disease must be caused by the work activities or conditions. There should be a clear link between the work environment and the development of the disease.
  2. Work-Related Exposure: The employee must have been exposed to the hazardous conditions, substances, or activities that are known to contribute to the development of the disease as part of their job duties.
  3. Time Frame: The disease must develop over a period of time due to the cumulative effect of exposure, rather than being caused by a single isolated incident.
  4. Proof of Causation: The employee or their legal representative typically needs to provide medical evidence linking the disease to the workplace exposure.

What if I reinjure, or aggravate. a pre-existing condition while working in Georgia?

As previously mentioned, Georgia's workers compensation law is considered a "no-fault" system.  As long as the injury occurs while performing your job, then it is covered.  This includes reinjuring or aggravating a pre-existing injury or condition.  For example, say a worker injured their back 5 years ago and underwent surgery to repair the injury.  After a course of rehab, the individual returns to work performing a lighter duty job for the next 5 years.  Unfortunately, the worker injures their back again lifting a pallet at work.  Under Georgia law, the employer/insurer is responsible for providing medical treatment that returns the injured worker back to the condition they were in before the latest back injury.  In this case, the employer/insurer is responsible for providing medical treatment to the injured worker until the worker is capable of performing the light duty work which cause their latest back injury.

Are any work injuries not covered in Georgia?

While most injuries that occur while working in Georgia are covered by workers' compensation, there are a few specific injuries which are barred.  These include:

  1. Self-Inflicted Injuries: Injuries intentionally caused by the employee to themselves are generally not covered.
  2. Injuries Due to Violation of Company Policy: If an employee's injury results from their violation of company policies or rules workers' compensation coverage may be denied.
  3. Injuries Caused by Not Using Supplied Safety Equipment:  In an employee is injured while not wearing safety equipment supplied by their employer, and the safety equipment would have prevented the injury, it may not be covered by Georgia workers' compensation.
  4. Injuries Caused by Intoxication or Substance Abuse: If an employee is injured while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their claim can be denied
  5. Injuries from Horseplay or Personal Activities: Injuries that occur as a result of horseplay, roughhousing, or personal activities not related to work duties might not be covered.
  6. Purely Mental or Emotional Injuries: In Georgia, mental or emotional injuries that do not accompany a physical injury are not covered.  For example, PTSD caused by witnessing a traumatic event would not be covered. unless the individual also a suffered a physical injury due to the event.
  7. Injuries During Commute: Injuries that occur during an employee's commute to and from work are generally not covered.  This does not include injuries for workers required to travel for their job, such as delivery drivers or people workers' who are on-call.
  8. Criminal or Reckless Activities: Injuries sustained while engaging in criminal, or reckless quasi criminal activities (i.e. driving at an excessive speed) are usually not covered in Georgia.

If you or a loved one has suffered a work injury in Georgia, give our lawyers a call at (770) 214-2500 for a free consultation.

Georgia workers' compensation lawyers

 

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