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

 

If you are injured while at work in Georgia, your injury is covered under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act (O.C.G.A. § 34-9).  This section of Georgia law covers everything from replacing your income if you are unable to work, to the types of medical treatment you are authorized to receive.  The State Board of Workers’ Compensation is the entity that is charged with enforcing the Georgia workers’ compensation act.

How do I file a workers' compensation claim in Georgia?

In Georgia, all claims are filed electronically through a system called ICMS. It is the responsibility of your employer, or their insurance company, to file a claim with the State Board when they are notified of a work injury.  If the employer/insure fail to file a claim, it is possible to file yourself, but it can be a daunting task, and is best handled by an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.

How long do I have to file a claim?

Following a work injury in Georgia, you have 1 year from the date of the accident to file a claim.  In practice, the faster you file a claim following a work injury, the better the outcome will usually be.

Will I lose my job if I file a workers' compensation claim in Georgia?

Georgia is an at-will employment state. This means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time and for almost any reason. (Examples of reasons you can not be terminated include your sex, race, religious beliefs, and a few other exceptions based on federal law). Thus, you technically can be terminated for filing a workers’ compensation claim. In reality, most employers will not terminate someone solely for being injured on the job.

What do lawyers do in a Georgia workers' compensation claim?

A workers’ compensation lawyer’s main job to ensure that the employer/insurer provide all of the benefits to the injured worker allowed under law. This includes ensuring the injured worker receives a replacement for any lost income and receives any appropriate medical treatment indicated by their treating physician.

What is my workers' compensation claim worth?

Every workers’ compensation claim is different, which makes it difficult to evaluate the worth of a claim without knowing specific facts. That being said, in 2022, there were more than 120,000 workers’ compensation claims filed and insurance companies paid out more than $1.5 billion dollars in benefits for those claims.  (https://sbwc.georgia.gov/organization/about-state-board-workers-compensation/statistics). Thus, in 2022, an average of approximately $12,500 was paid on each claim. Understand this is just an average, as our firm has settled workers’ compensation claims ranging from $3,000 to $7.95 million dollars.

What compensation is available to me if I am injured while working in Georgia?

There are 3 main benefits available to an employee has been injured at work.  These are income replacement benefits, medical benefits, and permanent impairment benefits.

Can I see my personal doctor if I get hurt at work?

You can see your personal doctor for a work injury, but you will be required to pay for any treatment made by your personal doctor yourself, unless previously authorized by the employer/insurer. Under Georgia’s workers’ compensation act, the employer/insurer are required to provide a list of at least 6 unassociated physicians. This list is called the panel of physicians. The injured worker can pick any physician from the panel, and the employer/insurer are required to pay for any reasonable and necessary treatment recommended by this authorized physician. The chosen physician thus becomes the “authorized treating physician.” The authorized treating physician can arrange for referrals to specialists if the injury requires, and any necessary treatment recommended by a specialist is required to be paid for by the employer/insurer.

What if I do not like the doctors assigned to me by workers' compensation?

An injured worker is allowed a one-time switch from the original physician chosen from the panel of physicians, to another physician listed on the panel, for any reason.  Any further changes in treating physician have to be done via an Order from the State Board.

When should I call a lawyer about my work injury?

The most important times during a workers’ compensation claim are the first days, or weeks, following a work accident.  As such, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible following any work injury.  Workers Compensation Lawyers in Carrollton, GA (swslawfirm.com)

The experienced attorneys at SWS Accident & Injury Lawyers can make sure you receive the maximum compensation possible following a work injury in Georgia. Give us a call today at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation today.

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