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Workers Compensation Lawyers in Carrollton, GA

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workers compensation lawyers carrollton

Workers Compensation Lawyers in Carrollton, GA

If you have been injured on the job, you may need to seek guidance from our workers' compensation lawyers in Carrollton, GA. In the aftermath of an injury – especially a serious one – it can be stressful and confusing to figure out what you should do. Be aware of your rights and how the process works ahead of time, and you will be prepared to apply for benefits.

Reporting and Requesting

The first step you should take if you are injured on the Job is to report the injury to your supervisor immediately. Give them as much detail as you can about the nature of the injury. After you have reported the incident, ask your supervisor to make a copy of the documentation of your injury.

Writing/reporting is crucial; with documentation to verify what happened to you, a supervisor may only accept your injury as minor or report it to higher-ups. Without proper records, the state agency can deny your claim. Be aware that time is of the essence. Report and document as soon as possible after the injury event, and include as many details as possible about what happened. Corroborate your account with pictures of the accident scene (a cell phone camera picture will do fine), as well as written witness statements collected in a timely manner.

Treat Your Condition

As soon as possible, against all else, obtain a medical evaluation even if the injury does not seem like a "big deal," many injuries (especially those involving the neck and spine) worsen later. Therefore, you want a record on file that shows that you saw a physician after being hurt.

Complete a Claim Form

To officially file a claim for worker's compensation benefits in Georgia, you must fill out Form WC-14 and place it on file with the State Board of Worker's Compensation. Give a copy of the form to your Employer and your Employer's worker's compensation insurance provider. If you do not know the information for your Employer's insurance company, the State Board can provide assistance in getting the info that you need.

Document Everything

Provide your doctor with as much detail as possible about your injury and the level of the resulting pain. Talk with your doctor about any previous history of work-related injuries as well. Keep careful records throughout your treatment, and obtain relevant medical records from a health care professional. If the injury results in missing work for more than seven days, you may be eligible for benefits that pay two-thirds of your average weekly earnings (up to $500 per week).

Are All On-The-Job Injuries Covered By Worker's Compensation In Carrollton, Georgia?

The short answer is no; not every type of job-related injury is covered by worker's compensation in Georgia. While worker's compensation does cover the overwhelming majority of job-related injuries and certain illnesses, the Employee is responsible for their own behavior. A worker's compensation claim might be rejected if the Employee behaves irresponsibly.

Willful Misconduct

The Georgia State Board of Worker's Compensation Employee Handbook makes it clear: "No compensation shall be allowed for an injury or death due to the employee's willful misconduct." Willful misconduct may include:

  • Self-inflicted injuries
  • Injuries caused by alcohol or drug use
  • An injury resulting from attempting to harm someone else
  • An injury suffered while engaged in a criminal act
  • Violation of safety rules or company policy

In the violation category, the worker must have intentionally – not accidentally – broken the safety rules. For example, a worker who decides not to wear required safety goggles during a manufacturing process and who consequentially gets eye damage from exposure to sparks will likely have his or her claim rejected. By contrast, a hurt worker who never got the safety goggles or the training to use them may receive compensation.

Scheduled Breaks

If an injury occurs during a scheduled lunch or another break, it does not fall under worker's compensation. However, if the Job does not include regularly scheduled lunch or similar breaks, and an employee is injured during an irregular break, worker's compensation may apply. There are many contingencies, so consulting a worker's compensation attorney is essential in such situations.

Purley Psychological Issues

If an employee is unable to work because of depression or another psychological or emotional issue they believe is work-related, worker's compensation will usually not apply. If the stress from work causes physical issues – such as headaches or chest pain – it does fall under worker's compensation guidelines. If the Employee becomes depressed because of a work-related injury, worker's compensation may cover related treatment.

Transportation

If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident going to or from work or while on your lunch break, worker's compensation would not cover you unless driving is part of your job description. There are exceptions – for instance if you suffered injuries in employer-provided transportation or got into an accident while running a company errand.

Cumulative Trauma And Repetitive Motion Injuries in Carrollton, Georgia

When most people picture workplace injuries, they imagine injuries such as broken legs or torn ligaments. Far fewer give proper consideration to the equally painful injuries that appear after years of hard work. Cumulative trauma injuries, which are also referred to as repetitive motion injuries, deserve equal attention as they can cause considerable pain and inconvenience for hardworking employees, leaving them out of the workforce for years. Georgia's workers' compensation system addresses losses attributed to both sudden injuries and injuries which occur over time.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

The repetitive nature of many positions leaves employees vulnerable to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and other cumulative trauma disorders. Repetitive motion injuries are particularly common among factory and office employees, which constitutes a growing segment of the American workforce. Research indicates that over sixty percent of workplace injuries can be classified as repetitive stress disorders (RSDs). Job duties that lead to these types of injuries include:

  • Keyboard use
  • Prolonged gripping of machinery
  • Barcode standing in retail environments
  • Assembly line work
  • Driving
  • Meatpacking

Establishing Work-Related Injuries

Unfortunately, because cumulative trauma injuries cannot be attributed to a single, verifiable incident, they are much more challenging to prove for compensation purposes. A physician approved by your Employer must provide written verification indicating that your Job either caused your chronic condition or worsened a preexisting condition. If your Employer's physician denies the existence of your chronic condition, you may seek an independent medical assessment. With strong legal advocacy, the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation can be convinced to accept independent assessments.

In addition to meeting with an employer-approved physician and an independent medical professional, keep detailed records of your condition and the suffering it causes, as well as your responsibilities in the workplace. Take note whenever your pain worsens. This information can help your attorney prove the link between your Job and your injury.

What If You Were Sick Or Disabled Before Your Georgia Work Injury?

Preexisting conditions can quickly complicate otherwise straightforward Georgia workers' compensation cases. The presence of a preexisting condition won't necessarily bar you from receiving the benefits you deserve, but you will need extensive documentation indicating that your Job exacerbated the condition and led to greater suffering.

The Burden of Proving That the Workplace Incident Worsened the Condition in Georgia

Employees afflicted with preexisting conditions may be eligible for workers' compensation if workplace duties lead to more severe symptoms. But your Employer is only responsible for the worsening of your condition — not the condition itself. You might be similarly entitled to damages if a previous workplace injury was re-aggravated at your present Job. In such cases, the claim amount may be lowered to accommodate previous workers' compensation claims. This is true whether an injury occurred in Atlanta, Carrollton, Gainesville, or anywhere else in Georgia.

The Workers' Compensation Act and Preexisting Conditions in Georgia

Georgia's Workers' Compensation Act significantly limits the extent to which employees with preexisting conditions can seek compensation; compensation is only available when work-related aggravation causes the disability. Once an employee returns to pre-injury condition, the Workers' Compensation Act mandates that compensation cease.

Recent changes in legislation have limited compensation for re-aggravated conditions to 400 weeks from the date of the accident, although lifetime medical benefits may be available for catastrophic injuries or those that occurred before June 30, 2013.

Providing Appropriate Documentation

Whether your preexisting condition occurred at work or in some other capacity, you will need to document your previous injury and the impact it had on your life prior to your most recent workplace injury. Decrease your likelihood of a workers' compensation denial by seeking documentation from your physician or from federal agencies that provided previous workers' comp benefits. Supplement this with proof of your current disability, including recent tests and medical records. If employer-approved physicians deny your condition, seek further feedback from an independent medical professional.

How Do You Know It Is Work-Related?

How do you know when an injury is work-related?

Believe it or not, this is not always an easy thing to determine. Sometimes employees are injured in pretty obvious ways. If an employee is lifting a heavy object at work and they sprain their back, it is easy to conclude that it is a work-related injury. If an employee is driving a company vehicle and has a car accident doing a delivery, it is easy to conclude that the Employee has a work-related injury.

But what happens when the injury occurs while performing an activity that is not technically a requirement of the Job? What if you are injured on the way to lunch? What if you are leaving lunch and returning to work and are injured? What if you are injured going to the bathroom?

All of these events do happen, and the Georgia Courts must determine the answer to the following question, "Did it arise out of and in the course of the employment?"

In a recent case coming from the Georgia Workers Compensation Appellate Division, an employee injured himself while entering the Employer's premises. It had been raining that day, and the Employee was running into the building to use the bathroom before his shift began. As he approached the building, he slipped and fell, injuring himself.

From a casual review of those facts, it doesn't seem like the Employee suffered a work injury. The Employee was injured coming into the building before his shift had started and injured because he slipped due to rain and his hurry to get to the bathroom.

Yet, the courts found that "given the totality of the record, there was a causal connection between the conditions under which the employment was performed and the Employee's injury. As such, the Employee's accident arose out of and in the course of employment."

Suppose you have been injured at work and have been denied your benefits. Do not accept the answer from the Employer. Call us now to find out if you are entitled to worker's compensation benefits.

How Much Is My Workers Comp Case Worth in Carrollton, Georgia?

I get asked this question all the time. Many times it is at the point of consultation. After many years of meeting with thousands of clients, I have realized one thing; clients are really not that interested in the value of their case. They really want to know if I am a "good lawyer."

A good lawyer will know the process and procedure of a case. A good lawyer will know what benefits a person is entitled to receive. A good lawyer will know the probability of winning. And a good lawyer will know the value of a case.

At least, that is what clients believe.

When I go to meet a client, and I am asked this question, the first thing I do is tell them the most common word in the lawyer's dictionary: it depends. Depends on what?

Several factors dictate the value of a case:

1. How many weeks of income benefits is the person expected to receive?

2. What is the permanent disability rating?

3. How much medical treatment is anticipated in the future?

4. What body part was injured?

5. The present-day value of a lump sum settlement.

6. Average weekly wage of the injured worker.

After I have made an assessment of all of these factors, then I can put together a settlement demand. As you can see, without a crystal ball, no one can tell you the value of your case immediately after an injury.

Why You Need A Workers Compensation Lawyer in Carrollton, Georgia?

Do I need an attorney for my Georgia workers' compensation case? This is a question I get frequently. Unlike other types of cases, such as filing for a divorce or a small claims court case, worker's compensation is a body of law that is highly complex to navigate without representation. When you get injured at work, there are a series of laws that come into play that are totally unrelated to anything you may have been used to in the past.

For instance, in workers' compensation cases, you are entitled to receive a check for 66% of your average weekly wage, 100% of your medical treatment, and a permanent disability rating based on your disability.

But there is a catch. You have to properly report your case within 30 days of your accident. Many times you have to go to a company doctor first. And lastly and most importantly, you have to fill out a ton of forms. Many of these forms have complicated and confusing language that may result in you throwing away your right to choose a doctor of your choice.

If only all cases were clear-cut, maybe an attorney would not be necessary. But, unfortunately, this is not the case.

What happens if you were injured but did not report it within 30 days and just continued working until the pain was unbearable?

What if your Employer fires you for not keeping up with production?

What if the accident was your fault?

All great questions. You still have a case. At Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP, we can help you navigate the process.

Bottom line: you need an attorney. Don't delay.

Critical Deadlines for Employers and Employees in Georgia Workers' Compensation Cases

In the aftermath of a workplace injury, you enjoy some element of flexibility in filing for workers' compensation. Official deadlines do not require you to file right away. If you fail to adhere to the proper timeline, however, you may forfeit your right to remuneration.

Giving Notice of the Disability

Recently injured on the Job? The Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation mandates that you provide notice within thirty days of the incident or thirty days after you discover the symptoms of a work-related injury.

Filing a Claim

If you fail to file a claim for workers' compensation within a year, you'll forfeit your right to remuneration. There are, however, a few exceptions:

  • If the Employer paid weekly benefits due to the injury, the claim could be filed within two years.
  • When employers offer remedial care, the filing must occur no more than one year after the final treatment.
  • Claim timelines may be extended in select cases involving mental incapacity, injury to minors, or employer fraud.

What If My Condition Changes?

If your disability becomes worse, you must file a claim within two to four years of receiving your final benefit payment, depending on the type of remuneration you intend to seek. If you fail to adhere to the two-year deadline, you may be barred from receiving future temporary disability or temporary partial benefits. You'll become ineligible for permanent disability if you file after four years of receiving your last payment.

It's not easy to determine the appropriate timing for filing your workers' compensation claim. File too early, and the full extent of your injury may not yet be evident, leaving you with reduced benefits. Wait too long, and you'll lose eligibility for compensation.

The 3 Main Benefits Available In A Georgia Workers' Compensation Claim

Georgia law requires employers to maintain workers' compensation insurance coverage for their employees who are injured on the Job. The main benefits for injured workers fall into three different categories.

  1. Temporary Total Disability (TTD)

If an injury on the Job leaves you completely unable to work, you are entitled to TTD benefits. These benefits pay two-thirds of your average weekly earnings, with an upper limit of $675 per week for any injuries that happened after July 1, 2019. Injured workers only receive these benefits up to 400 weeks from the date of the injury, except in cases where a court determines the injury to be "catastrophic." These types of injuries include paralysis, permanent brain damage, total blindness, or the amputation of a limb. If you are injured while working for an employer in the state of Georgia, you may be entitled to receive income benefits from the company's insurance provider. The benefit begins at the time an authorized doctor places you out of work completely, or the doctor has placed you on light duty work, and the company cannot provide such work for you.

This sounds great at first. You get paid for not having to work during your recovery period. Unfortunately, the benefit is not as satisfying as it may seem.

The income benefit you would be entitled to be called the Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefit. The way this benefit is calculated is that the insurance company will take the average of the last 13 weeks you were employed with the company prior to the injury. Let's suppose that you were injured on April 1. The company would take the average of the 13 weeks prior to your injury, which would be all of the weeks in January, February, and March.

Many questions can complicate this calculation. What if you did not work 13 weeks for the Employer? What if you worked 13 weeks, but some weeks you only worked two days because of weather conditions? What if you were injured on the first day of the Job? What if you had two jobs at the time of injury and now cannot work either Job?

These are all great questions, and fortunately, there is an answer for each one, but that is for another post. (For answers to these questions, call 770-214-2500).

Once you have the 13-week average calculated, you will multiply that number by two-thirds or 66%. If the average of all your wages was $300, then you would receive a check from the workers' compensation insurance company for $200.

But there is a catch. The most you can receive is $550 per week. This means that if you earn more than $825 per week, you will not receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage but rather $550. If you make $1,000 per week, you will receive a check for $550. If you played football in the NFL and earned millions of dollars, your check would be….you guessed it….$550 per week.

This reality could be a severe economic injury to a person who is not completely able to work a regular duty job.

In the end, the compensation system that is available to workers injured in Georgia is one of the best in the country. However, the temporary total disability is NOT so total.

  1. Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)

If your work-related injury only causes you to lose part of your total earning capacity, rather than 100% disability from work, you may be eligible for TPD benefits. These benefits apply if you can still work and earn a wage after your injury, but the wage you are earning is less than what you earned before you were injured. TPD benefits grant injured employees two-thirds of the difference between their pre-injury earnings and their post-injury wages, with an upper cap of $450 weekly. If you qualify for TPD benefits, your Employer at the time of injury is responsible for paying them, even if you are earning a lesser wage with a different employer. TPD benefits apply for up to 350 weeks after the date of your injury.

  1. Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)

PPD benefits differ from TTD and TPD benefits in that they do not apply to your earning capacity – rather, PPD only applies to your physical disability after an injury at work. You can be eligible for PPD benefits even if you never missed a day of work or lost any potential earnings after your injury. The state uses a set formula to determine your PPD benefits; this formula considers your percentage of physical impairment, the body part that you injured, and your rate of compensation. If you qualify for PPD benefits, you are not entitled to receive payment for PPD until after payments for TTD or TPD benefits have been exhausted.

Common Back Injuries and Their Surprising Workplace Causes

Strains, sprains, and muscle tears are the most common workplace injuries that keep people from working in the United States. Although they affect every industry, the most vulnerable people labor in physically demanding jobs in transportation, warehousing, agriculture, forestry, and healthcare.

Pulled Muscle

If you overuse a back muscle–either in a single, stressful incident or by repeating the same movement over and over–you may strain it. Twisting is especially stressful for the back, so even office workers who frequently swivel between tasks risk pulling a lower back muscle.

Sprained Back

If you expose a back ligament to intense stress–again, either through repetitive movement, like moving boxes, or a single incident–it may tear. A torn back ligament, or a back sprain, takes longer to heal than a pulled muscle.

Pulled muscles and sprained backs are the most common causes of lower back pain; fortunately, though they might not feel like it, they're also the easiest to treat. Most strains will heal naturally in several weeks, although physical therapy can prevent future injuries. (Learn more about identifying and treating lumbar sprains and pulled muscles here.)

Slipped Disk

A slipped disk, or hernia, is the result of overexertion (e.g., from lifting a hospital patient). The disk protrudes from the spine and pinches adjacent nerves, causing lower back pain and sciatica. (Learn more about recognizing the symptoms of a slipped disk here.)

 Broken Vertebrae

There's nothing subtle about a broken spine, nor much surprising about what causes it. Workplace accidents, often in dangerous industries like manufacturing and farming, can break the bones in the vertebrae, sometimes leading to chronic back pain that lasts for years.

 Spinal Cord Injury

Damage to the nerves of the spinal cord causes loss of sensation, loss of function, and, sometimes, even paralysis.

Navigating a workplace injury can be an overwhelming undertaking. We're here to help you get compensation, so you can focus on getting better. To learn more, contact Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP.

Both Workplace Accidents and Overuse Cause Serious Back Pain

Maybe your back spasmed suddenly after an accident at work, or maybe years of repetitive lifting, twisting, bending, or sitting have finally caught up with you. In either case, you may qualify for workers' compensation in the state of Georgia.

First, let's take a closer look at two key categories of back injuries.

#1. Accidental Injuries

A workplace mishap—caused perhaps by carelessness, lack of signage, or a supervisor assigning you a task that you weren't physically strong enough to handle—suddenly and obviously debilitated you. For example, you slipped on a wet floor, or a heavy load fell as you lifted it. Injuries of this kind can cause back strain, muscle tears, or painful muscle spasms. Despite their excruciating nature, these injuries are often more straightforward than cumulative injuries because they can be traced back to a single incident.

Acute Trauma Can Still Cause Persistent Pain

A crisis that takes minutes or even seconds to unfold can have profound repercussions—and it's often hard to predict what will happen long term. For instance, a broken back—caused by a two-story fall off construction scaffolding—might heal in just a few months. A more minor-seeming problem, such as a slipped disk, can cause shooting pain that lasts for years because it's continually putting pressure on the nerves in your back. (Learn more about how to recognize a slipped disk here.)

#2. Overuse Injuries

Any physical task–from lifting a heavy box to sitting all day at a desk–can cause back pain if you do it too much. Up to 90% of people experience back pain at some point. Most of these cases are due to overuse rather than a traumatic accident.

Work Can Exacerbate Pre-Existing Back Problems

Repetitive work overloads specific muscles in the back, making it more difficult for them to recover from strain. This can exacerbate problems like arthritis, scoliosis, and osteoporosis, weakening your back and leaving it vulnerable to injury. Given time, overuse injuries can be just as painful as accidental injuries. (Learn how to prevent overuse injuries at work here.)

Injuries caused by workplace accidents and overuse can both qualify you for workers' compensation in Georgia. To learn more about your options, contact your experienced workers compensation lawyers in Carrollton, Georgia at Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP today.

Will Worker's Compensation Pay for Missed Income from a Second Job in Carrollton, Georgia?

In Georgia, if a work injury prevents you from earning income, you are entitled to receive weekly temporary total disability (TTD) benefits while you are unable to work. Typically, the amount of TTD benefits you will receive will be 2/3 of the average amount paid to you by your Employer during the 13 weeks prior to the work accident. What happens if an individual has two jobs and is unable to work either Job because of a work injury? Are they able to receive compensation for losing income for both jobs? In Georgia, the answer to that question is "it depends."

Two Prong Test

In order to receive compensation for loss of income from a second job due to a work injury, the injured worker must prove two things. The injured must prove that both jobs were performed concurrently and that both jobs are similar in nature. This gives rise to the legal term "similar concurrent employment."

Similar Employment

In order to pass this part of the test, an injured worker must show that both jobs are similar in nature. Take, for example, a person who drives a bus for a school system during the week and works on the weekend driving new buses and delivering them to customers. Since both jobs are similar in nature, i.e., they both involve driving a bus, the income earned for both jobs is eligible to be used when calculating the amount of TTD benefits owed to an injured worker.

Concurrent Employment 

In the past, in order to prove concurrent employment, an injured worker was required to show that both jobs were performed at the same time during the 13 weeks prior to the work accident which caused the injury. An example of this would be someone who worked a full-time job during the week and worked a similar but different job on the weekends. This is no longer the case. Smith, Wallis, and Scott attorney, Joseph W. Brown, successfully argued in front of the Supreme Court of Georgia that any similar job performed during the 13 weeks should count as concurrent employment, even if the jobs were not performed at the same time. See Fulton County Bd. of Educ. v. Thomas, 299 Ga. 59 (2016). Because of Mr. Brown's hard work, it is now easier for injured workers to include lost wages from a 2nd job to increase the amount of their weekly TTD benefits in a workers' compensation claim.

How Long Will Worker's Compensation Provide Benefits in Georgia?

In Georgia, if you are injured at work, you are usually limited to 400 weeks of income and medical benefits paid for by your Employer's insurance. For certain injuries, income and medical benefits are extended for life or until you can return back to work. Those injuries are called "catastrophic injuries" under Georgia law.

Automatic Catastrophic Injuries

Certain injuries are automatically deemed catastrophic. These include:

  1. Spinal cord injuries involving paralysis of an arm, leg, or trunk;
  2. Amputation of an arm, leg, foot, or hand;
  3. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI);
  4. 2nd or 3rd-degree burn to 25% of the body as a whole, or 5% 3rd degree burns to the hand or face;
  5. Total or industrial blindness

Other Catastrophic Injuries or the Georgia Catch-All

While the above-mentioned injuries are automatically deemed catastrophic, any other injury of a nature and severity that prevents an injured worker from being able to perform their prior work—or any other work available in substantial numbers within the national economy for which the Employee is otherwise qualified—may also be categorized as "catastrophic."

Additional Benefits for Georgia Catastrophic Work Injuries

In addition to the extended income and medical benefits available for workers suffering a catastrophic injury, a rehabilitation supplier is appointed by the State Board to work with the injured worker. Rehab suppliers do not work for the insurance company and are responsible for coordinating all of the medical care and rehabilitation requirements needed by the injured worker. They may also recommend and facilitate vocational training to teach injured workers new skills in an attempt for them to be able to reenter the workforce. Having a rehab supplier is extremely beneficial.

What Happens If Your Employer Has No Georgia Workers' Compensation Insurance?

What Can You Do If Your Company Didn't Buy Workers' Compensation Insurance (and Should Have), and Then You Got Hurt on the Job

When you are injured on the Job, you expect your Employer to cover ensuing medical bills and loss of wages. Unfortunately, many businesses lack workers' compensation insurance and are, therefore, unable to provide injured workers the remuneration they deserve.

Dealing with a complete lack of compensation in the aftermath of a workplace accident? Unfortunately, your options are limited, as detailed below:

No Lawsuits

In general, workers' compensation is the sole remedy for employees injured on the Job. Except under extreme circumstances, injured workers cannot sue their employers, even if they fail to obtain proper insurance coverage. However, there are rare cases in which an incident occurring on a company's premises can be classified as personal injury. Consult a qualified attorney to determine how your injury is defined and whether litigation is possible.

Request a Hearing with the State Board

Georgia employers are legally required to obtain workers' compensation insurance. If they fail to do so, they may still be required to cover medical costs and other expenses. Your best bet as an injured employee might be to file a claim with Georgia's State Board of Workers' Compensation.

A skilled attorney can help you gather proof of your injury, how it impacts your daily life, and whether it occurred as a result of a workplace accident or due to the strain of your daily job-related activities. Depending on the intricacies of your case and your workers compensation lawyer's skill, you could secure coverage for health care costs, wage loss, and even a ten percent increase in payment as punishment. Additionally, your Employer may be assessed a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per uninsured Employee, along with criminal fines or even imprisonment.

Not sure how to handle your Georgia workers' compensation case? Contact your Carrollton, Georgia workers compensation lawyers at Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP, today to schedule a consultation.

What Should I Do to Document Both My Injury and the Recovery Process?

Documenting your injury and recovery can be crucial to your Georgia worker's compensation claim. Without a carefully written account of what occurred, along with supporting evidence, your Employer can deny your story, or the State Board of Worker's Compensation can reject the claim.

The first step of the process involves informing your Employer of the injury in writing. Note how and when the incident occurred in great detail. Itemize the extent and nature of your injuries. Alert the Employer as soon as possible, at least within 30 days of the date of your injury. Make sure to list every injury, even those that don't appear to be too severe. The seriousness of an injury isn't always apparent immediately. If problems flare up later, you can't claim an unreported injury for worker's compensation purposes.

See a Doctor Immediately

Do not put off going to the doctor if injured on the Job. The insurance company may try to pay less for your claim if you fail to seek proper, timely medical attention. Per Georgia worker's compensation guidelines, you generally must choose a doctor from a list provided by your Employer. You may also get a second opinion from another physician on the list. While undergoing a physical examination, tell the doctor about any pain or discomfort you experience. Don't embellish, but don't underreport, either.

Get copies of all medical records relating to the injury, as well as all medical bills. The former includes X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, and similar tests. If the doctor sends you to physical therapy or another type of rehabilitation during the recovery process, attend every session, and document your attendance. Follow the doctor's orders. Keep a record of your mileage to and from a physician and other healthcare-related visits, as costs related to such travel can be reimbursed.

Witnesses

Identify any co-workers or other witnesses to your accident. Anyone who saw what happened is a potential witness. Your attorney can take depositions from these individuals for filing with the State Board of Worker's Compensation.

Get It in Writing

Save all emails and texts relating to the injury that you sent to your supervisor or Employer. If possible, take photos of your injury, or have a loved one do this. Keep all documentation of your injury to yourself, except for your attorney and spouse. Posting information about your injury on social media is not documentation and can harm your case – don't do it!

If you have questions, please call the experienced workers compensation lawyers in Carrollton, Georgia at Smith Wallis and Scott, LLP at 770-214-2500 for a private consultation, or explore more resources here.

Georgia Laws Regarding Workers' Compensation

Worker's compensation law differs significantly from state to state — and Georgia's rules and laws have their fair share of quirks. As you pursue compensation for your workplace injury, it is in your best interest to keep the following considerations in mind:

  1. Penalties for Late Worker's Compensation Payments

Penalties for late payments may be assessed in several states, but they are lower in Georgia than in many regions. Depending on the situation, the Employer may be required to pay a 15 percent penalty. This penalty can be assessed if benefits were inappropriately denied or if the Employer simply forgot to send a payment. For this reason, it behooves injured employees in Georgia to keep track of worker's compensation payments and to take note when they do not arrive on time.

  1. Catastrophic Versus Non-Catastrophic Injuries

Under Georgia law, worker's compensation cases are either defined as catastrophic or non-catastrophic. Typically, a case is deemed catastrophic if the injured Employee would qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Injuries deemed catastrophic include limb amputation, severe brain injury, and industrial blindness, among others.

  1. Choosing From a List of Six Doctors

Georgia employers must maintain a list of six approved doctors that employees can visit after being injured on the Job. In an emergency, employees can obtain treatment from a doctor not included on this list, but in all other situations, the physician treating the workplace injury must be one of the Employer's six approved medical professionals. Unfortunately, many employers choose physicians that they feel will take their side should employees pursue worker's compensation. As a result, injuries may be blamed on preexisting conditions rather than on workplace mishaps.

Important Georgia Workers' Compensation Terms Defined

To the uninitiated, workers' compensation proceedings feel like conversing in a foreign language. Struggling to make sense of the many confusing terms involved in your claim? A few essentials are outlined below:

  • Occupational Injury refers to any damaging condition that arose due to typical duties on the Job or as the result of a workplace accident.
  • Catastrophic Injuries render employees unable to perform previous duties that did not cause them suffering prior to a workplace accident. Examples include leg, arm, foot, or hand amputation; total blindness; traumatic brain injury; second or third-degree burns covering a significant portion of the body; or severe paralysis.
  • Change in Condition indicates that the workers' compensation beneficiary's wage-earning capacity has changed, often because a previous injury has become more or less severe since the Employee's status was last established.
  • The Statute of Limitations defines when claims must be filed for employees to retain eligibility for benefits. In Georgia, the statute of limitation for workers' compensation cases is one year after the date of injury or after the responsible Employer has covered the final medical treatment. Employees who fail to abide by this timeline risk forfeiting their right to remuneration.
  • Controvert notice lets the State Board know that a claim for indemnity has been denied. To avoid penalties, this must be filed 21 days after the Employer learns of the injury.
  • Subrogation allows employers to collect expenses from third parties responsible for workers' injuries.

The more you understand basic terminology, the more capable you'll be of meeting essential deadlines and remaining compliant with workers' compensation law. 

What if You Need Surgery, an MRI, or a CT Scan Following Your Injury?

Workplace injuries often lead to severe health problems that must be assessed via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans and, eventually, resolved through surgery. Unfortunately, the added expenses of these treatments leave employers reluctant to provide necessary coverage. The Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation offers much-needed guidance for both employers and employees, as outlined below:

Surgery

There is no legal mandate requiring advance communication between medical professionals, workers' compensation administrators, and employees, but employers typically prefer to be notified before workers schedule major operations. Administrators can then work directly with injured workers and physicians to ensure proper arrangements are made.

In emergencies, employees should seek prompt care from the closest medical facility. Once out of immediate harm, they can visit a healthcare professional from the Posted Panel of Physicians. Employers are not responsible for any unauthorized treatments that occur following the emergency.

MRIs and CT Scans

Precertification is not required before scheduling an MRI or CT scan. However, contact the claims administrator first. If inappropriate delays occur before the test, the Employer may be penalized.

Covering the Cost of Travel

Sometimes, workers must travel out of their way to visit approved providers for surgery or necessary scans. This mileage may be covered, along with parking expenses and some meals. Requests for reimbursement should highlight when and where the Employee drove. This detailed information must be submitted within a year of the trip. If reimbursement is not provided within thirty days, the Employer may incur a significant penalty.

By following instructions and timelines provided by the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation, you can increase your chances of obtaining total compensation. Look to Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP, for counsel as you deal with surgery and other complications of workplace injuries.

Can You Ever Sue for a Work Injury? If So, Under What Circumstances?

Worker's compensation exists in part to reduce friction between employees and employers. The system helps guarantee that hurt workers obtain fair and full benefits, AND it aims to shield employers from having to go through costly, lengthy court actions.

In general, by accepting worker's compensation, the Employee forfeits the right to sue. However, if the Employer acted in a particularly reckless fashion – exposing you to harm due to gross negligence, for instance – you can possibly file a personal injury lawsuit to obtain damages for medical bills, time off work, pain and suffering, therapy costs, and other expenses.

For instance, let's say you worked in a glass manufacturing facility and developed lung disease after years of being exposed to particulates circulated by the ventilation system. The owners knew that workers were breathing in dangerously high levels of glass dust, but she intentionally avoided changing the filters to save money. This type of egregious conduct could put the Employer at risk of being sued.

Here's another situation that could lead to civil action. A business that had a legal obligation to get worker's compensation insurance fails to do so. Then an employee gets hurt and needs coverage. But there is none. Depending on circumstances, the worker can file suit against the Employer.

In some instances, you may file a negligence lawsuit against a third party. Here are a few examples:

Defective Equipment

If shoddy equipment causes harm, you could take action against the manufacturer or designer for the bad product. For instance: while you're working on a landscaping project, a safety clip on a piece of gardening equipment fails because of a malfunction, leaving you with a broken arm and concussion. You can sue the company that made the safety clip.

Construction Work

Construction companies frequently use subcontractors. An employee of a subcontractor injured on the Job might have grounds to sue the general contractor or the property owner if negligence or safety violations were involved in the incident.

Other Parties

If someone other than your Employer, co-worker, or supervisor was involved in the accident – a person with no connection to the Employer – you might pursue a claim against that individual. In rare cases, a co-worker may be personally sued if the individual was "acting outside the scope of employment." That could mean a person who had already finished work for the day and officially punched out a time clock – they were on their "own" time, not the Employer.

Getting Injured Without Pain And Suffering in Georgia

Having a work-related injury can be a devastating blow to both the injured person and the family. This is especially true when the injured worker is the sole breadwinner. Not only will the family have to live with the new normal of an injured member of the family but also with the severe consequences of the loss in income and earning capacity.

Recently, we represented a client who had lost a limb due to an electric saw accident. He was in his early 20's. To make it worse, his injury happened to his dominant hand. This injury was going to prevent him from playing the guitar, driving with two hands, doing a full-duty heavy-lifting job, and many more activities that we sometimes take for granted.

Despite the fact that the injury has completely changed this person's life, the worker's compensation system in Georgia does not pay for pain and suffering.

I know what you are thinking-crazy, right?

Georgia only pays three benefits.

First, if you are deemed to be out of work completely, you will receive two-thirds of your average gross weekly wage for the 13 weeks prior to the accident. This benefit will end in 400 weeks.

Second, you will receive a permanent partial disability payment calculated based on the disability the authorized treating physician assigns.

Lastly, you will receive 400 weeks of medical care so long as the authorized treating physician is recommending treatment.

That's it! No pain and suffering. The prospect of a multi-million dollar settlement due to pain and suffering does not really exist in the Georgia worker's compensation system.

This doesn't mean you cannot get a settlement. It doesn't mean it won't be a million dollars. This means that pain and suffering are not used to calculate the value of your case.

If you have been severely injured in a work-related accident, you are not going to receive pain and suffer damages. Although the law does not compensate you for the pain and suffering you have received, you undoubtedly have pain and suffering. Do not go at it alone. Hire a competent attorney to make sure you receive all of the benefits you are entitled to, and let the attorney help you receive a fair settlement.

Summing It All Up: Your Georgia Workers' Compensation Journey

Workers' compensation provides coverage for emergency and rehabilitative care following a workplace accident. Approved treatments can enhance your likelihood of promptly returning to the Job you love. Claim denial is common, however, and the problems don't always end after you resume your career.

Ready to file for workers' comp or appeal a claim denial? Keep the following concepts in mind:

Special Considerations

Georgia workers' compensation cases vary wildly: some employees suffer chronic conditions following years of debilitating work, while other health concerns arrive unexpectedly. Previously healthy workers succumb to workplace disasters. Still, others experience a sudden worsening of unrelated injuries in response to overexertion on the Job. Preexisting conditions make the Employer's role in the injury far more difficult to prove. Regardless of the circumstances, injured employees must provide thorough documentation or risk claim denial.

Returning to Work

Don't rush your return to the workplace. Taking shortcuts with your recovery could lead to re-injury. Document all symptoms and how they evolve with time. As you prepare for re-entry into the workforce, think carefully about your career path and whether it's still suitable, given your condition. Consider switching to a less physically demanding role, such as an official position.

Upon resuming your former position or finding a new job, maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow your doctor's and therapist's instructions. Continue to document your condition; this will increase your likelihood of once again securing benefits if you suffer re-injury.

As the victim of a workplace injury, you potentially face a long and arduous road to recovery. An optimistic yet realistic attitude can make all the difference, as can detail-oriented representation through all phases of the legal process.

We hope you've enjoyed our series and that it's empowered you to take back control. Ready to learn more about workers' compensation? Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP can help you understand your options and obtain fair and complete benefits. Get in touch today.

y, and make sure you did not leave out any pertinent information regarding your medical condition or work history. An unintentional omission could have made the difference in the original denial, and it could affect the Request for Reconsideration.

Another Step

It can take eight or nine months for a reconsideration decision. Even if your Request for Reconsideration is denied, that does not have to be the end of the line for your claim. The next phase could involve an appearance before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

A qualified Social Security Disability attorney can help you with the complicated SSDI application process. If your initial SSDI claim got rejected, please call the seasoned team at Smith Wallis and Scott, LLP, at 770-214-2500 for a private case evaluation or explore more resources here.

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