Macon Workers Compensation Attorney
SERVING VICTIMS OF WORK-RELATED INJURIES IN MACON, HAWKINSVILLE AND DUBLIN, GEORGIA
One accident at work can leave you wondering about unemployment and how you’ll provide for your family. Even if you know workers’ compensation is an option you could pursue, many injured employees have no idea how they can start this process, find the time to fully heal, and protect their jobs in the future. Luckily, workers’ compensation attorneys in Macon, GA can explain this program and whether filing a claim is an option for you. The personal injury team of workers’ compensation lawyers at Nelson & Smith can help you overcome these obstacles and take action.
If the company you work for employs at least three regular workers, the state requires that it provide workers’ compensation. This insurance accounts for medical expenses, income loss, and similar issues if you are injured at work – but by agreeing to accept this coverage, you may relinquish any rights to sue your employer.
What Exactly is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation often called workers comp is a type of insurance governed by state law. Employers must purchase and provide a plan, but personnel do not have to pay into the program. It is intended to safeguard a worker’s long-term well being by providing a financial safety net after an injury. It protects against financial loss due to any work-related damages, including fatal accidents. Specifically, it provides the following benefits:
- Medical expenses – accounting for bills incurred following a mishap.
- Income loss – accounting for the earnings you miss due to an injury.
- Death benefits – in the event of a fatal accident, a workers’ comp claim can provide financial recompense to surviving family members.
In Georgia, workers’ compensation is legislated under a “no-fault” system. This means if you are injured, this insurance is an “exclusive remedy.” In other words, you cannot make a tort liability claim following damages. Thus, if you use your mandated employee benefits (or believe that is your best option), your legal options are limited. You cannot sue your employer or co-workers, for example – workers’ comp laws are set up to protect personnel and their employers from such action. You do not receive additional rights outside of this program, even if the enterprise is assessed a penalty related to the incident.
This is one of the reasons why working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is so important. Furthermore, a company may do its best to keep workers from filing a claim, whether it’s by delaying the reimbursement process or otherwise dragging its feet. This is a potentially serious problem when a person is trying to recover, but legal counsel can help streamline proceedings and guide you to the best possible outcome.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
There are a few provisions governing when and if you can file a claim. For example, to file a claim for medical expenses and other benefits, you must:
- Experience an injury during work hours while performing official duties.
- Report your injury within 30 days. See a doctor if you are injured; professional diagnosis will help you substantiate your damages and document recovery expenses.
- Miss at least seven work days due to the accident.
- Follow treatment recommendations prescribed by your doctor. Many claims fall apart at this point; the nature of insurance is to provide the lowest payout possible. Carelessly posting on social media or ignoring doctor’s orders can dissolve an entire claim.
In addition to these requirements, you will need to document the accident. You do not need any witnesses, but you must note when, where, and how the accident occurred. If you are hospitalized, note payments, the duration of your stay, and recommended treatments. Moreover, if you start to experience pain at work (i.e., due to repetitive motion, standing all day, or other physical demands), report it to a supervisor. Failure to do so may compromise your claim.
For injuries warranting medical attention, you will likely see a doctor authorized by your employer. You are also allowed to switch to a new doctor after that preliminary checkup. However, your company may not have an official physician or initially pay for this visit. If so, you may go to your preferred medical facility.
HOW DO I FILE A CLAIM?
When it is finally time to start a claim, proceed with caution. Company workers’ comp information is not always straightforward, so remember your rights and the state’s requirements. To start a claim, file Form WC-14 with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
WHAT KIND OF OUTCOME CAN I EXPECT?
The outcome of each case varies from claim to claim, and only by consulting with a qualified legal team can you get a better idea of what to expect. However, even though you cannot sue an employer in lieu of workers’ compensation, the results of a fruitful claim may include:
- Complete compensation for all medical expenses related to an injury, including ongoing treatment for any long-term conditions or rehabilitation, and reparation accounting for permanent partial or total disabilities.
- Back pay for missed work: this is calculated based on two-thirds of your weekly wage after seven days of absence.
- Rehabilitation benefits. Outside of physical therapy, workers’ compensation can cover training and vocational reintegration to help you get back on the clock.
- Death benefits for surviving family. Two-thirds of your average weekly wage (no more than $575) each week. Eligible family members include a spouse, children, and dependent stepchildren.
In addition to these general outcomes, there are a few unique incidents with which you may be concerned:
- Injury to yourself. You are still covered under Georgia workers’ compensation laws even if an accident is your fault. There are some exceptions, though: for example, drug or alcohol use will prevent you from receiving benefits. You must also prove you correctly followed all applicable safety precautions and operational practices.
- Third-party negligence. You cannot sue an employee, but if the company was working with a sub-contractor or an outside manufacturer, you may pursue additional damages through a tort claim. Similar to other personal injury claims outside the workplace, this largely depends on proving negligence.
- Social security collections. You can receive workers’ comp and social security payments simultaneously.
I’M AN EMPLOYER—WHAT WORKERS’ COMP LAWS MUST I FOLLOW?
For help selecting a workers’ comp program for a new enterprise, or if you just want to ensure your bases are covered, seek help from a qualified legal team. If you are facing a workers’ comp claim and are wondering about your next steps, keep the following in mind:
- If you employ more than three regular employees, you must have a workers’ compensation program in place.
- A company does not have to directly contribute to an accident. Georgia’s “no-fault” system means workers can file a claim regardless of any employer liability.
- These laws do protect an employee from suing you for any damages.
You can also check with the local laws on the topic, which cover contacting an insurance agent and getting your enterprise up to speed. Along with these precautions, there are a few ways you can steer clear of more serious damages:
- Encourage employees to report any pain or discomfort before it leads to a debilitating problem. It can be tempting to “walk off” a minor injury. However, restricted motor abilities or other seemingly insignificant imparities can lead to hazard circumstances and fatal accidents. What could have been resolved and corrected easily may lead to immense payouts over the course of many years.
- Be transparent. Some companies are tempted to glaze over details or provide muddled information. This may offset minor claims upfront, but it can lead to serious problems over time. Make sure everyone on your team understands how workers’ comp functions, how it is there to help them, and what they can do to file a claim.
- Know your rights. Either party can handle a claim dishonestly. Workers are required to provide some evidence, and there are some behaviors that disqualify these cases. Do not hesitate to seek legal assistance if needed.
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE LEGAL ADVICE — AND DO I NEED IT?
The team of lawyers at Nelson & Smith has processed thousands of personal injury claims, including workers’ compensation issues. Contact us for more information and legal advice, or schedule a free consultation.
There are resources you can find through the State Board of Workers’ Compensation for more info on this topic. However, your situation is unique and may warrant hands-on attention. Here are a few reasons to seek legal help:
- Understand your options. Sometimes you have more coverage options than you think. Unfortunately, your employer may not mention additional resources or further benefits that should be added in addition to an original injury.
- Fight for your rights. Injuries that qualify for a workers’ comp claim are not always debilitating or catastrophic. No matter how a company presents your options, issues like arthritis or tendinitis are absolutely eligible for compensation.
It can be hard to stand up against a corporation or speak out for your rights if you feel your job is on the line. Fortunately, the state has provisions in place to ensure your care. It is simply a matter of understanding the available programs and knowing what’s in your best interest. For more answers about your specific situation, get in touch with us today. Our Macon workers’ compensation lawyers can guide you through the claims process and work to safeguard your rights and compensation.