Serving Injured Workers in Macon
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 legal team at Nelson & Smith Attorneys at Law can help you overcome these obstacles and take action.
Your employer is responsible for covering the costs of any on-the-job injury, regardless of fault. After a workplace injury, you may not have the first idea about how the workers’ compensation system works in Georgia. Every state is different, and you may not have needed to understand your rights and benefits if you have never had a workplace accident. This is what you need to know about your rights after an injury.
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 injury 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 Workers’ Compensation 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.
Your Rights and Benefits as an Injured Employee
The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation outlines employee rights and employer responsibilities. Every employer with three or more employees must provide workers’ compensation insurance. 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. Under current laws, your rights as an employee are:
- You have the right to medical, income, and rehabilitation compensation benefits.
- Your employer must post at least six physicians or care providers whom you can choose to see for your injury. You may see any physician during a medical emergency, but must subsequently see an authorized health care provider to obtain benefits.
- You have the right to compensation for physician visits, hospital care, physical therapy, rehabilitation, prescription, and travel expenses associated with the job injury.
- If you have been out of work more than seven days because of your injury, you should receive income benefits. Anyone who is out of work more than 21 days may also receive compensation for the first week of absence.
- For catastrophic injuries (injuries of a serious and permanent nature), you should receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage up to a predetermined maximum for as long as you cannot work.
- For non-catastrophic injuries, you may receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage up to a predetermined maximum for 400 weeks, at most.
- If you can return to work, but need to take a lower-paying position, you can collect weekly benefits for a maximum of 350 weeks.
- In cases of fatal on-the-job accidents, dependents are entitled to burial expenses and two-thirds of the decedent’s average weekly wage, up to the maximum. These benefits may continue until a spouse remarries or moves in with a significant other.
- If you do not receive the benefits you are entitled to under the law, the insurance provider or your employer will pay a penalty that will be applied to your benefits.
How Do I Follow a Worker’s Compensation 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 Can I Expect After I File a Worker’s Compensation Claim?
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.
What to Do if Your Employer Does Not Follow the Rules
While employees have certain responsibilities to maintain their benefits after an injury, many of the cases we see involve employers or insurance providers who fail to offer timely and supportive services. A workers’ compensation insurance company has 21 days to investigate, but many fail to start benefits in a timely manner, leaving a covered individual without any type of pay. When some employees finally turn to an injured worker’s attorney for legal assistance, they may be suffering from significant financial strain.
We urge any injured worker to reach out to us as soon as possible. Our services can help you protect your rights while securing fair compensation within a reasonable time frame. Our experienced work injury lawyers in Macon can represent you in front of your employer, your insurance provider, and bill collectors. You do not have to struggle with paying for your injury and all your living expenses while you try to obtain medical treatment and heal.
How to be Compliant with Worker’s Comp Laws as an Employer
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.
Securing Legal Counsel in Georgia
At Nelson & Smith Attorneys at Law, we work hard to protect our clients’ rights to fair medical treatment, and our injury attorneys will take additional actions against your insurer and employer if necessary. Our personal injury legal team has handled cases where clients experience additional injuries that stem from original workplace injuries or an “authorized physician” failed to diagnose an injury properly.
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 work comp injury lawyers can guide you through the claims process and work to safeguard your rights and compensation.