Many workers who are injured at work and must file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits while they are off work will fully recover, return to their jobs, and resume their daily activities. However, in some serious workplace accidents, workers can suffer much more debilitating injuries that will change their lives and the lives of their family members forever. These workers may be unable to perform the duties of their former job and are sometimes permanently disabled. However, if their injury is considered a catastrophic injury, they may be entitled to additional workers’ compensation benefits.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
There are many types of injuries that would generally be considered catastrophic. However, under Georgia’s workers’ compensation law, a catastrophic injury is specifically defined under the law. An injury may be classified as catastrophic if the person suffered one of the following:
- A spinal cord injury that results in severe paralysis of an arm, leg, or trunk
- An amputation of an arm, hand, foot, or leg that causes the effective loss of use of that body part
- Severe brain or head injuries causing problems such as severe sensory or motor disturbances, communication problems, complex disturbances of cerebral function, disturbances in consciousness, or certain severe neurological disorders
- Second- or third-degree burns over 25 percent of the person’s body
- Third-degree burns to five percent or more of the person’s face and hands
- Total or industrial blindness
- Any other injury of a nature and severity that results in the worker being unable to perform his prior job and any other work in the national economy that he is qualified to do
While there can be disputes regarding whether an injury falls within this definition, many of the disputes about catastrophic injuries revolve around whether the worker is able to return to work.
What Are the Long-Term Consequences of a Catastrophic Injury?
Workers who suffer catastrophic injuries are much more likely to experience significant long-term consequences of their injuries. They may lose their ability to work at any job and support themselves, and their injuries can affect their ability to take care of their personal needs, engage in other routine day-to-day activities, and to enjoy hobbies and family activities. Some of the challenges these workers must cope with include:
- Making modifications to their home to meet their needs
- Obtaining home health care or other personal care services if they need this type of assistance
- Dealing with emotional suffering, depression, and anxiety caused by their injuries and the limitations in their lives
- Coping with the loss of some or all of the enjoyment of life
- Living without the wages they once made
- Experiencing changes in their personalities, which can also be stressful for family members to deal with
What Workers’ Compensation Benefits Could a Worker Who Suffers a Catastrophic Injury Receive?
In Georgia, a person injured at work is entitled to payment of his medical expenses and two-thirds of his gross average weekly income up to a maximum of $500 while he is off work recovering. If he suffered a non-catastrophic injury, he can only receive lost wage benefits for up to 400 weeks. If his injury is catastrophic, a worker can potentially receive these wage loss benefits for the rest of his life. In addition, he may be entitled to other benefits, such as the assistance of a registered rehabilitation supplier to help with coordinating his medical care and arranging any vocational services the worker may need.
Why You Need an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney When You Suffered a Catastrophic Injury
Because of the nature and severity of the injuries, workers’ compensation claims for catastrophic injury can be more complex. In addition, employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies tend to more aggressively fight to deny or reduce these claims because of the potential lifelong benefits that they could owe.
Have You Been Injured At Work?
If you've been injured on the job you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Augusta office directly at 706.863.6600 to schedule your free consultation.