You are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits because you’ve been hurt on the job or you have become sick because of your work. But what does this mean? What kinds of benefits should you receive?
Generally, you may recover certain medical benefits, a percentage of your lost wages, and benefits for any permanent disability that you suffer. Below is information about each of these kinds of benefits that you might receive in a Georgia or South Carolina workers’ compensation case.
Medical Benefits Make Sure Your Costly Bills Are Paid For
Your primary concern may be about your medical benefits. You know that you need medical treatment for your injury, but you also know that medical treatment can be expensive.
Both Georgia and South Carolina workers’ compensation laws allow you to recover for your necessary and reasonable medical treatment from an authorized healthcare provider and for necessary and reasonable medications. More specifically, you may be able to recover for all of the following:
- Doctors’ bills
- Hospital bills
- Physical therapy bills
- Prescription medications
You may also be able to recover for necessary travel expenses related to your medical care. In South Carolina, you may be reimbursed for necessary travel expenses if you have to travel ten miles or more from your home for medical care. In Georgia, you may also recover for your necessary travel expenses between your home and your medical provider and pharmacy. It is important to keep accurate records of your mileage and to submit your mileage the right way. Georgia law provides employers, or insurers, just fifteen days to reimburse you for your travel expenses once a properly submitted travel reimbursement request has been received.
Of course, these medical benefits only relate to treatment for your workplace injury or illness and you may only receive these benefits if you comply with all of the workers’ compensation rules.
Temporary Lost Income Benefits
Lost wages may be another important concern if you’ve been hurt at work.
If your authorized workers’ compensation doctor has told you that you cannot work because of your workplace injury or illness then you may be entitled to recover compensation for your lost wages. In Georgia, this is known as temporary total disability or TTD. In order to recover TTD, your authorized physician must show both that:
- You are unable to work at your regular job, and
- You are unable to obtain other employment because of the work restrictions that your physician thinks are necessary.
In most cases, you may be eligible for TTD for a maximum of 400 weeks in Georgia, or until you have medical clearance to go back to work—whichever is sooner. However, the 400 weeks may be extended if your case is classified as “catastrophic.”
During the time that you receive TTD, you will not receive 100 percent of your lost income. Instead, you may be eligible to receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage. Your average weekly wage is calculated based on your last thirteen weeks of work prior to your injury. Your average weekly wage may include not only your wages, but also other things such as bonuses, food, lodging or car allowances, tips, and stipends.
If, however, you did not work as you typically do during the thirteen weeks leading up to your injury, your employer can base your average weekly wage on that of a similar employee. If there is not a similar employee available, your employer must take your hourly rate and multiply that by a full time work week (typically 40 hours) to obtain your average weekly wage.
Regardless of your average weekly wage, Georgia law currently states that the maximum amount you can receive is $550 per week. The maximum amount allowed by law is subject to change.
In some cases, you may be able to return to work part time during your recovery. In this situation, Georgia law allows you to recover for temporary partial wage loss or TPD. If you qualify for TPD, you may be eligible to receive two-thirds of the difference between your average weekly wage and the income you are able to earn working part time. If you receive TPD, then the maximum amount that you can currently receive is $367 a week and the maximum number of weeks that you can receive benefits is 350.
In South Carolina, you may also receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage if you are out of work because of your injury. However, your payment may not exceed the amount of the state’s average weekly wage which is determined each year by the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. In 2015, the maximum compensation rate was $766.05 per week. South Carolina's average weekly wages are based on the wages earned in the four quarters preceding the quarter when the accident occurred. As in Georgia, South Carolina workers may also recover for partial wage loss. Specifically, South Carolina workers may receive two-thirds of the difference between their average weekly wage and the income they are able to earn working part time.
Permanent Disability Benefits Provide for You If You Can’t Return to Full Time Work
In some cases your injuries may be so severe that you are unable to return to work even after 400 weeks of temporary disability benefits or you are unable to return to work full time even after 350 weeks of temporary partial disability benefits. Georgia law requires your employer, or your employer’s insurer, to take action within 30 days of your TTD or TPD benefits stopping. Specifically, your employer, or your employer’s insurer, must request an impairment rating from your authorized treating physician. An impairment rating is the percentage of impairment to your body because of your work injury.
Georgia law has an established schedule for the number of weeks that you would be entitled to continued benefits if you suffered a total, 100 percent, loss to a specific body part. The number of weeks that you can receive benefits will depend on the percentage of loss to that body part. For example, you could receive 225 weeks of benefits for a total loss to your arm. However, if your doctor determines that you’ve lost 50 percent use of your arm then you may be entitled to 112.5 weeks of benefits.
In South Carolina, the maximum number of weeks that you can recover benefits—even for total and permanent disability or death—is 500 weeks.
Let Workers’ Compensation Attorney Chris Hudson Help You Secure Your Benefits
It is important to not settle your workers’ compensation claim until you are sure that you have been offered a fair settlement for each of the types of benefits for which you might be eligible. A settlement will provide you with a lump sum for your workers’ compensation claim and will preclude you from further future payments. Until you settle you can receive weekly benefits as described above. Accordingly, we encourage you to contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer before accepting any settlement or agreeing to your employer’s classification of your injury or illness. To learn more, please read our FREE guide, Understanding Georgia Workers’ Compensation¸ or start a live chat with us today.