If you are injured at work and must take time off to recover, you need your workers’ compensation benefits to pay your costly medical bills and to cover all the expenses you rely on your paycheck for. Unfortunately, even if it is clear that you were injured at work, your workers’ compensation insurance company could try to deny your claim. If this happens to you, you are not alone. Sadly, many injured workers must file a workers’ compensation claim to obtain the benefits they are entitled to. Understanding your rights and responsibilities under Georgia’s workers’ compensation law can ensure that you don’t inadvertently make a mistake that could hurt your case and your settlement.
What Are Your Rights Under Georgia Law?
Georgia law gives you many important rights if you are hurt at work. Even if you get injured on the first day of your job, you have these rights. They include the following:
- You are entitled to medical, rehabilitation, and wage benefits which are designed to help you return to work. Your dependents may also be entitled to benefits if you die as a result of a workplace accident.
- Your employer must post a list of at least six doctors you can choose from for treatment of work-related injuries. You also have the right to switch doctors from this list once without your employer’s permission. You can obtain emergency medical care from a doctor not on this list, but must switch to an approved doctor for follow-up care.
- Your medical benefits include payment for medical bills, hospital bills, prescriptions, physical therapy, and necessary travel expenses.
- If you are off work for more than seven days due to an injury, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. You should receive your first check within 21 days of the first day you were off work. If you cannot return to work for 21 days or longer, you are entitled to wage benefits for the first week you were unable to work.
- If you suffer a catastrophic injury, such as amputation, serious burns, serious paralysis, or serious head injuries, you have the right to receive up to two-thirds of your average weekly wages for the period you are unable to work up to the maximum amount allowed by law as well as payment for your medical treatments and vocational rehabilitation services.
- If your injury was not catastrophic, you are entitled to up to two-thirds of your average weekly wages while you are unable to work up to the maximum allowed under Georgia law, but not for longer than 400 weeks.
- If you are only able to return to work at a lower paying job, you can continue to receive wage benefits of up to two-thirds of your average weekly wages up to the maximum allowed by law for no more than 350 weeks.
- If you die in a work-related accident, your dependents are entitled to burial expenses and up to two-thirds of your average weekly wages up to the maximum amount allowed. Certain restrictions apply.
- If you do not receive the benefits you should receive, your employer or its insurance company must pay a penalty which will be added to your payments.
The Duties You Must Fulfill to Receive Workers’ Comp Benefits
You also have certain obligations you must meet in order to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. You want to be certain to understand them to not lose your right to wage and medical payments. Your duties include the following:
- You must follow your employer’s written rules of safety and any other reasonable procedures and policies.
- You must report your accident to your employer immediately but no later than 30 days after the accident occurred. Failure to do so could result in you losing your benefits.
- You must accept reasonable medical treatment and rehabilitation services when ordered to do so by the state workers’ compensation board or risk the loss of your benefits.
- You are ineligible for benefits if your injury or death was caused by your willful conduct.
- You have to notify your employer or its insurance carrier of any change of address or if you return to work either full-time or part-time. You will need to provide your weekly wages as you could still be entitled to some benefits.
- You must try any job approved by an authorized treating physician—even if the pay is lower than what you were making—or risk having your benefits suspended.
- If the insurance carrier denies your claim for wage benefits, you must file a claim within one year of the last authorized medical treatment or within two years of the receipt of your last payment of weekly benefits. If you fail to do so, you could lose your right to further benefits.
- If your dependents are denied benefits they are entitled to, they must file a claim within one year of your death or waive their rights to payments.
- If you are claiming reimbursement for expenses like mileage, you must submit the claim to the insurance company within one year of the date you incurred the expense.
- If you unjustifiably refuse to submit to a drug test after being injured at work, there could be a presumption that your injury was caused by alcohol or drugs. You could lose your rights to benefits if you are unable to overcome this presumption.
- You could be charged with a misdemeanor if you make false or misleading statements in making your claim.
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.
You can also request a copy of our FREE guide, Understanding Georgia Workers’ Compensation.