Worker’s Compensation

What is Worker’s Compensation?

If you have ever wondered what you would do to make ends meet if you were hurt on the job, Worker’s Compensation is usually the answer.  Worker’s Compensation, also known as Workman’s Compensation or Worker’s/Workman’s Comp, is a program governed by the state of Georgia that compensates an employee injured while performing his or her job until the employee is able to return to work.  Businesses employing at least three workers regularly, even if their regular work is part-time, are required to provide Worker’s Comp benefits.  If your business employs less than three regularly-scheduled workers, then you should ask your boss if worker’s comp is available.

What Benefits are Available?

If your claim is approved, you can expect your employer to pay for your medical expenses necessary for you to recover fully and return to work.  In addition, you can qualify for three other types of payments.  If you are going to miss more than 7 days of work, then you will generally receive 2/3 of your salary, but no less than $50 per week and no higher than $500 per week.  If you can continue working part-time while recovering, then you will generally receive 2/3 of the difference between what you are earning and what you would have earned had you been working full time (up to $350 per week).  Finally, if you permanently lose even part of the use of a body part, you are generally eligible to be paid an additional amount in compensation.

How Do I Apply?

If you are injured at work or you contract a disease or medical condition because of your job, you should inform your employer immediately, but generally no later than 30 days after the accident/diagnosis occurred.  Sending something in writing so you can later confirm that you informed your employer is a good idea.  Your employer will then provide you with forms to complete about your injury/disease and will inform their insurance carrier of the claim.  The insurer will then complete the form and submit 2 copies: one to the state, and one to you.  A copy of the form should be provided to you within 21 days of your informing your employer of the injury.  This form will tell you whether your claim was approved or denied.

When and Why Should I Hire an Attorney?

I usually recommend that an employee simply inform their employer – in writing – of an injury as soon as it occurs and allow the initial application process to play out.  The information required at this point is relatively simple and the approval process can sometimes be very smooth.  If your claim is denied, however, then the process becomes much more complicated.  You will be required to appeal the decision and be given the option of having a hearing before the State Board of Workers Compensation.  A mediation will likely come first, which is an informal setup; still, I recommend that you hire an attorney before your mediation.  Your employer will almost certainly have a representative at this meeting and will be arguing many details of your case using legal terminology.  Despite the informal setting, a rudimentary knowledge of the law will generally not be enough to argue with your employer productively and often leaves you with an offer you don’t want to take.  Having a representative at this point to competently argue on your behalf may get the case settled and get you your money faster.

If the mediation fails, a hearing comes next.  The hearing at the Board is your opportunity to present your case and is highly recommended.  It works similarly to a standard court trial – the extensive state laws on Worker’s Comp will be argued, and case law will be used to apply the laws to the facts of your case.  Witnesses will be called to testify regarding your conditions.  Even if you did not hire an attorney for the mediation, I cannot recommend enough hiring an attorney for the hearing.  Your case will be argued in front of a judge and the judge will expect the law to be known, understood, and applied to your situation.  If your company has an attorney arguing competently on their side, you are doing yourself and your claim a disservice not to have the same competent representation on your side.

If you have applied for worker’s compensation and have been denied, contact us today for a free consultation.