The workers’ compensation laws in Georgia are complex and may feel nearly impossible to navigate on your own—especially when you’re trying to physically recover from your workplace injury. That’s why we created this simple guide on the workers’ compensation law Georgia employees need to know.

Whether you want to know how to find a good workers’ compensation attorney, or you have questions about the Georgia state board of workers compensation rules, when you’re unsure where to start after your workplace injury, start here.

How Long Does Georgia Workers’ Compensation Coverage Last?

A typical workers’ compensation claim in the state of Georgia can last for up to 400 weeks, or approximately 7.7 years, from the date of the accident.  There are some exceptions to this general rule. For example, in the case of paralysis, blindness, amputation, or other catastrophic injuries, the workers’ compensation insurance Georgia employees might be entitled to may last for the remainder of the injured worker’s life. Further, medical treatment for certain items including but not limited to joint replacements or spinal column stimulators may qualify for lifetime maintenance, repair, revision, etc.

Which Situations Qualify for Georgia Workers’ Compensation Coverage?

Workers’ compensation insurance coverage is typically required for employers with 3 or more regularly scheduled employees. If one of the subject employer’s employees is injured as a result of their work duties, they may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. In order for an employee to claim workers’ compensation, Georgia requirements state that the employee must pursue the claim in a timely fashion. If the employee misses the legal time deadline, they may be barred from receiving any benefits.

Typically, workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia are limited to a business’ employees only. Independent contractors are typically excluded from workers’ compensation benefits because they are not considered employees. The test for determining if a worker is an employee or independent contractor is based on the degree of control exerted by the employer, weighing all factors. This can be a very complicated analysis and typically no one factor, such as taxes or contract, will be 100% determine employment status. Simply put, some people who are called independent contractors may still be considered employees under the applicable law(s) and may qualify for Georgia workers’ compensation benefits. As such, it is important to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to understand your rights.

How Does Workers’ Compensation Work in Georgia?

The most important thing to know about workers’ compensation law in Georgia is that it is a no-fault system.  That means that there is no obligation to prove the employer’s negligence or fault. Rather, an injured employee needs to show that they are injured as a result of their work duties. If an injured employee can prove that they were injured as a result of their work duties, they may be entitled to medical, disability, and impairment rating benefits under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act.

If a third party negligently caused the accident and injuries, a separate third-party negligence claim may be justified.  An experienced attorney can help you assess all possible claims.

What is an Employer’s Responsibility When a Worker Is Injured in Georgia?

The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation rules require most employers who are subject to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. An employer, upon receiving notice of an injury, should notify their insurer about their employee’s accident or injury so that the insurer can investigate and provide all applicable benefits.

Keep in mind that an injured employee has legal obligations, such as providing timely notice of the injury to the employer or pursuing the claim within the applicable statute of limitations. If the employee does not meet their legal obligations, they may be barred from pursuing the claim, even if the employer complies with their own responsibilities.

Does Workers’ Compensation pay for pain and suffering?

The short answer is no and there is an important reason why. Georgia workers’ compensation coverage is determined by a no-fault system. That means that when you are injured on the job as a result of your work duties, you may get workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault.  This is helpful to injured workers because it greatly increases the number of people who can get workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia by eliminating any obligation to prove the employer’s fault or negligence.  Think of a freak accident where nobody is at fault. Or even consider an accident where the injured employee may bear some responsibility. In a no-fault system, these employees may still receive workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault.

However, the tradeoff is that the workers’ compensation law in Georgia does not provide for any monetary compensation for pain and suffering. The degree of pain an injured worker experiences can obviously affect their entitlement to other benefits, such as medical and disability benefits.

While the Georgia State Board of Workers Compensation rules do not explicitly allow for monetary compensation for pain and suffering, you could eligible for pain and suffering damages via any third party lawsuits that may arise from the workplace incident.

How do you calculate Workers’ Compensation benefits in Georgia?

The amount of any disability payments is governed by the employee’s average weekly wage.  The employee’s average weekly wage is typically calculated by averaging the 13 weeks of their wages pre-dating the accident.  If they have not worked all or substantially all of the 13 weeks pre-dating the accident, there are alternative methods for calculating their average weekly wage.

A temporary total disability check, often referred to as a “workers’ comp check”, pays two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage but is also capped at a certain amount based on when the accident happened.  For example, for all accidents occurring in the State of Georgia from July 1, 2023 and ongoing, the maximum temporary total disability check is $800 per week.  Depending on when the accident happened, for example before July 1, 2023, a different weekly maximum may apply.

How long does it take to settle a Workers’ Compensation case in Georgia?

Answer:  A quick settlement can take a few weeks but typically it takes several months to settle a Workers’ Compensation case in Georgia.  However, it is important to note that neither party has a legal obligation to settle the case.  That means if the injured worker and the workers’ compensation insurer cannot agree to a settlement, neither the court nor any other party can force a settlement of a claim.  As a result, sometimes cases take longer to settle and may in fact may never settle. All settlements must be approved by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation before they become finalized. If you have questions or concerns about a settlement your Workers’ Compensation case, we are happy to provide a free, no obligation consultation with one of our top workers compensation attorney in Georgia!

Does my employer have to hold my job while I have a Workers’ Compensation case?

The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide any protections for an injured worker’s continued employment.  However, other protections may exist such as that through a union, protections provided through FMLA, or other local, State, or Federal laws.

Does Workers’ Compensation pay for lost wages in Georgia?

There are two primary types of lost wage benefits under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. The first is a Temporary Total disability check.  Temporary Total Disability benefits (TTD benefits) pay you when you are completely out of work and in the amount of two-thirds of your average wages, up to a certain maximum.  Temporary Partial Disability benefits (TPD benefits) pay to make up the difference if you are working but earning less money.  TPD benefits pay two-thirds of the difference, up to a statutory maximum as well.  An employee who suffers a permanent functional injury may also receive Permanent Partial Disability (PPD benefits) if they have a permanent functional injury as reflected in an impairment rating.

Laws passed by the Georgia General Assembly take effect on July 1st every year.  That means that periodic changes to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act which may affect your benefits take effect on July 1st of every year.  Only an experienced and skilled attorney who regularly handles Georgia workers’ compensation cases will be able to explain in full detail what this may mean for your case.