Georgia Workers Compensation Attorneys Answer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision, fall from scaffolding or by another workplace accident or unsafe condition, you may be overwhelmed with the financial stress that accompanies medical bills and disability.The anxiety that accompanies a disabling workplace injury can inhibit your physical recovery. At Montlick and Associates, we represent employees who have experienced personal injuries or occupational illnesses in a wide range of industries including manufacturing, mining, shipbuilding, construction and other occupations. Because we know that workplace injuries can raise many questions, we have provided answers to frequently asked questions about workers' compensation in Georgia:
What is the workers' compensation system?
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that requires employers in Georgia with at least 3 employees to provide coverage for employees who suffer work-related injuries and occupational illnesses. Workers' compensation insurance benefits may include medical care and temporary disability benefits for up to 400 weeks depending on the severity of your injury. Depending on the situation, you may also qualify for rehabilitative services or even death benefits. In cases where an injured worker experiences a catastrophic injury, the disability benefits may exceed the normal 400 week cap. In addition, where the injured worker experiences permanent loss of the function of some body part, such as permanently reduced range of motion of a knee, shoulder, wrist or elbow, the worker is entitled to permanent partial disability benefits over and above the lost wage benefits.
What if I negligently caused my own injury?
Workers' compensation benefits are designed to provide access to a limited no-fault compensation program for injured employees. This means that you may recover workers' compensation benefits even if your own negligence caused or contributed to your injury. Fault is only an issue in workers' compensation cases in very narrow circumstances, such as when an injury is self-inflicted or caused by drug or alcohol impairment.
Who is covered under workers' compensation insurance?
If an employer has at least 3 employees, all employees are covered under the workers' compensation system. However, independent contractors are not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. There are circumstances in which even though an employer characterizes a worker as an independent contractor, the law will recognize the worker as an employee, thereby providing the worker access to workers’ compensation benefits. In general, where the employer exercises control over a worker in the performance of the job, the court will disregard the “general contractor” designation of the employer. These cases require the highly technical analysis of an attorney to determine whether such a worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Accordingly, a legal consultation is recommended in such situations.
What will an attorney charge me to handle my workers' compensation claim?
Georgia workers' compensation law limits the attorney fees that may be charged in a workers' compensation case. A workers’ compensation attorney may not collect more than 25 percent of the benefits that the attorney recovers for the injured worker. Typically, when the attorney negotiates a settlement on behalf of an injured worker at the conclusion of the case, the attorney will receive 25% of the settlement proceeds. In some cases, such as when the employer or workers’ compensation insurer has denied that a work-related injury has taken place, the attorney who successfully commences weekly benefits for the injured worker will be entitled to 25 percent of the weekly benefits. However , if an administrative law judge concludes that the employer or insurer have defended the claim unreasonably, the judge is empowered to require the employer or insurer to pay the injured worker's attorney fees.
What constitutes the type of injury or illness that can be compensated?
If you suffer personal injury, occupational illness or death arising in the course and scope of employment, this may constitute a compensable claim under the workers' compensation system. Injuries incurred while performing work duties during work hours generally will be covered. Injuries incurred during lunch, breaks or commutes will not necessarily be covered unless you are engaged in tasks for the benefit of your employer. For example, if you drive to the bank and make a deposit for your employer on the way home from work, injuries of a car accident on the way to the bank may still be covered even though it is off the premises and after work.
Are repetitive motion injuries compensable?
Carpal tunnel and other repetitive motion injuries that occur in the course and scope of employment can be compensated under the workers' compensation system.
Can I elect to sue my employer rather than pursue workers' compensation benefits?
Workers' compensation benefits provide the exclusive remedy to an injured employee against one’s employer for work-related injuries. Accordingly, the injured worker has no right to sue the employer for a work-related injury, even if the employer or one of its employees has negligently caused the worker to be injured. However, if the worker is injured at work due to the negligence of a third party or someone other than the employer or co-worker, the worker does have the right to sue for negligence. A common example of this would be where the worker is driving a vehicle in the course and scope of employment and the worker's vehicle is struck by the vehicle of a negligent driver who is not an employee of his employer. The injured worker in this scenario has a workers’ compensation claim against the employer in addition to a claim for more extensive damages against the negligent driver.
Can I pick my own doctor?
While you can select your own physician, the doctor must be chosen from a list of panel doctors posted by your employer. If the employer fails to post such a list, or if the list does not comply with the requirements of the law, you are free to select the doctor of your choice. Nevertheless, until it is legally established that the employer has failed to post a valid panel, it is best to obtain pre-authorization from the employer or insurer before beginning medical care with a non-panel doctor. If pre-authorization is not provided, it is best to obtain legal advice before treating outside of a panel of physicians.
Will I be compensated for pain and suffering and other non-economic forms of damages if I file a workers' compensation claim?
The compensation available through the workers’ compensation system is not as expansive as that available in a personal injury lawsuit. Damages such as punitive damages, pain and suffering, diminished enjoyment of life and loss of consortium are not available as a workers' compensation remedy. However, our experienced Georgia workers' compensation attorneys may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against a third party to supplement any recovery from your workers' compensation claim.
Our Georgia workers’ compensation lawyers at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.