How a Workers Comp Lawyer Can Help You
When you get hurt on the job, more than your health may be at risk. You might be facing weeks or months of healing time before you can go back to work – time when you won’t be earning the pay you need to support those you love. You might be struggling to get the medical care you need for a complete recovery. If your injury is severe, you may not be able to return to work at all.
Many people who suffer workplace illnesses and injuries in worry about possibilities like these. But there is hope. The workers’ compensation system in Georgia covers items like medical bills, a portion of lost wages, and disability benefits for thousands of workers who are injured on the job every year.
A lawyer works tirelessly to help each of their clients get the benefits they deserve.
Who Is Eligible for Workers’ Comp?
Generally, you are entitled to workers’ compensation coverage for an injury or illness if:
- The injury or illness happened at your workplace or while you were carrying out a work-related activity – even if you were not officially “on the clock.”
- You are an employee, not an independent contractor.
Workers’ compensation covers you starting your very first day on the job. It does not matter whether your employer was at fault for the injury or not. In virtually all cases, workers’ compensation insurance covers employees who are injured at work, no matter who or what caused the harm.
Benefits Available from the Workers’ Comp System
Workers’ compensation covers items like:
- Medical care for your workplace injury or occupational illness.
- Lifetime medical benefits in some cases of catastrophic injury or illness.
- Weekly benefits to replace a portion of your lost wages while you recover.
- Vocational rehabilitation or job retraining if needed.
- Benefits paid to your surviving relatives if you die from your injury or illness.
If you suffer a disability as a result of your injury or illness, you can receive both workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. However, the Social Security Administration may reduce your SSD benefits by a certain amount as an offset. Your attorney can help you determine what benefits you might receive if you combine workers’ comp and SSD.
Filing for Workers’ Comp Benefits
If you are injured on the job or you realize an illness is work-related, tell your employer as soon as possible. Also, file the appropriate form with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, if applicable. You must file this form within one year of your injury or illness in order to protect your right to workers’ compensation benefits. You can request the form from the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, or your lawyer can help you obtain a copy.
Appealing an Adverse Decision About Your Workers’ Comp Benefits
In some cases, a workers’ compensation insurer might attempt to deny you the benefits you rightfully deserve. For instance, the insurer might argue that you are an independent contractor and not an employee, or the insurer might argue that your injury or illness is not work-related. The insurer might try to refuse to cover your medical bills, leaving you with significant costs on top of a serious injury. Or the insurer might deny you benefits to replace part of your lost wages, leaving you to struggle to make ends meet while you’re also trying to heal.
If you receive an adverse decision, you may request a hearing. The hearing is held before the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. At the hearing, you can present evidence and argue in favor of receiving benefits. You are allowed to have an attorney represent you at your workers’ compensation hearing. An experienced lawyer like Sam Earley can be a great ally in demonstrating exactly why you are entitled to benefits.
Third-Party Claims for Benefits Not Covered by Workers’ Comp
Workers’ compensation covers your medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages no matter what caused the accident (with a few narrow exceptions). If you are injured by the negligence of someone who is not your employer or a co-worker, however, you may also be able to seek damages from the person or company that caused harm.
Common third-party claims that might accompany a workers’ comp claim include:
- Car accidents. If you’re driving on work-related business and are hit by a negligent driver, you may have a third-party claim against the driver.
- Defective tools, equipment, or machinery. If you’re injured on the job by a defective tool, part, or piece of equipment, you may have a claim against the manufacturer, designer, or distributor of the item that harmed you.
- Premises liability. If you’re injured in a slip and fall or similar accident while visiting another location for your job, you may have a premises liability claim against the owner.
Those are just a few examples of third-party claims that could help you secure certain benefits that are not covered by workers’ compensation. For instance, if you win a third-party claim, you may be able to obtain the portion of your lost wages that worker’s comp does not cover. Benefits for the lost value of household chores you usually perform, for emotional trauma, or for your pain and suffering may also be available in a third-party workplace injury claim. These types of damages are not available through workers’ comp. Your lawyer can fully investigate your situation and determine whether you may have a third-party claim in addition to your workers’ comp claim.
Editors Note: This article contains general info but workers compensation law is state-specific. For information about your specific state contact a lawyer or Visit the American Payroll Association for specific information for your state.