How to secure workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia if you or a loved one were injured as a utility worker
Workplace injuries plague the utility industry.
Utility workers suffer serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) at a higher rate—nearly 32 percent—compared to the all-industry rate of 25 percent. Those in the water utility industry have the highest SIF rate at 42 percent, while the electrical utilities and natural gas utility industries have an exposure rate of 32 percent and 29 percent respectively.
Georgia is home to several large utility companies including Southern Company, Georgia Electric, Georgia Power and Georgia Pacific. Georgia Pacific is the biggest, employing an estimated 35,000 workers, followed by Southern Company which employs approximately 29,000 workers. Georgia Power employs nearly 7,000 workers and Georgia electric employs roughly 5,900 workers.
While a career as a utility worker is attractive since it comes with competitive pay and good benefits, many hardworking utility workers are exposed to occupational hazards every day that can result in serious injuries or even death.
Don’t take your employer at their word if they say your workplace injury isn’t covered.
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Common injuries in the utility industry
Utility professionals often work in hazardous environments where they might trip and fall. Minor fall injuries include sprains and strains and some workers simply need bed rest to recover. Other workers suffer broken bones or severe head injuries.
Most utility workers are required to use personal protective equipment (PPE). Unfortunately, sometimes the PPE is defective or the company did not train the worker properly on how to use the equipment. The misuse of a PPE (or lack of it altogether) can lead to serious injuries and even death.
Utility workers also are more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal disorders. Workers often have to bend, twist, reach and work overhead. These odd positions place strain on the body over time and can cause ongoing pain that forces a worker to take time off from work.
Electrical utility workers, in particular, are frequently exposed to the risk of electrocution and electrical burns, and gas utility workers are exposed to combustible chemicals daily. For example, a utility gas worker may have to locate a gas leak and correct it. The buildup of natural gas can create an explosive situation.
Some utility workers must work in trenches and tunnels that may collapse. These events can lead to serious injuries or even death.
Our record of winning accident cases in Georgia speaks for itself:
Utility worker injury compensation in Georgia
If you are injured as a utility worker, first you must notify your employer about the injury as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the less likely that you will receive compensation for your injuries because the insurance carrier will assert that your injuries must not have been serious since you waited to report the incident.
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act provides you with 1 year from the date of your accident to file a claim.
However, the deadline for when you may file could be extended if you continue working after your injury or if your employer provides you with medical treatment due to your injury.
You are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits even if your injury was your own fault. If you incurred any medical expenses as a result of an injury at work, you will be reimbursed for your injuries.
If you are injured on the job, you will likely be making less money than you did before you were injured. Workers’ compensation insurance attempts to fill the gap by providing you with partial benefits.
If you cannot work at all, you will receive temporary total disability (TTD) and you will receive two-thirds of your normal weekly wage. If you are able to work, but at a reduced rate, you will receive two-thirds of the difference between your previous weekly wage and your current weekly wage.
These benefits are temporary because your doctor will need to determine that you can no longer improve and you will then be eligible for more disability benefits. These include scheduled awards where you would be paid a certain number of weeks based on the body part that was injured and based on an impairment rating from your doctor.
There are also unscheduled awards that are not part of a list of disabilities but will still provide you with benefits based on the percentage of the body part that is injured.
To receive medical treatment, you may need to travel to see a specialist. Any expenses associated with traveling to and from the doctor may be compensable. If you are unable to return to your previous job, workers’ comp will also provide you with job placement services and career-finding support.
What if your workers’ compensation claim is denied?
Workers’ compensation insurance carriers can be strict regarding the medical records you must provide and will try to deny or contest your claim. For this reason, it’s important to find a qualified Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer who will help you do everything possible to receive all of your benefits. You may not have to pay the attorney upfront, but simply pay them a percentage of your benefits.
If you suffer from a severe injury for which you will never be able to return to work, it’s vital that you hire an attorney as soon as possible. Many benefits will be on the line and workers’ compensation insurance will likely not cover all of your medical bills. You may need to turn to civil litigation, with the help of an attorney, to win the compensation you deserve.
Contact Gerber & Holder today for your free consultation. We’re ready to fight for your rights to get you the compensation you deserve.