A comprehensive guide to understanding your rights to workers’ compensation benefits
Georgia workers’ compensation law has strict guidelines determining how much you can get paid because of a workplace injury. This law provides answers to common questions that arise after an accident in the workplace, such as:
- How much does workers’ comp pay?
- How long can I receive workers’ compensation?
- What is the statute of limitations for workers’ compensation?
- How much money can I get from workers’ comp?
- What if I’m injured and can’t return to normal work?
These are urgent questions that require serious answers. Continue reading below for straightforward answers to these questions and many more. If you think you’re entitled to compensation, contact the Atlanta law firm of Gerber & Holder Law today for your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Weekly Wage Loss Benefits
Georgia employees and laborers injured in a work-related accident are entitled to certain weekly income benefits, whether the injury is temporary or permanent. The maximum payment allowed for temporary total disability (TTD), temporary partial disability (TPD), and permanent partial disability (PPD) injuries varies depending on when the injury occurred (see chart below). These payments are not taxed.
|Date of Injury||Maximum TTD Weekly Payment||Maximum TPD Weekly Payment||Maximum PPD Weekly Payment|
|July 1, 2016 – present||$575||$383||$575|
|July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016||$550||$367||$550|
|July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2015||$525||$350||$525|
|July 1, 2007 – June 30, 2013||$500||$334||$500|
|July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2007||$450||$300||$450|
|July 1, 2003 – June 30, 2005||$425||$284||$450|
|July 1, 2001 – June 30, 2003||$400||$268||$425|
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits: When you’re not working at all
You can receive TTD benefits when the doctor says you cannot work at all or if the doctor has put you on “light duty work” and there’s no light duty available. Once you have been out of work for a week (known as the “waiting period”), you will be entitled to weekly checks for lost income. If you’re out of work for 21 days, you will be entitled to be paid for the waiting period as well. These checks are due 21 days after the injury.
Weekly checks for TTD benefits will equal two-thirds of your average weekly wage (up to a maximum of $575) if injured on or after July 1, 2016.
For injuries occurring after July 1, 1992, your benefits can continue for a maximum of 400 weeks from the date of injury, unless you have a catastrophic claim. If you have a catastrophic claim, you may receive lifetime benefits. Should you receive a light duty work release from your authorized doctor, these benefits may be limited to 52 consecutive weeks or 78 total weeks, in which case they would be changed and reduced to temporary partial benefits.
The state of Georgia has one of the lowest weekly temporary total disability rates in the country.
Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits: Back to work at reduced pay
If you have some work restrictions and can return to work, but you are earning less than you were earning before the injury or illness—either because you are making less per hour or because you are working fewer hours—you may be entitled to partial disability benefits.
Weekly checks for TPD benefits will equal two-thirds of your average weekly wage (up to a maximum of $383) if you were injured on or after July 1, 2016.
The maximum number of payments for TTD benefits is 350 weeks from the date of the accident.
Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits: Living with a disability
PPD claims are by far the most common type of workers’ compensation claim, accounting for over half of all workers’ comp cases nationwide. Permanent partial disabilities can be the result of a work-related injury or an occupational disease. Payment for PPD benefits is granted only when no TTD or TPD payments are being awarded. In other words, you cannot receive TTD or TPD benefits while also receiving PPD benefits.
Weekly checks for PPD benefits will equal two-thirds of your average weekly wage (up to a maximum of $575) if you were injured on or after July 1, 2016. The insurance company can opt to pay these benefits weekly or in one lump sum.
PPD benefits are computed by multiplying the percentage of your impairment rating given by your authorized doctor by the number of weeks allowed under the law depending on the type of injury that you have.
|Body Part Injured||Maximum Weeks Allowed for PPD Benefits|
|1st (index) finger||40|
|2nd (middle) finger||35|
|3rd (ring) finger||30|
|4th (little) finger||25|
|Great (big) toe 30||30|
|Loss of hearing (one ear)/total industrial||75|
|Loss of hearing (both ears)/total industrial||150|
Georgia Worker Death Benefits
If a worker passes away due to a work-related injury or illness, death benefits are available to their surviving dependents. Under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, the following dependents may qualify for workers’ comp death benefits:
- The deceased’s spouse (husband or wife)
- The deceased’s children (including stepchildren, legally adopted children, posthumous children and acknowledged children born out of wedlock), as long as they are:
- Younger than age 18 or enrolled full-time in high school
- Younger than age 22 and enrolled full-time at a college, university or other post-secondary institution of higher learning
- Older than age 18 and physically or mentally incapable of earning a livelihood
Married children do not qualify for death benefits. Workers’ compensation must pay weekly income benefits to the deceased worker’s primary beneficiaries as well as cover funeral and burial expenses (up to $7,500).
Weekly checks for death benefits will equal two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage (up to a maximum of $575) if they passed away on or after July 1, 2016.
The maximum number of payments for death benefits is 400 weeks from the date of the fatality, or until the recipient is no longer eligible. A surviving spouse can receive weekly payments until age 65 or the maximum allowed 400 weeks, whichever is longer. If the surviving spouse remarries or cohabitates with a partner, they will no longer be eligible for benefits.
Workers’ Compensation FAQs
What do workers’ comp benefits cover in Georgia?
When you or a loved one are hurt on the job, workers’ comp benefits can provide a financial safety net for you and your family. In the state of Georgia, workers’ compensation primarily covers the following expenses in addition to the weekly wage loss benefits discussed above:
Medical care. The insurer must pay all of your medical bills as long as you to go to a company-approved workers’ compensation doctor. There’s no coinsurance, no deductible and no time limit. The insurer will have to pay for your medical bills as long as the doctor says that the treatment is for your job-related injury. This can be a lifetime obligation. You have a right to see at least two doctors on the list of doctors that your employer is required to post. You also have the right to ask the State Board of Workers’ Compensation to allow you to be treated by the doctor of your choosing. If you have received weekly benefits, you have the right to be examined by the doctor of your choosing within 120 days of your receipt of those benefits. These benefits commonly include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Psychological & mental health treatment for PTSD, depression, or anxiety due to your work injury
- In-home nursing and attendant care
- Chiropractic services
- Emergency room care
- Hospital visits
- Diagnostic tests
- Prescription medication
- Prostheses, braces, and assistive devices
Mileage. You are entitled to 40 cents per mile for going to and from the medical providers or to the pharmacy to obtain medications. You are also entitled to reimbursement for parking fees and expenses. Keep track of your mileage and parking receipts as soon as you start going to the doctor. The insurer must provide transportation if you cannot provide it for yourself. You only have one year from the date of the trip to submit your mileage and receipts for reimbursement. As of July 1, 2013, the insurer must pay within 15 days of receipt of proof of these expenses or be subject to late fees.
Medical & vocational rehabilitation. Should you suffer a catastrophic injury, you will be entitled to medical and vocational rehabilitation benefits. Trained rehabilitation professionals assist the injured worker in medical care and in attempting to return to work. Rehabilitation benefits can include retraining, but rarely is that seen. These benefits commonly include:
- Job search assistance
- On-the-job training
- Payment of education expenses
- Assistance with your resume and interviewing skills
Will workers’ comp pay for pain and suffering?
Unfortunately, no. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning it doesn’t matter whether it was the employer’s fault, your fault or no one’s fault. While you very well might be in pain and undoubtedly suffering, you cannot recover any money for this under Georgia’s current workers’ comp program. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that recovering pain and suffering damages is impossible.
One option is filing a claim for personal injury damages, including pain and suffering, against third-parties if they can be found to be at least partly responsible for your injuries. For instance, injured workers may be able to sue a manufacturer of a toxic substance or defective piece of machinery or equipment found in the workplace.
Likewise, a person injured in a car accident while driving for their job can file an injury claim against the driver of another car if they’re found to be at-fault for the crash. Long story short: You have options.
Who chooses the doctor for injured workers in Georgia?
Employers in Georgia are required by law to provide a list of at least six doctors which will give the necessary medical care to injured employees. The worker may select any doctor from this list. In the case of an emergency, the injured employee may receive temporary medical care from any physician until a doctor from the employer’s list can be selected for treatment after the emergency is over.
How does a workers’ comp settlement work?
Workers’ compensation claims are frequently settled. This means that the insurer, instead of paying all the benefits listed above, merely pays an amount of money and may agree to pay for medical benefits over a specified period of time, usually between three months and one year. While you may wish to settle, there’s usually nothing that can be done to force the insurer to settle. The insurer cannot force you to settle, either. Employers rarely agree to settle with an employee who wants to continue to work for the same employer.
Can I be fired while receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
Yes. Currently, there is not a Georgia law that prohibits an employer from firing an injured worker. An employer who fires an employee while the employee is unable to work, however, runs the risk of having the employee receive workers’ compensation benefits for a longer period than otherwise should the employee not be able to find other suitable employment.
Frequently, an employer will wait until an employee receives a regular duty work release from the doctor and then fire the employee because then the employee wouldn’t be eligible for further workers’ comp benefits. If this happens to you, please contact us and we may be able to assist you in obtaining further benefits.
What is the statute of limitations for workers’ comp in Georgia?
The general rule of thumb in Georgia is that a workers’ compensation claim must be filed within one year of the accident date, not two years as in other personal injury claims. If a worker was killed on the job, their spouse or family must file a claim for death benefits within one year of the employee’s death. Attempting to file a claim for workers’ comp benefits outside of this time limitation is difficult and rarely granted.
Gerber & Holder Attorneys at Law: Defending the Rights of Injured Atlanta Workers
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act is supposed to protect injured employees and workers by providing quick compensation for job-related accidents. However, the process of filing a work injury claim and receiving benefits can be complex and overwhelming. The system can be difficult to navigate, and just one mistake can derail your workers’ comp benefits for good.
For this reason, it’s strongly recommended that injured employees consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to discuss their case and ensure the best possible outcome. At Gerber & Holder Law, we can assist you through the entire process and help you get the full benefits you deserve.
If you think you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, contact us today for a free consultation.
For a full summary of workers’ compensation provisions provided under Georgia law, see the Benefits Information Quick Reference by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.