Duties and obligations of workers in Atlanta, Athens and throughout Georgia
The top 3 questions we get asked the most at the beginning of a workers’ compensation case are:
- What are my rights under the law in Georgia and who is liable for my injury?
- How much is my case worth?
- What do I (the injured worker) have to do to preserve my rights and obtain all the benefits that are owed to me under the law?
In this article, we will explore the third question — specifically what the injured worker is required to do in a workers’ compensation case. While Georgia employers have certain responsibilities as well, there are instances throughout a workers’ compensation case where the injured individual must take some affirmative actions to preserve their rights.
Report your injury to your employer
The first responsibility of an injured worker is to report their injury. This should be reported to a supervisor or manager when available, but this isn’t a requirement. It’s imperative that you notify someone — this someone can be a supervisor or a co-worker. In fact, you should always tell a coworker (in addition to a supervisor) when you are injured because this creates evidence which can be used in case the insurance company denies the claim, saying that you failed to notify anyone about your injury.
Some injuries aren’t caused by traumatic individual incidents. Occupational injuries such as repetitive motion often go unwitnessed. Do your best to report the injury as soon as you become aware of it. Contact your employer and describe the injury.
However — and this is very important — the injured worker is not required to give a recorded statement. In many cases, we have found that insurance companies have told injured workers that they will not commence benefits without a recorded statement because the injury was either unwitnessed or repetitive in nature. Giving a statement is NOT required by law, and many times it is subsequently used against an injured worker.
Document who you talk to
We also recommend that the injured worker document who they speak with and when. Two good ways to keep track of that is by keeping a written journal, or saving images or screenshot on your phone of phone call times and durations.
Talk to an attorney about your rights
The statute of limitations to give notice in a workers’ compensation case in Georgia is 30 days. However, even if you believe you may have missed this deadline, consider contacting an attorney before you give up. There are many ways that you may have put the employer and insurance carrier on notice through your actions.
Furthermore, you may be unaware of an individual who actually witnessed your accident. This person could be unearthed during the discovery process. Or there may be video surveillance of the incident.
Obtain medical treatment (see a doctor)
Another requirement of an injured worker is to get medical treatment with an authorized treating physician. Remember that the authorized treating physician determines what treatment is required of the injured worker, and what their work restrictions will be.
Upon occasion, we have clients who insist on only treating with their personal doctors. While they may receive the care they want from their own doctor, if the case has been accepted for medical treatment then the treatment they receive from their personal doctor might not be paid for under workers’ compensation. The injured worker could actually be held liable for payments to their personal doctor.
Furthermore, the work status of injured worker is determined by the authorized treating physician, not their personal doctor. When there is a conflict between the two doctors (the authorized treating physician and a personal doctor), the authorized treating physician typically wins out in terms of what a court will determine the work status to be, and therefore what eligibility the injured worker has for indemnity benefits.
Submit to an independent medical evaluation
Another responsibility of the injured worker is to submit themselves to an independent medical evaluation (IME) if the employer or insurance carrier requests one to take place. This requirement is codified in O.C.G.A. 34-9-202(a). The insurance carrier has to pay for all of the costs, including mileage and travel expenses.
The injured worker must attend their IME appointment. If the injured worker cannot attend, they should contact their attorney ahead of time so the appointment can be rescheduled if the employer/insurance carrier so desires it. Failure to attend an IME could lead to the suspension of your benefits, which is why it is very important to go.
Taking a drug test
Sometimes, employers insist that an injured worker take a drug test. Failing a drug test may result in the denial of a claim if the test was taken within 8 hours of an injury. Additionally, the employer must prove that intoxication was the cause of the injury. Therefore, taking a drug test doesn’t necessarily end the injured workers’ chances of receiving benefits, nor does it erase the protections employees are granted under the workers’ compensation laws in Georgia.
Refusing to take a drug test can hurt you, so it may be in your best interests to agree to take one.
Communicating with your employer
Once an injured worker has hired an attorney, it’s no longer their responsibility to contact their employer. In fact, it may be harmful to contact your employer for a number of reasons.
First of all, there are certain steps that an employer and their insurance carrier must follow to return an injured worker back to work once they are receiving indemnity benefits. An injured worker may feel pressure to return to work when talking to their employer directly, so it’s best to contact your attorney and have them communicate with your employer.
Secondly, the employer may attempt to pressure the injured worker to give up their claim. The employer may have various ways of accomplishing this. For instance, a supervisor may threaten the injured worker with termination or demotion if they continue to proceed with a claim. The injured worker doesn’t have to interact with their employer once they have hired an attorney.
Posting on social media
The last factor to consider is not so much a responsibility, but rather a request. While no law requires an injured worker to stop using their social media accounts once they are injured, we strongly encourage injured workers to be careful when posting to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media platform while their workers’ compensation case is pending.
Here at Gerber & Holder Attorneys At Law, we typically ask our clients to cease all social media activities for the length of their claim. If a client prefers not to do so, an alternative is to make their settings private and not accept any friend requests from coworkers or unknown people after their injury.
People tend to put a lot of information on their social media sites, and many of them can be misinterpreted by insurance companies and employers. Posts can be used as evidence at trial and may unfairly present the injured worker in an unfavorable light (such as that you’re not as hurt as you claim). Help yourself and your attorney by providing less ammunition to insurance companies.
If you have any questions about the responsibilities that injured workers’ have, or anything else related to workers’ compensation, don’t hesitate to contact the Athens work injury lawyers at Gerber & Holder Law.