Know your workers’ compensation rights and responsibilities after a workplace injury or occupational illness
In nearly all cases, an employee who is injured on the job in Georgia—or one who suffers a disability or disease related to their job—should be eligible to receive some level of benefits through the Georgia workers’ compensation system. These benefits can include reimbursement for medical treatment, rehabilitation support, lost wages and supplemental income if you suffer an injury or fall ill as a result of a work-related accident. In the case of death, a person’s dependents may also be eligible to claim certain benefits.
While fault is typically not a factor in receiving Georgia workers’ comp benefits, you must demonstrate a certain level of responsibility by following a number of steps after an injury or illness is discovered.
If you were hurt on the job due to various factors including lack of training, inadequate safety measures, or faulty equipment, and believe you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in the Atlanta, Georgia area, contact the law firm of Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys today for your free consultation. In addition, you can take these simple steps to protect your case.
1. Report the injury
The first step you should take if you’re injured on the job is to report the injury to your employer as possible and preferably in writing.
Under Georgia law, you’re required to report any work-related injury to your employer within 30 days of the incident. Telling a coworker who isn’t a manager or supervisor isn’t sufficient.
This reporting can be given verbally to a supervisor or written down per company policy. The important aspect of this is that you affirmatively report your injury—presuming that your employer “knows” is never a good idea. If you fail to report the injury within 30 days, you may lose your right to workers’ compensation benefits.
When reporting the injury to your employer, make sure you provide as much detail as possible about how the injury occurred, the date and time of the incident and the type of injury you sustained. Your employer should then provide you with a workers’ compensation claim form to complete or complete one themselves. If possible, get a copy of the report.
2. Obtain medical treatment
After reporting the injury to your employer, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If your injury is an emergency, seek medical attention immediately. Your employer and their workers’ comp insurance company must pay for emergency treatment regardless of whether or not there’s a list of doctors posted (more on this below). If your injury is not an emergency, your employer may provide you with a list of approved medical providers to choose from.
It’s important to keep detailed records of all medical treatments you receive for your injury, including the names and contact information of all healthcare providers you see, the dates of your appointments, and the treatments and medications you receive.
You will also be given paperwork from the medical provider you attend. Keep those documents, as they often have a detailed description of any work restrictions you may have. It’s important to provide a copy of these restrictions to your employer, but make sure to keep a copy for your records as well.
Additionally, be sure to follow the instructions of your doctor. It’s very important that you attend all appointments and follow all work restrictions that you’re given.
3. Get a list of approved doctors
Your employer should give you a list of approved doctors (known as the “panel of physicians”) that you are allowed to see. If you don’t receive this list, ask your supervisor or the HR department to provide one.
If a list isn’t provided within a reasonable timeframe, you can go to the doctor of your choice. If there is a posted list and you don’t go to a doctor on that list, your employer and its insurance company can use this as a reason to deny you workers’ comp benefits.
4. File a claim with the Georgia State Board
of Workers’ Compensation
Once you’ve reported the injury to your employer and received medical treatment, you should file a workers’ compensation claim. Your employer should provide you with a claim form to complete, which you must file with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Just because the insurance company has an open file, doesn’t mean that the statute of limitations has been met/tolled. In fact, a common misconception held by many people is that if they’re talking to an adjuster with the workers’ compensation insurance company, and a file has been opened with that insurance company, they’ve met their reporting burden. This is definitely not true.
Sometimes, insurance companies stay in communication with a client but do not provide medical treatment or indemnity benefits to an injured worker. They continue to tell the injured worker that the case is under review. Sometimes, the adjusters change, and it becomes impossible to reach anyone who will talk to the injured worker.
Additionally, they may tell the injured worker that their case is “closed.” But be aware that just because the insurance company has deemed your case to be closed does not necessarily mean it is. A workers’ compensation case can only officially be closed through an order by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
To protect your rights and file a claim, you’ll need to complete Form WC-14, file it with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, and send a copy to your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. You may download and complete a free PDF of the form online or request a copy from the State Board by calling 404-656-3818 inside the metro Atlanta area or 1-800-533-0682 outside the metro Atlanta area.
When completing the WC-14 claim form, be sure to provide the information that is requested on the form. This includes the body part that was injured, the county of the injury and what action you would like to take. Without an attorney, you may just want to toll the statute of limitations, and this option is available on the form.
5. Request a copy of the report and/or notes
Ask your employer for a copy of the report they filed with their insurance company. Also, be sure to save a copy of the Form WC-14 you filed with the State Board. If your supervisor doesn’t make a written report, you should make a report for your own files.
6. Update your employer
If your doctor excuses you from work or gives you work restrictions, get this in writing and give it to your employer. Keep a copy for yourself. If the doctor excuses you from work indefinitely, find out from your employer how frequently your employer wants you to call in. Be sure to comply with those requirements.
If you are unable to work, make sure the insurer knows that, too.
7. Inform the insurer
Make sure the insurer is aware of your injury. Most employers have workers’ compensation insurance with another company that will handle the claim. The insurer cannot help you unless it knows about your injury.
Also, make sure that your personnel or HR department has sent the First Report of Injury to the insurer. You can verify this with the insurer. Ask your employer for the name and telephone number of the insurer—and the name of the person who is handling your claim (the “adjuster”). You can speak directly with the adjuster.
If you cannot get this information from your company, call the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation Coverage Department at 404-656-3692 for the name of your company’s insurer, then notify the insurance company yourself.
8. Talk to an attorney
If you have been injured on the job in Georgia, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a workers’ compensation attorney. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex workers’ compensation system and ensure that you receive the maximum benefits available to you.
An attorney should know the intricate rules of returning to work and should be able to help you choose a doctor who will listen to you and help treat your injury. You’re entitled to a one-time change in authorized treating physicians, so even if you’re not happy with the doctor you have initially chosen, a remedy may be available to you.
Insurance companies have attorneys who advise them on every action they take—an injured worker should have the same protections.
Furthermore, a workers’ compensation attorney can also help you appeal a denied claim or negotiate a settlement if you want to find a resolution to your claim.
Our record of winning workers’ comp cases in Georgia speaks for itself:
Get answers by talking to an Atlanta workers’ comp attorney
If you get hurt on the job in the state of Georgia, it is important to take immediate action to ensure that you receive the medical treatment and compensation you’re entitled to. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can protect your rights and ensure that you receive the maximum benefits available to you under Georgia law.
If you’d like assistance filing a workers’ compensation claim, contact an experienced lawyer at the Georgia law office of Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys. We charge no attorneys’ fees if we cannot help you receive the full workers’ compensation benefits you’re entitled to for your injuries.
As diligent and dedicated Atlanta work injury lawyers with over 75 years of combined experience, we’ve helped thousands of injured workers like you overcome a variety of common workers’ compensation obstacles, such as denied claims, pre-existing conditions, returning to work and more.
Are you ready to learn more about your injury claim? Fill out a contact form or give us a call, and we’ll be in touch with you shortly to get more details about your case. The Georgia statute of limitations requires injured workers to file a workers’ compensation claim within 1 year from the date of injury (not 2 years like most other personal injury claims). After this period, your chance to receive financial reimbursement may expire. Even waiting a month to file a claim could seriously impact your benefits.