Survival tips and tricks while waiting for compensation
The words “incident” and “accident” are often used interchangeably to describe an unexpected event, such as a car crash, slip and fall, or serious injury. While these spontaneous events can occur during our everyday lives, they often happen on the job.
Workplace incidents happen randomly and unexpectedly. Many Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, so they don’t have a rainy-day fund to cover their medical expenses, lost wages and other injury-related costs if an incident renders them unable to work. Unfortunately, it can take up to a month to receive your first workers’ compensation check after your claim has been approved.
So what can you do to pay your bills while waiting for workers’ compensation or disability benefits?
How to secure workers’ comp medical payments
If you’ve had an accident at work, you’ll likely want to know how workers’ comp will pay you. Georgia law requires almost every employer with 3 or more seasonal, part-time or full-time workers to have workers’ compensation coverage.
State law requires you to report your injury within 30 days. After this, your employer should provide you with a list of approved doctors that you can see for treatment.
In Georgia, workers’ comp is no-fault insurance that should cover your medical bills after you suffer an injury on the job regardless of who or what caused you harm, so long as it occurred in the course and scope of employment. An approved health care provider should not bill you but instead send any incident-related bills directly to your employer’s insurer for payment.
Securing lost wages (disability benefits) following a work injury
Georgia law allows you to request temporary total disability benefits if you’re expected to be unable to work for 7 or more days. The amount of compensation you receive equates to two-thirds of your average weekly income.
Individuals who can still work, but not the same amount as they did before their on-the-job accident, may be eligible for temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. The amount of TPD benefits you qualify to receive will be the difference between two-thirds of the average amount you would have received pre-incident minus what you’re currently earning.
It can take up to 21 days for these lost-wage disability benefits to kick in. However, even when you do receive them, the amount you receive may not be enough to cover your living expenses, so you may need to consider other options to help make ends meet.
Contact your utility companies, lenders and creditors
There’s an old saying that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” You can conserve any savings or income that you currently have by keeping your expenses low.
One solution is to reach out to your utility companies to let them know that you are currently disabled and waiting for disability benefits. They may be able to move your due date to give you extra time to pay your bills. Some may even have a charitable fund set up to temporarily pay bills for people in your situation. Just keep in mind that any deferred payments will need to be caught up once you head back to work.
You may also want to reach out to your mortgage lender, credit card company or other creditors, as they may be able to pause and extend your payments so they’re not due for a few months. If you’re a renter, your landlord may be willing to accept a delayed payment while you’re waiting to receive your disability payments.
Ask family and friends for temporary financial assistance
Reaching out to your friends and family for a personal loan or other financial assistance while waiting for disability may also be another possible way to gather the necessary funds to cover your necessities.
Apply for public assistance
You may want to contact the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) to learn if you qualify to receive assistance through programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAPS).
The SNAPS program allows low-income individuals or families to receive monthly benefits to cover their food costs. TANF is a cash assistance welfare program reserved for families consisting of at least 1 child under 18 years old.
If you don’t qualify for either of these public assistance programs, you could also ask the DHS office if they know about any charitable initiatives that could help provide you with temporary support.
Unemployment and its impact on your disability benefits
People receiving Georgia unemployment benefits are obligated to be actively seeking work while unemployed. However, those seeking disability benefits are unable to work because of their injury.
Many injured workers want to know if they can collect unemployment while waiting for disability. While no rule explicitly prohibits you from applying for disability while receiving Georgia unemployment, unemployment benefits could lead a judge to deny your disability benefits if an administrative hearing were scheduled in your case.
Navigating the maze of workers’ comp and disability benefits
Many workers don’t receive cooperation from their employers when they notify them about an injury in the workplace. Some workers apply for workers’ comp or disability benefits and have their requests denied.
In order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, you need to be thorough with your application. It’s critical to accurately describe your injuries on the correct forms and file all necessary paperwork in a timely manner. Take time to learn about common pitfalls workers encounter when applying for these benefits to avoid further delays in receiving the compensation you desperately need.