Understanding how to file to get the best compensation after a work injury in Georgia
Each state has a workers’ compensation law that compensates workers injured on the job. Georgia’s law, like other states, is a no-fault insurance system that does not require the employee to show that the employer was negligent or otherwise responsible for their injury.
For certain employees, federal law also provides worker protections against loss from injury on the job. In some cases, the federal law supplants (or replaces) state law benefits. In other cases, the federal and state agencies have concurrent jurisdiction. For most employees, their claims will be governed by state law.
For instance, consider workers’ compensation for longshoremen and dockworkers. In some states, including Georgia, an injured employee can file a claim under both federal and state law. This direct overlap and potential conflict of laws are discussed below.
Aside from laws directly related to benefits, certain federal rules or regulations relating to other matters, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), overlap with and serve as precedents or guides for both state and federal workers’ compensation cases.
Georgia workers’ compensation laws
In Georgia, any employer with 3 or more employees must provide certain compensation to an employee injured on the job. The employer must carry a third-party insurance policy or qualify to self-insure.
Georgia workers’ compensation claims are administered by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Georgia, as with most states, has a special workers’ compensation court to settle disputes. This court applies Georgia state law.
Briefly, Georgia workers’ compensation benefits include compensation for lost income, medical and rehabilitation treatment, death and other benefits to employees and their dependents as a result of injury, illness and death.
Workers’ compensation benefits are subject to limits and restrictions. For example, damages for pain and suffering are not awarded under state workers’ compensation law. For this and other reasons, an injured employee might consider pursuing remedies under personal injury common law or wrongful death statutes. You should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss these considerations.
Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA)
FECA provides benefits to federal civilian employees who sustain injuries or develop certain diseases while on the job.
The federal government is immune from liability, including liability under state workers’ compensation laws. So, federal workers have benefits from their employer only as provided under federal law. For federal employees, the federal workers’ compensation law overrides any state program.
Federal employees who are injured on the job cannot also claim benefits under state workers’ compensation laws.
Monetary benefits under the FECA include compensation for wages lost because of injury or illness. It pays for medical treatment and rehab for an injury or disease. The FECA also pays death benefits to dependents of a deceased worker.
The FECA benefits are payable only to eligible federal civilian employees or the eligible survivors of a deceased employee.
The FECA is administered by the Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation within the Department of Labor. Your claim for benefits will be filed on form CA-1, “Federal Employee’s Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay/Compensation,” or form CA-2, “Notice of Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation.” Your employer will complete its portion of the forms and submit them to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) district office.
What is federal workers’ compensation for longshoremen?
Dockworker jobs are normally associated with warehouse operations throughout Georgia that are subject to the basic Georgia workers’ compensation law. But many Georgia dockworkers are employed on locations where ocean and river shipping is loaded and unloaded. Those dockworkers might be eligible for workers compensation under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
The types of compensation awarded under the LHWCA are similar to those awardable under the Georgia workers’ compensation law. However, for some types, the LHWCA awards are more generous.
The LHWCA benefits cover workers on platforms where shipping is loaded or unloaded from vessels. They also cover employees who make repairs to vessels, build docks and piers, or workers who do less than 30 percent of their work on vessels.
This program is administered by the Division of Federal Employees’, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DFELHWC). The Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation adjudicates new claims for benefits and pays medical expenses and compensation benefits.
Longshoremen workers’ compensation is the clearest example of state/federal overlap. In Georgia, an injured longshoreman can file a claim under both Georgia law and the LHWCA. But you can’t double-dip; that is, you can’t be paid twice for the same injury, illness or death.
Why file a claim with both jurisdictions?
The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers Compensation Programs are separate jurisdictions. One jurisdiction might deny your claim while the other one allows it, or both agencies might allow your claim. Filing with both agencies assures your recovery of the greater benefits.
When to consult a workers’ compensation lawyer
Workers’ compensation law is full of complexities. While it’s possible for an injured employee to recover benefits without an attorney, attempting this is a mistake in our view. We can ensure that you aren’t shortchanged and receive the maximum benefits available to you under Georgia or federal laws.