Am I eligible for workers’ compensation benefits?
Getting injured on the job can be a terrifying experience. Too often, the worker and their family are left without enough money to pay for living expenses or their medical care. The only possible solution is workers’ compensation.
Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws govern an insurance program to assist employees after a work-related injury or illness. Typically, employees are eligible to receive payments for lost wages, medical care and rehabilitation services.
Although this program can be a vital lifeline to employees and their families after an injury, not all injuries or employees qualify for workers’ compensation.
Who is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia?
Generally, there are 2 basic factors that determine whether or not you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia.
First, your injury must have occurred on the job or because of the job you perform. Second, you must be an employee at the time of your injury.
An accident that causes physical injury while you were performing tasks at work—or elsewhere to benefit your employer—might qualify for workers’ comp. The same is true if toxic chemicals in the workplace made you sick.
The exception for workers’ compensation is if you already have an underlying health condition, such as heart disease. Getting sick from an illness unrelated to your job may be a disqualifying factor. Guidance from an experienced workers’ comp attorney can clear up any confusion you might have about your eligibility.
Being hired to work for a salary or hourly wage at a company that withholds taxes qualifies you as an employee. Working full-time, part-time or seasonally in this capacity typically makes you an employee eligible to receive workers’ compensation.
If you are classified as an independent contractor or freelancer, you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, you should consult with an attorney anyways since many workers are misclassified as a contractor and incorrectly led to believe that they aren’t eligible for compensation.
Workers’ compensation eligibility requirements in Georgia
Georgia law requires most employers in the state with 3 or more employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Employers that don’t provide mandatory coverage face liability for damages as well as criminal penalties.
In addition, the exclusive remedy provision of the law doesn’t automatically protect employers who don’t have workers’ compensation insurance. So if negligence caused your injury, you may be able to sue your employer if workers’ compensation isn’t an option. A work injury lawyer can help you fight for what you deserve.
Keep in mind that you are covered by workers’ compensation from the moment you are hired. You don’t have to pass the trial work period or work a minimum number of days to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
Additionally, the no-fault workers’ compensation system in Georgia means you aren’t required to prove negligence by either your employer or coworkers.
Potential workers’ compensation benefits
Benefits under Georgia’s workers’ compensation program entitle you to receive:
- Medical care
- Lost wages
- Rehabilitation services
- Death benefits
The medical care benefits you may receive covers treatment costs that result from your work injury or illness. Potential expenses covered may include:
- Hospital stay
- Doctor appointments
- Ongoing or future treatments
- Travel expenses to and from medical appointments
If you are unable to work for a minimum of 7 days after a work injury, then you qualify to receive weekly benefits. Typically, the amount is 2/3 of your weekly pay. These payments should begin within 21 days of your first missed day of work.
The duration of workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia may vary depending on your injury or illness; the law allows for up to 400 weeks.
Unfortunately, there are specific situations where even if a worker is injured at work, Georgia’s laws may not cover the accident. For instance, injuries resulting from a fight at work may not be covered. Using drugs or alcohol at work may also disqualify an employee from being covered.
Workers in Georgia who aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation benefits
Generally, workers who may not be covered under the workers’ compensation laws in Georgia include:
- Domestic workers
- Farm laborers
- Freelance workers
Businesses typically don’t withhold income taxes from the workers listed above. Instead, they receive a 1009 form and are responsible for paying their own income taxes.
Another group ineligible to receive workers’ compensation after an on-the-job injury is temporary workers. Most likely, these workers are covered by the temporary agency that employs them.
Contact a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney today
In some cases, the eligibility requirements for Georgia’s workers’ compensation program are straightforward. You get injured, file a claim and your employer honors their obligation to pay benefits.
In other cases, the details can be more complex or you have the unfortunate experience of working for an employer whose insurance company wants to make it harder for you to be fairly compensated for your injuries.
If you are having problems receiving full benefits, seek help from an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorney. Working with an advocate who specializes in work-related injury cases strengthens the chances that you and your family will get the financial help you need.