What happens after I’ve been injured at work?
No matter what industry you’re in or job you have, an accident can happen at work. When it does, you should know your rights under the Georgia workers’ compensation laws.
Why a workers’ compensation appeal happens
Under these laws, injured employees are entitled to medical benefits, as well as supplemental income and support for rehabilitation when they get hurt on the job. There are certain steps an employee must follow in order to receive compensation. For starters, you must report the injury to your supervisor right away. Waiting to report the incident may result in losing your right to claim benefits.
All businesses in Georgia with at least 3 regular employees, including part-time workers, are required to have workers’ compensation. Although this is the law, there are some employers who may be unwilling to give workers’ compensation to their injured employees because it will cause their insurance rates to increase. Other times, workers’ comp insurers provide benefits that are much less than the amount the injured worker expects to receive. Furthermore, there are times when an insurance company may delay the disbursement of payment or deny benefits altogether.
All of these situations or another scenario may prompt you to request a workers’ compensation hearing to appeal a denial or offer. A hearing with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation will allow you to seek justice and resolution.
What to expect during a workers’ compensation hearing
During the hearing, you may opt to represent yourself, but you’re strongly advised to hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. The workers’ compensation hearing process is quite complex. It’s necessary that you understand all the requirements and rules for the court procedure.
If you’ve decided to file for a workers’ compensation appeal, the process normally takes place as described below:
1. During the workers’ comp pre-trial hearing, you will need to complete the paperwork required. You will receive certain documents from the State Board of Workers’ Compensation that you should fill out for a hearing to be considered.
2. Once the paperwork is completed, you should send a copy of the documents to your employer. You will also need to send the same paperwork to your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
3. Send the completed forms back to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
4. You will find out who the judge will be for your hearing, as well as the hearing date.
At the workers’ compensation pre-trial hearing, you will have to go through mediation first. Mediation is when you will have to meet with your employer, its representative, or the insurance company. The goal is to resolve the dispute and avoid the costly court hearing procedure. Your legal representative will also be present during the mediation.
Here are some facts about the mediation process:
- Mediation isn’t as formal as a hearing, which functions like a trial.
- During the mediation, you can present your case and discuss with your employer the benefits you believe you should receive.
- Every piece of information you provide during this procedure remains confidential. Therefore, they cannot be used in any court proceeding.
- A mediator will help both parties try to come to an agreement on certain conditions. However, the court hearing can still take place if no final decision is reached.
If the court hearing does take place, here’s what you can expect:
- You will be given the chance to present evidence proving that your employer owes you workers’ compensation benefits.
- You should be able to provide supporting evidence to improve your position on the claim.
- You will have the opportunity to present witnesses that can testify for you. You cannot submit letters and statements as testimonies. These documents are deemed inadmissible during the hearing.
- You can have your doctor (or doctors) testify on your behalf. The statement of a medical professional will help strengthen your case.
- It also aids your case if you can provide strong or sufficient medical evidence. These documents should show that you are suffering from an injury and how you received it.
- If you can provide 1 or more eyewitnesses, they can also help with your claim.
After the hearing, the judge will review all the pieces of evidence you and your employer’s insurance company presented. The judge will issue a decision, which will state all the benefits that you should or shouldn’t receive.
The workers’ comp hearing process doesn’t always end here. You may appeal to the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation if your claim was denied. However, it should be filed within 20 days after the judge’s decision has been given.
As you can see, the workers’ compensation hearing process is complicated. We highly recommend you seek the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to increase your chances of winning your case.