Georgia employers and companies are responsible for obtaining workers’ compensation coverage
Understanding workers’ compensation is important whether you work on the assembly line, on a construction site or in an office. Wherever you work, there’s a possibility that you could be hurt while on the job. In such scenarios, you wonder who is responsible for obtaining and paying for workers’ compensation insurance coverage in Georgia.
While workers’ compensation law can be complicated and nuanced in a lot of ways, the question of who pays for workers’ comp coverage is surprisingly simple.
Who pays for workers’ compensation in Georgia?
In Georgia, the employer pays for workers’ compensation. Generally, an employer takes out an insurance policy in order to cover workers’ compensation benefits. Coverage is automatic, meaning the employee does not have to sign up for the insurance program to participate and no money is taken out of their paycheck to pay for this coverage.
Most employers in Georgia with 3 or more regular employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance that is available to employees free of charge.
Do employees pay for workers’ compensation insurance?
No, employees do not pay for workers’ compensation insurance, nor do they have to sign up. Coverage automatically begins on the first day of employment and continues until the last day of employment. There is no waiting period or charge to the employee for this coverage.
Georgia law requires the employer to meet their obligation through an insurance policy or self-insurance with the Georgia Self-Insurers Guaranty Trust Fund. The employer must have approval in order to self-insure.
The vast majority of Georgia employers meet their obligations through an insurance policy. Even if workers are part-time, the employer must still meet their obligation to their employees by providing coverage.
Is there a premium to use workers’ compensation benefits?
No, there is no premium to access your workers’ compensation benefits. In the event that an employee is hurt on the job, they may use their benefits at no cost to them. One of the primary benefits of workers’ compensation is paid medical care. This means that injured workers have the right to have medical care from approved providers fully covered by their employer.
With individual health insurance, most people have some kind of co-pay requirement. If they see a doctor and the cost is $100, they may have to pay a flat fee of $20 for the office visit. They may also have to pay for a percentage of the cost that is set by the terms of their contract.
For workers’ compensation, however, this is not the case.
Injured workers who are covered by workers’ compensation should receive full medical treatment without having to meet any co-pays or co-insurance.
Covered medical treatment for an injury on the job
When a serious or catastrophic injury occurs at work, the employee often needs urgent care. They are free to seek this care from the medical care provider of their choosing. The emergency medical attention that they receive should be covered by workers’ comp, even if the care provider is not one of the approved people or facilities chosen by the employer. Eligibility for emergency care continues until the emergency is over.
Once the emergency subsides, the employee must go to a medical provider of the employer’s choosing. The employer must select from a list of at least 6 providers. The injured worker may select a care provider from that list or get approval from the employer to use someone else.
All of the medical expenses for a work-related injury or occupational illness should be covered. The workers’ compensation insurance provider pays the bills on behalf of the employer. If the employer is self-insured, the employer pays the bills directly.
Who covers travel expenses for workers’ compensation treatment?
Travel expenses for workers’ compensation treatment should be covered by the employer through their insurance. The employee should not have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for travel to and from treatment. Travel should not be a barrier to injured workers receiving the treatment they need.
In addition, an individual cannot refuse reasonable medical treatment and rehabilitation services. For that reason, the employer must also cover travel expenses for workers’ compensation treatment in order to allow injured workers to get the coverage they need.
Ensuring payment for workers’ compensation in Georgia
Even though it is the employer who pays for workers’ compensation in Georgia, there are still some requirements and responsibilities that the employee must follow to get paid. For starters, the injured worker must report their injury to their employer immediately. Waiting more than 30 days to report a work injury can prevent them from receiving benefits.
In addition, injured workers in Georgia may not refuse to take an alcohol or drug test after the injury. Refusing a reasonable drug or alcohol test creates a presumption that drugs or alcohol contributed to the accident.
Lost income (indemnity) benefits should begin after 7 days of missed work. If the worker loses more than 21 days on the job because of the injury, they will be retroactively paid for the first week of missed employment as well.
In addition to lost income and medical care, rehabilitation should also be included in order to help the individual reach maximum medical improvement or transition to new employment.
What to do if workers’ compensation is not paid in Georgia
If an employer refuses to pay workers’ compensation in Georgia, the worker may file an appeal. Generally, they must file their claim within 1 year of medical treatment—or within 2 years of the last weekly benefit payment they receive.
Receiving workers’ compensation in Georgia begins with understanding that the employer pays for workers’ compensation. It does not come out of a workers’ check and there are no co-pays or premiums for the worker to pay. But to receive benefits, the worker must first report the accident and accept reasonable medical care.
Don’t stake your compensation on the word of your employer or their insurance company. Make no mistake that both parties benefit when injured workers don’t fully understand their rights under Georgia law.