How Workers’ Comp Works: Answers to Your Common Questions
Workers’ compensation can seem really complex and difficult. But one day may arrive when you need to figure it out fast. How you handle a workplace injury through workers’ compensation can affect how much money you receive for lost wages, medical expenses, and rehab that helps you start working again.
Because this topic is so complex, we could cover hundreds of workers’ compensation questions. But instead, we’ll focus on some basic, common questions that will immediately help you if you have questions about a workplace injury.
How does workers’ compensation work?
When you experience an injury or an illness at your workplace or as part of your work, then you can report that injury or illness to your employer. They will have workers’ compensation insurance that helps pay your expenses related to your injury or illness.
After reporting your injury or illness, you will go to a workers’ compensation-approved doctor (usually from an employer-provided list) who will assess you. Based on that doctor’s evaluation, they will inform your employer about your medical condition, how much work you will need to miss, and if you will partially or fully be able to do your job. While you’re prevented from fully or partially doing work, you will get paid a certain amount of money—your workers’ compensation.
How much money will I receive for workers’ compensation?
It can depend, but there are limits. Georgia law states that you can receive 2/3rds of your average weekly income but not more than $550 each week. Here are two examples:
- If your average weekly income is $450 per week, then you can receive $300 (2/3rds) each week.
- If your average weekly income is $1200 per week, then you are capped at $550 each week. (2/3rds would be $800, which is more than the $550 limit.)
But what if I need more money than that to pay my lost wages and medical expenses?
That’s why you might need to talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. You don’t have to tell your employer that you’re talking to an attorney. In a free consultation, a workers’ compensation attorney can assess your situation to see if you might be able to settle for more money than what you’re getting.
Can I sue my employer?
Not for worker’s compensation. Worker’s compensation was created as a “no fault” system. That means no matter what the cause of your workplace injury or illness, the worker’s compensation insurance allows you to get paid for lost wages and medical bills no matter who was at fault.
However, you can hire an attorney when worker’s compensation benefits are denied to you. Then, you will need to file a worker’s compensation claim within one year of your workplace injury or illness. From there, Georgia’s State Board of Workers’ Compensation will eventually review your claim. During that review process, you and your attorney will present your case (and your employer will present their case). You may then settle with the employer or rely on the Board to give a final decision after both sides (you and your employer) argue your case.
Can I get payment for pain and suffering?
No. Your workers’ compensation covers an injury or illness specifically related to the workplace. You can receive money for long-term problems caused by work (such as back pain), but you can’t get money for general “pain and suffering.”
Why can’t I select the doctor I want?
Employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance that ends up paying you money, so they get to set the rules when it comes to providing you doctor options. In most cases, an employer will have a “workers’ compensation panel”—which just means that the employer offers you a choice of doctors. For example, an employer may give you a list of six doctors to choose from.
However, that doctor is your best friend! If they say you can’t work, then your employer must accept that. If they say you need to do lighter work for a while, then your employer must give you lighter tasks. In most cases, your employer will follow whatever the doctor orders. In cases when they don’t, then you need to bring in an attorney.
Also, if you feel that the workers’ compensation-approved doctor is not giving you a proper assessment, then you can get a second opinion. However, it’s best to work with an attorney when seeing another doctor so that you don’t risk losing workers’ compensation payments by violating your agreement.
How long can I receive payments?
Currently, Georgia law says you can receive worker’s compensation for 400 weeks (which is a little more than seven and a half years) unless your injury or illness is severe. Then, your doctor or the Board may decide that you are eligible to receive payments for the rest of your life.
Why do I need an attorney if I can’t sue my employer?
Talk to an attorney if:
- Your workers’ compensation claim is denied.
- You feel your workers’ compensation payments won’t cover your medical expenses and lost wages.
- You feel that your employer is treating you unfairly.
Have any other questions about workers’ compensation? Contact us today for a free consultation.