Answers To Your Workers' Comp & Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions

Doubt, uncertainty, and confusion can quickly cause painful situations to escalate into catastrophic traumas. Personal experience has taught us that when an accident victim allows his concerns to overwhelm his determination for justice, he neither gets relief nor justice. This is why we feel that getting answers to your injury questions are extremely important not only to relieve stress, but also to build a stronger injury claim. Allow us to address your concerns and come see for yourself how a simple answer can make a difference.

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  • Who is responsible for damages in a multi-vehicle accident?

    Multi-vehicle accidents present special issues in a personal injury claim because it’s not always immediately obvious which driver—or drivers—may be at fault

    How Fault Is Determined

    In any accident, the first priority is attending to the immediate medical needs of injured drivers, passengers, or pedestrians. After arrangements have been made for this care, law enforcement officers begin their investigation.

    Evidence gathered can include:

    • Testimony from drivers.
    • Testimony from passengers.
    • Witness testimony from pedestrians or people who were nearby when the accident occurred.
    • Traffic camera footage.
    • Notes and photos regarding location and type of vehicle damage.
    • Past driving records to see if anyone involved has a history of reckless driving, DUI, or other unsafe behavior.
    • Black box data.

    Fault Options in a Multi-Vehicle Accident

    In a multi-vehicle accident, there are three possibilities for who is responsible for damages.

    • Single at-fault driver. In most cases, a multi-vehicle pileup happens when one driver makes a mistake that begins a chain reaction. This may include turning the wrong way down a one-way street, running a red light, or abruptly stopping.
       
    • Multiple at-fault drivers. Although the driver who sets off the chain reaction is primarily responsible for the accident, it’s likely that other drivers may also share some degree of fault. For example, consider an accident where driver A is tailgating and rear-ends driver B. If driver C was speeding, he could easily strike the back of driver A’s vehicle. Driver D might hit the back of driver C’s vehicle because he was distracted by texting and driving. In this case, everyone is partially at fault except for driver B.
       
    • No at-fault driver. In very rare cases, an accident may be determined to be nobody’s fault. For example, a driver who loses consciousness due to a genuine medical emergency can’t be held responsible for the damages that result. 

    Collecting Compensation as an At-Fault Driver

    When more than one driver is at fault, Georgia uses a modified comparative negligence system for assigning responsibility for accident related expenses. This means you can still collect compensation as an at-fault driver, but only if you were 49% or less at fault for the accident. If you are 50% or more at fault, you can’t recover any accident-related expenses.

    Additionally, your percentage of fault proportionally reduces your ability to recover damages. For example, if you were 25% at fault for the accident, you’d only be able to recover 75% of the damages you’d receive if the other driver was 100% at fault.

    How Policy Limits Affect Your Personal Injury Claim

    Unfortunately, policy limits often play a big role in personal injury settlement for multi-vehicle accidents. Since accidents of this type often involve multiple people with serious injuries such as organ damage, traumatic brain injury, or paralysis, medical bills can be substantial. Lost wages can also add significantly to the settlement, especially when more than one person has been left with a permanent disability that prevents him or her from returning to work.

    Although drivers are generally encouraged to take out substantial liability coverage to protect themselves in the event of an accident, most drivers only carry the state-mandated minimum insurance. Georgia’s minimum car insurance requirements are:

    • Bodily injury liability of $25,000 per person.
    • Bodily injury liability of $50,000 per accident.
    • Property damage liability of $25,000 per accident.

    If an accident exceeds the policy limits of the people who are at fault, you may then go after any uninsured motorist coverage that you have on your own policy.  If there is not adequate insurance coverage, then you will need to try to collect from the at-fault driver(s) personal assets. This can be a difficult and time-consuming task.

    How Rechtman & Spevak Can Help

    Maximize your available compensation in a personal injury settlement by hiring an experienced attorney to line up the necessary evidence to document your expenses and negotiate on your behalf. The dedicated team Rechtman & Spevak serves clients throughout Georgia, advocating for the funds they need to recover from their car accident injuries. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
     

  • What does pain and suffering mean in a personal injury settlement?

    Pain and suffering compensation is intended to reimburse you for both the physical pain and the emotional trauma you experienced as the result of another party’s negligence. Your compensation will depend upon a number of factors, including the severity of your injuries and whether or not you’ve been left with any permanent disabilities as the result of the incident.

    About Personal Injury Settlements

    In a personal injury settlement, there are two types of damages: economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are damages that have an easily assigned dollar value, such as the cost of the medical care you needed as the result of your injuries and the value of your lost wages. Noneconomic damages are damages that have an abstract and subjective nature. This includes pain and suffering damages as well as punitive damages and applicable compensation for loss of consortium.

    Using the Multiplier Method

    The multiplier method is the most common way to evaluate pain and suffering for a personal injury settlement. This method tallies up your documented medical expenses and multiplies the total by a number between 1 and 5. Lower numbers are used for less serious injuries where the victim is expected to make a full recovery, while higher numbers indicate serious injuries resulting in some level of permanent disability.

    One factor to consider with the multiplier method is that some medical expenses are looked upon as more valid than others. If you briefly saw a physician for your neck and shoulder pain, but continued treatment with a chiropractor instead of following the physician’s recommendations, your expenses might be called into question by the other party’s insurance company. Seeking treatment for a longer than average period of time without having any documented complications in the healing process may also cause your expenses to be questioned.

    Using the Per Diem Method

    Another method that can be used to evaluate pain and suffering compensation is the per diem method. This method assigns a daily value to pain and suffering, then multiplies the daily value by the number of days in which the victim took to fully recover. In most cases, the per diem value is based on your wages earned at work. Using your daily wages as the per diem value assumes that the effort of coping with your injuries is roughly equivalent to going to work each day.

    Choosing Which Method to Use

    There is no hard and fast rule used to determine how pain and suffering compensation must be calculated. This means that pain and suffering compensation is often one of the most highly debated parts of a personal injury settlement.

    Your hourly earnings may affect which method results in a more favorable settlement, especially if your injuries are very serious and your earnings are relatively modest. For example, a fast food worker who suffered internal bleeding and a severely broken leg that required surgery and a hospital stay would likely receive a higher level of pain and suffering compensation using the multiplier method.

    Generally speaking, the per diem method is best suited for use in cases where the injury is one with a relatively short recovery period. If you’re left permanently disabled, the calculation becomes unreasonable given the fact that your medical expenses and lost wages may be enough to exceed the limits of the at-fault party’s insurance policy.

    Whichever method you choose, you’ll need to present as much evidence as possible to support your claim. Many attorneys recommend keeping a journal of your symptoms and how they’ve affected your daily activities, so you can offer specific examples of the pain and suffering you’ve experienced if you are ever called to testify. Copies of your medical records and expert testimony from healthcare providers experienced in dealing with your particular condition may also be important in establishing the the value of pain and suffering in your claim.

    The Value of Legal Representation

    The best way to maximize your available compensation in a personal injury settlement is to retain the services of an experienced attorney. Your attorney can line up the necessary evidence to document your medical expenses and lost wages, while negotiating on your behalf to ensure that you receive the highest possible compensation for your pain and suffering. Call Rechtman & Spevak today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.
     

  • How can I tell if my illness is work-related?

    Doctor measuring blood pressure of female patient in hospital officeWorkers’ compensation claims involving on-the-job accidents are normally fairly straightforward. It’s easy to establish a cause and effect relationship when a worker suffers injury due to a fall or a malfunctioning piece of equipment.

    Claims for work-related illnesses are more complex because the illness is often the result of cumulative exposure or could mistakenly be attributed to activities that occurred outside the workplace.

    Claims for Occupational Hearing Loss

    Hearing loss is one of the most common types of work-related illnesses. Anyone who works in an environment where he or she is regularly exposed to loud noises is vulnerable, although construction workers and those who are employed in manufacturing facilities report the highest number of these types of claims.

    Work-related hearing loss is covered under workers’ compensation law. However, testing may be done to rule out other possibilities for your condition, such as infection or a head injury.

    Claims for Skin Conditions Related to Chemical Exposure

    Florists, hairdressers, manicurists, cooks, janitors, and certain types of manufacturing workers often spend large portions of their day in contact with harsh chemicals. These chemicals can be linked to several different skin conditions.

    • Irritant contact dermatitis. A painful but curable skin condition, this disorder can be the result of long-term exposure to chemicals.
    • Allergic contact dermatitis. Patients with this type of skin condition can experience effects immediately or after prolonged exposure. The effect is permanent once sensitization occurs.
    • Skin cancer. Contact with carcinogenic chemicals can lead to skin cancer, which could in some cases be fatal.

    Claims for Mesothelioma or Asbestosis

    Exposure to asbestos over many years can lead to mesothelioma or asbestosis. Construction workers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, engineers, firefighters, machinists, heavy equipment mechanics, and welders are just a few of the various professionals who are considered to be at risk for these illnesses. Claims for such occupational diseases are subject to an enhanced standard of proof to establish that the illness is work related. Therefore, it is essential that you have an experienced workers' compensation attorney assist you on these claims.

    Claims for Exposure to Contagious Diseases

    Common illnesses such as the cold or flu are not eligible for workers’ compensation. However, if you work in a nursing home, hospital, doctor’s office, or other healthcare setting, certain types of contagious diseases can be considered work-related if you can establish that you were infected while performing your job duties. This includes tuberculosis, brucellosis, or Hepatitis A.

    Claims for Workplace Food Poisoning

    Food poisoning can be considered eligible for workers’ compensation if you can trace the illness back to food supplied by your employer. If you become ill after eating food you’ve brought from your own home or purchased for yourself at another location, the illness is not considered work-related. Reports of similar illnesses among coworkers who ate the same meal are often sufficient to establish a link between your employer and your need for medical treatment.

    Claims for Mental Health Conditions Related to Workplace Trauma

    Treatment for mental health conditions related to your work may be covered under workers’ compensation, as long as the psychological condition arose following a physcial injury caused by an on-the-job accident.  In the absence of a physical injury, psychological problems such as depression and PTSD are not covered under Georgia law.  

    Protecting Your Right to Compensation

    If you’re experiencing difficulty obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for an illness that you believe is related to your employment, obtaining legal representation is a must. An experienced attorney can help line up the evidence you need to document the cause of your condition, thus protecting your right to medical treatment and income replacement benefits.

    Rechtman & Spevak’s attorneys are committed to helping injured Georgia residents access the workers’ compensation benefits they need to move forward with their lives. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
     

  • Am I taking any risks by representing myself in a workers’ compensation claim?

    If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, you may find yourself wondering if it’s really necessary to hire an attorney. The answer to this question depends upon the circumstances of your case, but most workers will find that having someone to advocate for their right to compensation helps them to receive the benefits they need to move forward with their lives.

    When Is It Possible to Represent Myself in a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

    You are not legally required to have an attorney to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In fact, some cases can be easily settled without an attorney. You can comfortably represent yourself if your case meets all of the following criteria:

    • Your employer agrees with your claim that your injury is work-related.
    • The insurance company is promptly responding to your request for benefits.
    • Your injury is minor, such as a sprained ankle or small cut requiring just a few stitches.
    • You missed little or no work due to your injury.
    • You have no pre-existing medical conditions that could complicate your case.

    When Do I Need to Protect Myself by Hiring an Attorney?

    Hiring a workers’ compensation attorney to represent your interests is essential if your cases meets any of the following criteria:

    • Your employer denies that your injury is work-related.
    • Your benefits are being delayed by the insurance company.
    • Your employer has attempted to retaliate against you for filing a claim.
    • You’ve missed several weeks of work and are worried about making ends meet due to the resulting drop in income.
    • Your injuries are serious enough to result in a permanent partial or total disability.
    • You’ve received a settlement offer that only covers part of your medical expenses.
    • You disagree with your physician’s assessment of the severity of your injury.
    • You have a pre-existing condition that has complicated your treatment.
    • You’re also receiving Social Security disability benefits and/or Medicare.

    You may also have a potential third-party claim, such as a personal injury suit related to a motor vehicle accident that occurred while you were driving a company vehicle.

    What Services Can an Attorney Provide?

    Some of the services a skilled workers’ compensation attorney can provide include:

    • Identifying the worth of your case based on the severity of your injuries and your future earning potential.
    • Getting the right medical evidence to support your case,
    • Finding vocational experts who can testify about the physical requirements of your job or what type of work you can be expected to perform given the nature of your injuries.
    • Structuring a settlement so as not jeopardize Social Security disability or Medicare benefits.
    • Negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf.
    • Monitoring the progress of your claim so you’re free to focus on recovering from your injuries

    It is vital to remember that the workers’ compensation system no longer serves as an adequate safety net for injured workers. In many cases, the law favors employers and their insurance companies. Without an advocate on your side, you risk having your claim unfairly denied or being offered less than what you truly deserve.

    Can I Afford to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?

    If you’re currently unable to work and watching your medical bills pile up, it’s understandable to be anxious about adding to your financial burden. However, workers' compensation cases are handled by attorneys on a contingency fee basis. In other words, the attorney will get a percentage of what he or she gets for you. Any attorney you hire to handle your Georgia workers' compensation claim can charge you 25% of what they recover on your behalf. Your attorney will not receive any portion of benefits that are already being voluntarily paid by the insurer.  The attorney only gets paid this percentage on benefits or a settlement that he or she gets for you that you were not able to obtain on your own. There is no upfront cost, and if your attorney doesn't get you a settlement or any additional benefits, there’s no fee.

    How Do I Get Started with My Case?

    If you’re having trouble getting your employer and their insurer to pay benefits following a work-related injury, Rechtman & Spevak’s attorneys can help. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.
     

  • I missed the deadline for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Can I just file a personal injury lawsuit instead?

    If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, you might be wondering if it would be easier simply to file a personal injury lawsuit to cover your expenses. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation is a program that’s entirely separate from personal injury law. You can normally only receive benefits from one type of claim at a time.

    Differences in Standards of Fault

    The biggest difference between workers’ compensation claims and personal injury suits is the standard of fault applied.

    In a personal injury case, you must establish that another party is responsible for your injuries. For example, if you were in a car accident, you’d need to prove that the other driver was speeding, tailgating, or otherwise driving in an unsafe manner that caused you to be injured.

    In a workers’ compensation case, there is no requirement to prove fault. You can receive benefits even if your own inexperience or inattention caused your injuries. As long as you weren’t engaged in horseplay or under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, the only requirement is that you must have been injured while on the job.

    Differences in Standards for Damages

    Another important difference between workers’ compensation and personal injury claims involves the type of damages you’re able to receive.

    A personal injury claim can include damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Since pain and suffering is often calculated as a multiplier of verifiable medical expenses, compensation can be substantial in cases involving serious injury.

    A workers’ compensation case allows you to receive medical treatment from an approved provider, weekly income benefits, and compensation for permanent injury. You are not compensated for your pain and suffering, even if your injuries result in a lifelong disability.

    Differences in Processing Time

    In most cases, workers’ compensation claims will be settled in a more timely fashion than a personal injury suit. Workers with a cooperative employer and fairly straightforward cases often begin receiving benefits within days. In comparison, even a relatively simple personal injury case requires the assistance of an attorney for ensuring a fair settlement.

    Differences in Litigation Outcomes

    Since workers’ compensation cases don’t require you to establish negligence, it’s generally easier to win a workers’ compensation case at trial. However, in both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims, it’s advantageous for most cases to be settled out of court.

    You Generally Can’t Pick and Choose

    Unfortunately, there is normally no option to pick which type of legal action you wish to pursue. If you were hurt on the job, workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy. You can’t opt to forgo workers’ comp benefits and initiate a personal injury suit against your employer or any coworkers who played a role in the accident that caused your injuries.

    Exceptions to this rule include:

    • If you have been injured in a work-related car accident caused by a driver who does not work for your employer, you can seek both workers’ compensation and personal injury benefits. However, your employer will have a lien for benefits paid out on your workers' compensation claim on any personal injury settlement you receive.
       
    • When your injuries are due to a defect in equipment used at your place of employment, you may be able to sue the manufacturer for damages. However, just as with a work-related motor vehicle accident, your employer will have a lien on any personal injury settlement you receive.

    Protecting Your Right to Compensation

    If you’re having trouble accessing your workers’ compensation benefits, seeking legal representation ensures that your case proceeds in a timely fashion. Rechtman & Spevak’s attorneys are dedicated to helping injured Georgia workers receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.

  • When does workers’ compensation cover injuries that do not occur at a job site?

    To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you must sustain an injury that occurs during the course of work-related activities. This rule may seem fairly straightforward, but there are some gray areas that can occur when injuries happen while you’re away from your normal job site.

    Business Travel Injuries

    Injuries occurring during travel to work-related meetings, conferences, or other business trips would be covered under Georgia’s workers’ compensation law including work related car accidents. If you’re traveling to a location for several days, you’re considered to be acting in the scope of your employment for the entire duration of your trip.

    For example, a doctor who works for Emory Healthcare may need to travel to San Francisco to attend a medical conference. If the conference lasts for one week from 9 am to 5 pm each day, injuries occurring in the early morning or evening hours would still be covered. Since he’s attending the conference as a condition of his employment with Emory Healthcare and is unable to return home each night, workers’ compensation law covers his activities for the entire duration of the trip.

    Injuries Occurring During Training

    Injuries that occur during required training for your current position or a promotion are covered under workers’ compensation law, regardless of whether they occur at your regular job site or at a secondary location. Training is considered a work-related activity.

    Injuries from Company-Sponsored Events

    Company-sponsored events such as picnics, retirement parties, or holiday celebrations generally fall under workers’ compensation law. Even though their purpose is primarily social and occur away from your regular job site, they are considered work-related because they are sponsored by your employer.

    Commuting Injuries

    If your injury occurred during your commute to or from work, it’s probably not covered by Georgia workers’ compensation law unless you were driving a company-provided car at the time. The primary exception to this rule is workers who have no fixed office location.

    Most workers report to a specific job site each day, but people in certain occupations may travel regularly between locations and thus have no fixed office space. For example, a salesperson may work out of his car while traveling to meet clients, and a custodian working as a contractor for a cleaning service may visit multiple commercial buildings and work a few hours at each site. In cases like this, injuries occurring at each location of business or while traveling to the assigned location are considered eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

    Lunch Break Injuries

    Traveling off company property for your lunch break will typically result in your injuries being denied for workers’ compensation benefits. However, you might be covered if you were picking up lunch for your boss or meeting with clients while you were eating.

    On-Call Injuries

    If you work in a field that requires you to be on call for your employer, injuries occurring during this time period may be covered even if you’re not actively performing work for your employer at the time. Coverage will depend on your employer’s specific on-call policies.

    Receiving Compensation for Work-Related Injuries

    If you believe your injury qualifies you to receive workers’ compensation benefits, you must provide a notice of injury to your employer within 30 days. If you do not notify your employer within this time frame, your claim may be denied even if your injury would otherwise have been compensated.

    Types of benefits you may be able to receive include:

    If you’re having difficulty obtaining benefits on your workers' compensation claim, seeking legal representation can ensure that your case proceeds in a timely fashion. Rechtman & Spevak’s attorneys have extensive experience helping injured Georgia workers receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
     

  • Are teens eligible for workers’ compensation benefits?

    Teens who are hurt in on-the-job accidents have the same right to workers’ compensation benefits as their adult coworkers. However, they may need an attorney to advocate for their right to compensation.

    Workplace Accidents Can Cause Serious Injuries for Teens

    Child labor laws prohibit teens from engaging in the most dangerous workplace tasks, but there are still a number of ways in which a teen can be injured at a part-time or summer job. For example:

    • Back injury from lifting a child at a daycare facility.
    • Slip and fall accidents while waiting tables.
    • Grease burns from working at Chick-fil-A or another fast food restaurant.
    • Fall from a ladder while retrieving items from a high shelf at Kroger or another local grocery store.
    • Heat stroke or heat exhaustion while lifeguarding at a local pool.
    • Chemical burns from using toxic cleaners at a custodial service.
    • Cuts or fractures from using lawnmowers or other types of landscaping equipment.
    • Car accident injuries while working as a pizza delivery driver.

    Workers’ compensation benefits have no length of service or hour requirements. Workers gain access to benefits on their first day of employment, regardless of whether they are considered full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal workers.

    Fault does not play a role in eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits, so teens can collect benefits even when they are partially at fault for the accident due to their youth and inexperience. The only exceptions to the no-fault rule for workers’ compensation benefits are for accidents caused by horseplay and drug/alcohol use.

    Workers’ compensation benefits are generally the sole remedy against an employer for work-related accidents, unless there is evidence that an employer was violating child labor laws or illegally allowing a teen to perform dangerous tasks. If, however, you are involved in an accident due to the fault of someone other than your employer or a co-employee, you may be able to bring a claim against that person. The most common situation where this arises is when you are involved in a car accident while on-the-job.

    Types of Benefits Teens Can Access

    The types of benefits a teen can receive through workers’ compensation will depend upon the severity of the injury, but may include:

    • Medical care. Workers’ compensation is required to pay for the cost of medical care necessary to treat a work-related injury. However, injured workers are required to seek medical care from the panel of physicians—a list of doctors preapproved by the workers’ compensation insurer. This means that a teen won’t be able to seek care from his regular family physician.
       
    • Income replacement. If the injury leaves a teen unable to work, he may be able to receive Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits, which are payments in the amount of two-thirds of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $575 per week.
       
    • Permanent Injury. Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits compensate workers who have suffered permanent injury as the result of an on-the-job accident. These benefits are payable at the rate of two-thirds of your average weekly wage for the number of weeks dictated by the percentage of bodily loss.  You can determine the amount you are entitled to by entering the body part and impairment rating into the PPD calculator on our website.  
    • Death benefits. Fatal workplace injuries involving teens are fortunately very rare, but death benefits of up to $7,500 are available to pay for the funeral and burial costs of those who are killed in on-the-job accidents.

    Protecting a Teen’s Right to Compensation

    The single most important thing a teen can do to protect his right to workers’ compensation benefits is to provide notice of the accident and injury with his employer as soon as possible.  

    There is no legal requirement to retain an attorney in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, some employers may be reluctant to provide injured teens with the benefits they are entitled to receive under the law. In this case, retaining the services of a workers’ compensation attorney can be invaluable in maximizing available benefits.

    The experienced attorneys at Rechtman & Spevak are committed to helping Georgia residents obtain the workers’ compensation benefits they need to recover from their injuries. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.
     

  • Will workers’ compensation affect my eligibility for other types of benefits?

    Injured workers receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia may qualify for other benefits, including Social Security disability, unemployment compensation, and short term or long term disability. To protect your financial future, it’s important to thoroughly investigate your eligibility for each program.

    Social Security Disability Benefits

    Workers’ compensation is a state-run program, while Social Security is a federal program. You can collect from both programs if you’re eligible, but it’s important to keep in mind that each program has a slightly different definition of what it means to be disabled. Qualifying as disabled under workers’ compensation doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be eligible for Social Security disability.

    If you’re eligible, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits will not affect the amount of your weekly workers’ comp disability check. However, workers’ comp benefits may offset Social Security benefits, and this may affect you if your income is below a certain level.

    According to the Social Security Administration, someone who is receiving both workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits is subject to a benefit cap. You are able to collect from both programs, as long as the total amount of these benefits doesn’t exceed 80% of your average earnings before you became disabled.

    If the total amount from both programs exceeds 80% of your previous earnings, the excess will be deducted from your Social Security benefits. This reduction continues until you reach age 65 or you’re no longer receiving workers’ compensation benefits. When you are no longer receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you can simply call the Social Security Administration office to report the change and your SSDI payment will be adjusted accordingly.

    If you aren’t currently receiving SSDI benefits but wish to apply, your workers’ compensation benefits will have no bearing on whether or not your application is accepted.

    Unemployment Insurance Benefits

    Most injured workers will not be able to collect both workers’ compensation benefits and unemployment benefits. A requirement of receiving unemployment benefits is that you’re ready, willing, and able to work. If you’re disabled from working due to an employment-related injury, this means you wouldn’t qualify.

    One case in which workers might be able to collect both types of benefits is if the injured worker is able to do light-duty work, but no such work has been offered by his employer and he is unable to find suitable light duty work on his own. In this circumstance, you could apply for unemployment benefits as a temporary measure. You would need to clearly state on your application that you’re willing to perform light-duty work within the restrictions your care provider has set for you. You can receive unemployment benefits for 14 to 20 weeks, depending upon the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate at the time you file your claim.

    If you receive unemployment benefits during a period for which you are seeking workers' compensation income benefits, the employer/insurer can receive a credit for each dollar of unemployment compensation paid against the workers’ comp benefits it is required to pay.

    Short-Term or Long-Term Disability Payments

    Many Georgia employers offer short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) coverage as part of their benefits package. If you sustain a work-related injury that results in a qualifying disability, you may be able to collect benefits from both workers’ compensation and STD or LTD coverage. However, Georgia law allows an employer/insurer to receive a credit for any benefits an injured worker is paid from a STD or LTD policy in direct proportion to the amount of the premium paid by the employer.

    Protecting Your Legal Rights

    Retaining the services of a workers’ compensation attorney can help you figure out how to maximize your available benefits. Your attorney can advocate for your needs throughout the claim process and answer questions you might have about your eligibility.

    The experienced attorneys at Rechtman & Spevak are committed to helping Georgia residents receive the workers’ compensation benefits they need to recover from their injuries. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
     

  • What workers’ compensation death benefits are available for surviving family members?

    If you’ve lost a loved one in a workplace accident, the tragedy can be made even more painful by the financial burden associated with losing the deceased’s income. However, Georgia law does allow for assistance with burial costs as well as income replacement.

    What Types of Death Benefits Are Available?

    When a worker dies in an on-the-job accident, workers’ compensation pays up to $7,500 for funeral and burial expenses. Income replacement benefits for dependents are also available. For a death that occurs on or after July 1, 2019, dependents can receive two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage up to a maximum of $675 per week.

    Who Qualifies as a Dependent?

    The definition of dependent focuses on who is affected by the deceased person’s loss of income.

    • Surviving spouse. Legally married spouses qualify for benefits, although spouses who were separated for 90 days or more before the incident may have trouble collecting. When spouses are living apart, it’s presumed that they are no longer financially dependent.
       
    • Children. Children can receive benefits if they were born within the marriage, legally adopted, or are acknowledged children born out of wedlock. Posthumous children may also qualify.
       
    • Financially dependent stepchildren. Stepchildren can receive death benefits only if they were financially dependent upon the deceased worker. This means that a stepchild who lived with the deceased worker for the majority of the year could receive benefits, while a stepchild who only visited on the weekends would likely not be eligible.
       
    • Other financially dependent individuals. A person who can prove he or she was financially dependent upon the deceased worker for at least three months before the incident may be eligible for benefits if the deceased worker had no spouse or children. This exception to the standard beneficiaries is most often used for an elderly parent or a disabled sibling, but could also apply to non-related friends in some cases.

    What Happens When There Are Multiple Beneficiaries?

    When there are multiple beneficiaries, the full benefit payment is split between eligible parties.

    If the deceased worker had both a spouse and child, the benefit is paid to the spouse for the benefit of both the spouse and child. If the deceased worker had no spouse and multiple children, the benefits are divided equally between the children and paid to the applicable legal guardian or guardians.

    If the deceased worker had no spouse or children, but multiple other dependent individuals, the totally dependent person is considered a primary beneficiary. If no single individual was totally dependent upon the deceased worker for support, all other beneficiaries can receive partial payments according to their level of financial dependency.

    How Long Do Benefits Last?

    A widowed spouse with no children can receive up to 400 weeks of benefits or a maximum of $270,000. However, benefits will be terminated if he or she remarries or cohabitates in a marriage-like relationship.

    For children, benefits will stop when they turn 18 if they are not enrolled in school. Benefits can continue until age 22 for a full-time student. Disabled children who are unable to become self-supporting can receive benefits for as long as they remain dependent.

    Other individuals who were financially dependent upon the deceased person’s income can receive up to 400 weeks of benefits, but only if there is no surviving spouse or children. Benefits may be reduced by proportion of dependency, if the dependent person only received partial support for expenses from the deceased worker.

    How Can I Protect My Right to Benefits?

    If you are struggling to receive the appropriate workers’ compensation benefits following the death of a loved one, retaining legal representation is recommended. An attorney who is experienced in claims involving fatal accidents can advocate for your needs throughout the process. Since a workers’ compensation attorney will also handle all necessary paperwork and communication with the insurance company on your behalf, this will free you to focus on helping your family through the grieving process.

    Rechtman & Spevak’s legal team has handled many workers’ compensation cases involving fatalities. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
     

     

  • Can my workers’ compensation claim be denied for failing a post-accident drug test?

    If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident, keep in mind that your employer is allowed to request a drug test to determine whether you were under the influence of any illegal substances at the time of the accident. A failed test won’t necessarily prevent you from obtaining compensation for your injuries, but it will make the process of settling your claim more difficult.

    How Long Does My Employer Have to Request a Drug Test?

    Under Georgia’s workers’ compensation law, an employer is permitted to deny an otherwise payable claim if the presence of “any amount of marijuana” or other controlled substance is revealed by a drug test administered within eight hours of the workplace accident.

    Urine tests are the most common, but blood and breath tests are also sometimes used. Workplace drug tests typically look for five categories of illegal substances.

    • Amphetamines such as meth, speed, crank, or ecstasy
    • Marijuana
    • Cocaine
    • Opiates such as heroin, opium, codeine, or morphine
    • Phencyclidine (PCP or angel dust)

    If a test is performed more than eight hours after the accident, the results may not properly be used to deny an otherwise compensable claim.  

    All Georgia employees, whether they work for small family-owned businesses or national firms like Wal-Mart or Lowes, have the same protections regarding drug tests after a workplace accident.

    What Happens If I Refuse to Take a Drug Test?

    It might seem like the easiest way to handle the situation would be to simply refuse to submit to a drug test administered by your employer. However, this approach simply won’t work. Refusing a drug test has the same legal effect as failing the test, since it’s assumed that someone with nothing to hide would be willing to comply with the request to expedite the process of receiving benefits.

    What Are My Rights After a Failed Drug Test?

    If a drug test reveals the presence of illegal substances in your system, this doesn’t necessarily mean your claim will be denied. The law states that a “rebuttable presumption” arises that the accident was caused by the use of an illegal substance, and the burden falls on the claimant to prove otherwise.

    After a failed drug test, the burden of proof is placed on the injured worker to demonstrate that the accident and resulting injuries were not caused by the drugs or alcohol in that person's system. How easy this is to accomplish depends greatly on the circumstances surrounding your injuries. For example, if you were stacking packages at United Parcel Service or FedEx and suffered a broken arm and a concussion after you were hit by a coworker who lost control of a forklift, this injury obviously has nothing to do with your substance use. However, if you were the one driving the forklift, you’d need to prove that you lost control due to a factor other than drug-related impairment.

    Barring the presence of a failed drug test, fault or negligence aren’t factors in determining eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. If you had no illegal drugs in your system, you aren’t required to prove your employer was negligent in creating an unsafe work environment or that your own conduct didn’t cause the accident.

    How Can an Attorney Protect My Right to Compensation?

    You’re not required to retain an attorney to receive workers’ compensation benefits, but having an advocate on your side can be particularly helpful when you’re worried about how a failed drug test will affect your claim.

    Your attorney can gather evidence to establish that your injuries weren’t caused by illegal drug use, including witness testimony, medical records, or surveillance footage. If appropriate, your attorney could also challenge the legitimacy of the drug test itself, such as questioning whether the proper chain of custody was followed for the urine sample you provided.

    The legal team at Rechtman & Spevak is committed to helping Georgia residents receive the workers’ compensation benefits they need to recover from their injuries. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.