Healthcare workers on the front lines have always risked their own health and safety to help the patients who need them. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, nurses and first responders are at greater risk than they have ever been. Both of these groups of essential workers are at high risk for a workplace injury, but what options do they have if they can no longer work because of an injury? We take a look at the current status of Georgia workers’ compensation for healthcare workers on the front lines.
Filing a New Claim for Workers’ Compensation
First things first: if you are a nurse or first responder who was injured on the job, don’t be afraid to pursue a claim for workers’ compensation. New claims are being processed; however, you will face some challenges.
After reporting the injury to your employer, you need to get medical treatment. If it is an emergency, you can see any doctor but, otherwise, you will need to see a doctor from your employer’s panel of physicians. During the COVID-19 crisis, you might not be able to get an appointment with one of these doctors, or if you do, it may only be a telephone consultation. Even if you do get a consultation, you probably won’t be able to follow through on all of the treatment recommendations.
You can and should still file a claim with Georgia’s State Board of Workers’ Compensation and send copies to your employer and their insurance company. How quickly things move after that is anyone’s guess right now.
However, you can make sure you are doing all you can to get the compensation you deserve by talking to one of our workers’ compensation attorneys. Now more than ever, it’s important to have an advocate on your side to protect your rights.
What If You Have an Existing Claim?
If you are currently collecting workers’ comp, you will also face some challenges. You might not be able to get the treatment you need to recover from your injury, which will affect your recovery timeline. Your light-duty assignment may have been eliminated, and you now need income benefits. While all hearings have been postponed by judicial order, some workers’ comp issues are still still being resolved via teleconference with the judges. Now is the time to consult our experienced legal team to find out what you should do to protect your benefits.
What Risks do Nurses and First Responders Face During the Pandemic?
The work that nurses, EMTs, police officers, and firefighters do has always carried risk. These brave men and women willingly take those risks to serve the public. However, they are facing even greater dangers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Nurses. In ordinary times, many nurses experience repetitive stress injuries, slip and falls, exertion injuries, chronic back pain, needle pricks, and exposure to infectious disease. In the current crisis, hospitals are understaffed, and nurses are working longer hours and dealing with increased patient loads. Many nurses have been called to work outside of their normal areas of expertise at Emory Healthcare, Northside Hospital, or Piedmont Healthcare, and their inexperience puts them at risk. Exhaustion, exposure to the coronavirus, unprecedented death rates, and the lack of clear procedures have created an incredibly stressful environment for Atlanta nurses, increasing the likelihood of a serious injury or occupational disease.
- First responders. Typical causes of injury for first responders normally include violent attacks, vehicle accidents, exertion, exposure to toxins and infectious disease, and hazardous surroundings. As most of us are asked to stay home to stay safe, first responders are required to risk their lives responding to emergencies. EMTs working for companies such as Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service are at high risk for contracting the coronavirus as well as sustaining other serious injuries.
If you are an essential worker on the front lines of this crisis, we are here to help.
Call Rechtman & Spevak With Your Questions
We applaud the work our nurses and first responders are doing—you are our heroes during this uncertain time. We want you to know that the lawyers and staff at Rechtman & Spevak are available to help you with your legal matters. We are offering free virtual consultations via video conference in lieu of in-person meetings, and we are also accessible through e-mail, text, and phone. If you have a question about a new or existing workers’ comp claim, please reach out to us as soon as possible.