Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Workers’ Compensation
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What's my workers' comp claim worth?
The injuries sustained in on-the-job accidents can be painful both physically and financially. Injured workers may face unexpected debt while they are unable to work as they wait for their injuries to heal.
Fortunately, in Georgia, injured employees are eligible for workers' compensation benefits, which includes temporary disability payments and payment of related medical expenses.
Determining The Value Of A Claim
Workers' compensation settlements have to be agreed upon by the injured worker and the employer and their insurer. If all parties don't agree, then there is no settlement. The value of workers' compensation claims varies and depends on a number of factors, including:
- Severity of the injury
- Amount of the injured employee's weekly benefits
- How long the employee is expected to be disabled from working
- Past and estimated future medical costs
- Age of the injured worker
The more serious an injury, the more likely it is to require continuing medical treatment and significant future time off from work. The greater these anticipated costs, the more valuable the claim. As a result, workers with claims involving severe or catastrophic injuries tend to receive larger settlements than employees with relatively minor injuries.
Temporary Total Disability Benefits
Under Georgia's Workers' Compensation Law, injured employees are entitled to collect temporary total disability benefits equaling two-thirds of their average weekly pay (before taxes are deducted) each week for as long as their injuries prevent them from returning to work. The injured worker can receive these benefits for up to 400 weeks, or for the rest of their life if their claim has been deemed catastrophic. Again, the longer you and the insurer believe you will be entitled to continuing income benefits, the more the case will be worth in settlement.
An injured worker's average weekly wage is calculated based on the employee's pay for the previous 13 weeks. Individuals employed fewer than 13 weeks are compensated based on the average weekly wage of a similar employee who works in the same position for the employer as the injured worker. The maximum benefit rate is set by the Georgia legislature. Currently, the maximum benefit payable to injured workers in Georgia is $575 per week.
Consult an Experienced Workers' Compensation Lawyer
If you were injured on the job, you may have questions about the value of your case or the workers' compensation benefits to which you're entitled. The knowledgeable workers' compensation lawyers at Rechtman & Spevak have extensive experience helping injured workers. Our skilled legal team is happy to answer your questions and address your concerns to ensure you understand your rights, as well as all the options available to you.
Contact our Atlanta law office today to schedule an appointment for a free initial case consultation.
What's the process for filing a workers' compensation claim in Georgia?
Victims of workplace accidents often face medical bills they can't afford and time away from work that further strains financial resources. But workers injured during the regular scope of employment are usually eligible for benefits through the state workers' compensation system, such as medical benefits, rehabilitation support, and supplemental income.
Workers Compensation Process in Georgia
In Georgia, the process for filing a workers' compensation claim isn't difficult. However, employers and their workers' compensation insurance carriers don't always treat injured individuals or their claims fairly. Having an experienced workers' compensation attorney by their side can help job accident victims level the playing field and receive the benefits they deserve.
Complete a Form WC-14
The first step of the process is to file a completed Form WC-14 with the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation and send a copy to the employer and its workers' compensation insurance carrier. An attorney can file this claim electronically.
An injured worker and his or her attorney can request a hearing if the employer and its insurer fail to provide the appropriate benefits.
The Discovery Process
Then, both parties move through the discovery process, during which each side can request documents, and serve one another with written questions called interrogatories. The worker may be asked to provide a deposition, also known as an oral testimony, which typically takes place in the attorney's office.
In cases where there's a dispute regarding the injured workers' medical treatment, he or she may be asked complete an independent medical examination. This request may be issued by the insurer to get another opinion about the injuries, as well as the victim's attorney to bolster the case.
Ultimately, the case is heard before an administrative law judge. However, most workers' compensation cases are settled long before they reach a courtroom.
Speak To an Atlanta Workers' Compensation Attorney Today
If you were injured on the job, the knowledgeable Georgia workers' compensation attorneys with Rechtman & Spevak can help ensure you receive the benefits you need and deserve. To schedule a free consultation right away to discuss your legal options, use the convenient contact information below.
How can I maximize my workers’ compensation claim?
Workers’ compensation benefits provide a vital safety net for employees who’ve been injured on the job. However, it’s crucial that you actively advocate for your right to a fair settlement.
Report Your Accident Immediately
Even if you’re only mildly uncomfortable, report your accident as soon as it happens. It’s quite possible that your initial discomfort may turn into something more serious. If this happens and your employer has no record of your accident, they will likely argue that you were hurt outside of the workplace. When it comes to your workers’ compensation benefits, a “wait and see” approach should be avoided at all costs.
Many employers have internal deadlines regarding accident reporting, with some being as short as 24 hours. Georgia law requires that the report must be made within 30 days of the event. When you report your injury, provide as many details as you can regarding the circumstances of the accident. Ask any coworkers who saw the incident to verify that your account is accurate.
Create a Detailed Paper Trail
Once you’ve reported your injury, keep detailed records regarding the progress of your claim. Ask for copies of medical exams and test results as well as any other expenses you’ve incurred as the result of your injuries. Keep an appointment log noting the date, time, and name of every contact person you speak to regarding your case.
Lining up witnesses to testify on your behalf can also be useful in boosting your compensation. For example, you might ask friends or family members to provide statements regarding the effect your injuries have had on your daily activities.
Listen to Your Doctor
Refusing to follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your medical care may result in your benefits being denied. You’re within your rights to ask for information regarding treatment side effects and any potential risk, but skipping appointments altogether will send the message that you’re not fully invested in your recovery.
Listening to your doctor also means following any recommendations regarding what activities you can and can’t do. If you’re not supposed to be lifting anything heavier than 25 pounds, don’t decide to use your time off work to landscape your front lawn. Many insurance companies will use private investigators to verify that you’re being truthful about your injuries, so being seen engaged in unauthorized physical activity will severely damage your case.
Remember That the Insurance Adjuster Isn’t Your Friend
An insurance adjuster's job is to make decisions that are best for the insurer's bottom line. He doesn’t care if you need a settlement to help pay your mortgage or student loans. The first offer you receive will likely be much less than what your claim is truly worth. Negotiating for the compensation you deserve is a must.
One common mistake that injured workers make is assuming that a denied claim is final. A large number of claims are initially denied, but an experienced workers' compensation attorney can turn that denial into a settlement on your behalf. Don't give up if your claim is denied. Instead, you should immediately contact an attorney for a consultation.
Seek Legal Assistance
It’s difficult to be objective about your claim when you’re focusing on recovering from your injuries and worried about how to pay your bills. Our skilled workers’ compensation attorneys can help prepare your case and advocate for the highest settlement available.
Your attorney will take into consideration factors such as:
- Your work restrictions.
- Your permanent partial disability rating.
- Your previous earnings.
- Past medical expenses.
- Future medical expenses.
Your attorney can also investigate the possibility of third-party claims. If another party’s negligence caused or contributed to your injury, this can substantially increase your compensation. For example, you may be eligible to pursue a personal injury claim against the manufacturer of faulty equipment or the driver of another vehicle that caused your work-related accident.
Rechtman & Spevak is dedicated to helping Georgia residents receive fair and timely workers’ compensation settlements. Please call 404-355-2688 or fill out our online contact form to get started with a free, no-obligation consultation.
How much does it cost to hire a workers' compensation lawyer in Georgia?
After a job-related accident, an individual may be seriously injured; temporarily—or even permanently—unable to work; and face an onslaught of unexpected medical debt. Fortunately, in Georgia, employees injured in workplace accidents or within the scope of their regular employment are often entitled to workers' compensation benefits.
Workers Compensation Program Overview
The workers' compensation system is an accident insurance program paid for by employers. The system's benefits cover authorized medical expenses, lost wages, and temporary disability payments for individuals injured on the job.
While workers' compensation claimants aren't required to prove negligence in order to collect benefits, this doesn't mean they don't need an attorney. Some workplace accident victims may be hesitant to hire a workers' compensation lawyer out of concern fees are beyond their financial means.
What Do Workers Comp Lawyers Charge?
Financial woes should never prevent a victim from fighting for the justice and the benefits they deserve.
That's why many workers' compensation attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis. This means they provide victims with legal services for little or no upfront costs, and instead take their fees out of the settlement the victim receives when their cases are resolved.
Advantage of Hiring A Workers Comp Attorney
In Georgia, workers' compensation attorneys are paid up to 25 percent of a successful settlement—this amount is regulated by state law. Though some accident victims may be tempted to handle their own cases in an effort to save money, it can actually end up costing them in the long run. Multiple studies show that injured workers represented by experienced workers' compensation attorneys tend to receive larger settlements than those who choose to represent themselves.
Consult a Knowledgeable Georgia Workers' Compensation Attorney
On-the-job accidents and injuries can threaten to cause a lot of upheaval in your life, but an experienced workers' compensation lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options, look out for your interests, and maximize your claim.
To request a free consultation, contact Rechtman & Spevak today using the phone numbers on this page, or complete the brief online contact form.
What are the pros and cons of accepting a workers' compensation settlement?
If you were hurt on the job or while performing duties within the course and scope of your employment, you may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits, including coverage for reasonable medical expenses and lost wages.
Once you've filed a Georgia workers' compensation claim, you may be faced with the decision of whether to accept a settlement or to take your chances in court.
Before making your decision, consider the most important pros and cons of accepting a workers' compensation settlement:
- PRO: an end to litigation. Litigating a workers' compensation claim in court can be lengthy, expensive, and emotionally grueling. Accepting a settlement allows you to bypass the uncertain trial process and collect a lump sum of money.
- CON: you may get less than you deserve. Insurance companies and their attorneys know just how frustrating litigating a workers' compensation claim can be, which is why they may offer an unfairly low settlement amount with the hope you'll be tempted to take it.
An experienced Georgia workers' compensation attorney can help you determine whether accepting a settlement is in your best interest.
Our Legal Experts Will Help You Make the Right Decision
While a lump sum may mean having access to more money more quickly, it may not be sufficient to meet your needs if you're suffering from a long-term injury or illness. Additionally, accepting a lump sum settlement can also be problematic if you haven't yet reached maximum medical improvement, as it is sometimes difficult to estimate the amount needed for future medical expenses.
Do you have questions about a settling a Georgia workers' compensation case? Contact Rechtman & Spevak today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case with a member of our knowledgeable legal team.
After a workplace injury, can I be forced to take PTO for related doctor visits and physical therapy?
The answer to this question depends on many factors, including company policies and, if you're in a union, what's spelled out in the union contract.
Employees hurt in the workplace—or while performing duties within the course and scope of employment—may be entitled to a range of workers' compensation benefits. For employees out of work for seven or more days due to their injuries, these benefits can include temporary total disability payments of two-thirds their weekly wage. This is up to a maximum of $575 each week. Individuals receiving these benefits receive workers' compensation for their time, including whatever is necessary for related doctor visits and physical therapy.
Georgia workers approved for light duty may receive temporary partial disability payments through workers' compensation to make up for lower wages. People receiving these benefits are often still recovering from their injuries, necessitating periodic doctors' appointments and physical therapy visits. In such cases, this time away from work is often covered by workers' compensation.
However, employees with work restrictions who can return to work full time are often at the mercy of company policies regarding medical appointments and time off. As a result, employees may be forced to use PTO for workplace injury-related appointments or take the time unpaid.
Additionally, employees who were off work for fewer than seven days and ineligible for workers' compensation temporary partial or total disability payments, will likely be expected to use PTO for their doctors'
and physical therapy appointments, or take time off without being paid.
If you're part of a union but not familiar with the particular contract guidelines regarding workers' comp and medical appointments, your union steward should be able to answer any questions.
Consult a Knowledgeable Georgia Attorney About Workers' Comp
If you were injured in a Georgia workplace accident, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The skilled attorneys with Rechtman & Spevak can help you understand your legal rights and options, and ensure you receive the proper benefits.
Do you have questions about your workers' compensation case? Contact us today to arrange an appointment for a free initial consultation.
Can I get out of my workers’ compensation settlement after I sign the papers?
This is one of the most common questions workers' compensation attorneys receive. While there are many reasons why injured workers might want to revoke or get out of a settlement agreement after signing the papers, not only is that easier said than done, but it's only possible in a few specific circumstances.
Knowledge of the settlement process is vital to understanding just why revoking a workers' compensation agreement can be so difficult.
- Once the involved parties agree to a settlement, they sign a stipulated settlement agreement, which is then sent to the State Board of Workers' Compensation (SBWC) for approval.
- After the board approves the agreement, the settlement is final, parties are locked in, and the case can't be reopened—not even if the claimant's injuries were worse than initially realized.
However, there's a short window of time—after the stipulation settlement agreement is signed and before it's approved by the SBWC—during which it may be possible to back out of a workers' compensation settlement agreement.
For example, an insurance company may withdraw from a settlement if the claimant died before the board approved an agreement. Likewise, a claimant could potentially get out of a workers' compensation settlement agreement during this same brief window if the doctor treating his or her workplace injuries determines the need for different or additional treatment.
Consult a Skilled Georgia Workers' Comp Attorney
If you were injured in the workplace, you might be counting on a workers' compensation settlement to help you get back on your feet and back to the job. The experienced attorneys with Rechtman & Spevak can investigate your Georgia workers' compensation claim, and guide you through each step of the settlement process. They can even help you determine the best time to settle, so there are no nasty surprises or a reason to get out of an agreement.
Were you hurt on the job in Georgia? Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.
Can my workers' compensation claim be denied if I lied about my medical history on a job application?
It's possible. Eager to be hired, some job hunters may gloss over previous injuries in their medical histories or overstate their physical abilities on applications.
While these deceptive tactics may help applicants get a wanted job, should they suffer a workplace injury, this misrepresentation of their medical conditions can jeopardize any future chances to collect workers' compensation benefits.
What Does Georgia Law Say About Lying?
Georgia workers' compensation laws allow employers to deny injury claims based on certain types of employee misconduct. This includes instances in which employees lie about their medical histories and then later suffer new injuries related to undisclosed or misstated conditions.
However, when using this defense to deny a worker's injury claim, employers must first prove the following:
- The employee in question knowingly and willingly falsely represented his or her physical condition during the application and hiring process
- The employer relied on the employee's false representation and it was a substantial factor in the hiring decision
- The falsely-represented past injury caused or contributed to the employee's workplace injury
Known as the “Rycroft defense,” it's designed to protect employers from undeserved liability for employee injuries. However, some employers may attempt to use this defense unjustly, resulting in the denial of valid workers' compensation claims.
Consult an Experienced Workers' Compensation Attorney
There's a lot at stake after an on-the-job injury. A skilled workers' compensation attorney can help injured employees understand their legal rights and options, help them avoid mistakes that could cause their claims to be denied, and ensure they're treated fairly by employers and their insurance companies.
If you were injured on the job, only to have your employer claim your injury was related to a misrepresentation in your application, the knowledgeable attorneys with Rechtman & Spevak can help you build a strong case and fight for the workers' compensation benefits you need and deserve.
Do you have questions about a denied workers' compensation claim? Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.
What is subrogation and how could it affect my workers' comp claim?
The short answer: subrogation is a process used by insurance companies to get back money paid on insurance claims. They're allowed to do this in some cases, but only after you've received full compensation for your workers' compensation injuries. Here's what you should know.
How Subrogation Works
If you were injured in an on-the-job construction accident, depending on the circumstances of the incident, you may have multiple avenues for compensation.
For example, if you were hurt in a work-related car accident, caused by a negligent third-party subcontractor making a delivery, you may have grounds for a workers' compensation claim against your employer, as well as a personal injury lawsuit against the liable third party.
Workers' compensation benefits include reasonably-related medical expenses, temporary total disability benefits, and permanent partial disability benefits, while personal injury lawsuits allow you to pursue a broader range of additional compensation, including your actual lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, scarring or disfigurement, and more.
While there are numerous advantages to filing a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent third party, your employer's workers' compensation insurer may attempt recoup the money it paid to you in benefits using subrogation.
What The Employer Must Prove Before Taking Money Back
However, in Georgia, before an employer or its insurer can recover money on a subrogation claim, they must show that you were fully compensated for all your accident-related economic and non-economic losses. For injured workers whose financial recoveries are limited by a negligent third party's inadequate insurance policy limits, employers and their insurers are often unable to meet their burden of proof. When that happens, the employer/insurer is not entitled to any recovery on their subrogation claim. A skilled Georgia personal injury attorney with workers' compensation case experience can help ensure you receive all the compensation you're owed for your workplace injury.
Consult an Attorney About Your Workers' Compensation Case
If you were injured on the job by a third party and received compensation through workers' compensation and have a personal injury claim, you may subject to subrogation. The seasoned attorneys with Rechtman & Spevak can review your case to determine if you were truly made whole, and fight for your right to retain the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case.
What should I do if I need to see a specialist and there isn't one listed on my employer's panel of physicians?
After sustaining a serious injury on the job, it's understandable that injured workers would want access to care from the best doctors to treat their conditions. Unfortunately, when it comes to seeing a doctor, you're often limited to providers on your employer's approved panel of physicians.
While it's not impossible to see a specialist for a workplace injury, it does require jumping through a few hoops. Here's a look at the process.
Seeing an Authorized Doctor
Start by seeing a doctor from your employer's approved panel of physicians. In Georgia, the law specifies that these panels be comprised of at least six doctors, and include one orthopedic physician; no more than two industrial clinics; and at least one minority physician. The authorized doctor from the panel can refer you to a specialist, but they aren't always willing to do so.
If this happens, you still have a few options, including:
- Seeing a different doctor from the approved panel. You can switch to another doctor on the panel once without prior approval, and that physician could refer you to a specialist.
- Requesting an independent medical examination (IME). If it's been fewer than 120 days since you last received income benefits, you can request a one-time IME with any doctor of your choosing, and use that to schedule an appointment with a specialist.
- Presenting the IME report to your treating physician from the panel. After presenting the report, you can request to be referred to a specialist.
- Filing a request for a hearing seeking a change of physician. A workers' compensation attorney can help with this.
Sometimes, even if a doctor refers you to a specialist, your employer's workers' compensation insurance provider may decline to authorize the visit. This is particularly common for illnesses which are likely to require ongoing treatment, but for which there are no diagnostic tests to confirm progress. A prime example of this is psychiatric treatment.
Consult an Experienced Workers' Compensation Attorney
Are you struggling to obtain the medical care that you need after being injured in a workplace accident? The knowledgeable workers' compensation attorneys with Rechtman & Spevak can help. Contact us today to request an appointment for a free initial case consultation.