Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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Workers who are hurt during the course and scope of their employment may be entitled to substantial compensation in the form of temporary or permanent disability payments, medical treatment, and other benefits. Although the injured employee is not required to prove that the employer was “at fault,” the worker does have certain obligations and must meet the statutory requirements in order to receive certain benefits.

Facts of the Case

A recent decision from the Georgia Board of Workers’ Compensation resolved a claim for temporary total disability (TTD) filed by a 41-year-old concrete trucker who was allegedly hurt in an accident on the job in June 2015. The defendant employer did not begin paying TTD benefits to the employee until March 2016, and he sought payment of benefits from the date of his injury up until the time the employer began paying him TTD benefits. The employee also asked the Board to require the employer to pay certain medical expenses for which it had denied responsibility.

shutterstock_100154162-300x200There are many factors that can complicate an Atlanta workers’ compensation case. One of the most common of these is a prior work injury. The employer and its insurance company will often dispute a new injury claim in such situations, arguing that the employee’s current condition is due to the old injury rather than a subsequent accident or a work-related aggravation of the condition at his or her present place of employment.

If you find yourself in such a situation, the best course of action is to speak to a lawyer about your case as soon as possible. While not every work injury case is winnable when there are complications like a previous injury, your chances are considerably improved when you have a trained professional advocating for you.

Facts of the Case

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Which types of injuries are considered compensable in a Georgiaworkers’ compensation case? The short answer is “most, but, unfortunately, not all.” For example, if there is an explosion at work, and a worker is killed, the worker’s family will probably be entitled to death benefits on the deceased employee’s behalf. If a second worker is physically injured in the explosion, but he or she is not killed, that person may be entitled to benefits for medical expenses and time off from work due to injuries suffered in the accident.

But what if, instead of being physically injured, the second worker claims a psychological injury – not from what happened to him, per se, but from knowing that a co-worker later died as a result of the accident?

Facts of the Case

calculatorUnfortunately, not every employer fully complies with the duties and responsibilities placed on them by the Georgia workers’ compensation laws. Sometimes, an employer may totally deny a claim, while other times the employer may only deny particular benefits sought by a person hurt at work. For example, an employer might admit that a worker was injured on the job and may be willing to pay for the employee’s medical care but deny the employee’s request for light duty work or temporary disability benefits.

In such situations, the employee may be without a remedy until his or her case makes it through the appropriate administrative tribunals. However, there may be a chance that he or she can use other benefits at work – short or long term disability insurance, for instance – while the claim proceeds (although there are some risks in doing so). In such cases, there may need to be an adjustment or repayment of these benefits later, if the employee’s workers’ compensation case is successful.

Facts of the Case

operating roomWhen someone is hurt at work, his or her employer (or its workers’ compensation insurance carrier) must provide certain medical benefits to the employee.

However, this is not a blank check for the injured worker to have any and all medical treatment that he or she believes would help alleviate the problems caused by the work accident. Instead, there are certain rules and procedures that must be followed in order for there to be an obligation upon the employer or its insurer to pay for a particular treatment. As with other issues in Georgia workers’ compensation cases, the employee has the burden of proof in convincing the workers’ compensation board that he or she is entitled to the relief sought.

Facts and Issues

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Generally in the law, a defendant “takes the plaintiff as he finds him,” even if the plaintiff had some pre-existing malady that made him or her more susceptible to injury. This is usually true in workers’ compensation as well, in which the law holds an employer liable for work-related incidents or injuries that aggravate a pre-existing condition.

Of course, employers frequently question whether an injury truly “aggravated” the condition or whether the pre-existing condition itself is the sole cause of the employee’s current complaint. Unless there is some connection between the disabling condition and the on-the-job accident, the employer is not responsible for paying benefits to the claimant. The same is true in situations in which the worker’s ailment reverts back to the baseline condition.

Facts of the Case

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Those who are hurt on the job may not be able to return to their regular duties, either temporarily or permanently. This can affect the amount of benefits to which an injured employee in an Atlanta workers’ compensation case is entitled, so it is an important distinction.

From a monetary standpoint, the employer (or its insurance company) typically pays out a much smaller amount in benefits when an employee is able to go back to his or her regular job following a work injury. Thus, there is a substantial financial incentive to try to get an injured employee back on the job as soon as possible.

However, the employee may or may not be physically capable of performing the tasks that he or she did prior to the accident. Each situation is unique, and the issue of whether the employee made a meaningful return to pre-injury employment must be decided on the specific facts of each case. In addition, there is a specific process that must be followed when an employer wants to bring an injured employee back to modified duty work.

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construction workerIn handling a wide variety of Atlanta workers’ compensation cases, we hear many of the same questions over and over. One of those questions is, “Will I be fired if I report a work injury?”

The answer can be complicated. In Georgia, employees can be terminated legally for virtually any reason. Can you be fired for reporting a work injury? Yes, it happens all the time. Will you be fired if you report an on the job injury? Well, it depends. Different employers and managers have different policies on this issue that may or may not comply with State and Federal law. The better question is….what can be done to enforce the terminated employee’s rights given the circumstances of the firing?

Can I Be Legally Fired?

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Since we represent so many injured employees in Atlanta workers’ compensation cases, we are used to answering certain questions like, “Who will pay my medical bills? How much temporary disability can I draw? What will happen if I can’t go back to work due to my injury?”

Another question that we hear a lot is, “Is it legal for me to say my injury was not work-related? My boss told me to say this, and I don’t know what to do.” The answer to this question is a very resounding, “NO!” Not only do you compromise your right to receive the compensation to which you are entitled, but also you could be implicated for criminal fraud.

Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law Requires That a Report Be Made

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If you take a cursory look at the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation website, you might believe that filing a claim for workers’ compensation is a relatively pain-free process that involves only the completion of a simple form.

While it is true that an employee must complete and file a WC-14 form with the Board (with copies to the employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier), this is only the beginning of what can be a very long and often highly contentious process.

Unfortunately, obtaining the workers’ compensation benefits one is due can be a difficult endeavor, so much so that the nonprofit organization Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) conducted an investigation into the problems many, including Georgians, have getting the help they need after a work injury. The recent study found that nearly one out of five Georgians injured at work who experienced more than seven days lost time reported “‘big problems’ getting services they or their primary provider wanted.” Among those, more than half of the responses gave the reason as “employer or insurer did not want the care provided” as the reason. The research also concluded that Georgia had one of the lowest return to work rates in the country.