Understanding who can file and when
A workers’ comp claim seems like an easy concept: You get injured on the job and your employer pays for your recovery. Unfortunately, the ins and out of workers’ comp claims in Georgia is a lot more complicated than that.
Here’s our guide to Georgia workers’ comp claims to help you understand the process and know what to expect with regard to eligibility.
Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act
Workers’ compensation laws are pretty new in the legal world. The laws began in each state in the early 1900s and protected workers as industrialization boomed in the US. The laws were faulty back then, and didn’t protect many of the injured workers. The employees, for example, almost never received a jury trial.
The rules and regulations evolved over time, and each state incorporated these laws into their official codes and statutes. All of Georgia’s workers’ comp laws are now found in Chapter 9 of the Georgia Code.
What is workers’ compensation insurance?
Workers’ comp insurance is just another name for your employer’s insurance policy. By law, all Georgia businesses with 3 or more employees must have insurance coverage for workers’ comp claims. This insurance is the policy that covers all injuries, accidents, diseases and death that could occur at work. When you file a claim, the funds for your treatment and lost wages come from the insurance company.
It's important to mention that workers’ comp claims aren’t taxable. You’re entitled to the full amount of your claim, and the government can’t place a tax on your compensation.
Who qualifies for workers’ comp?
All traditional employees are covered by workers’ compensation laws in Georgia. As long as your company has more than 3 employees, and you were injured in a work accident, the general requirements are satisfied.
Below are 2 of the more complicated employee situations regarding workers’ comp.
Independent contractors in Georgia
Many independent contractors falsely believe that they can’t recover workers’ compensation. In a sense, these employees are “self-employed” but are hired by other employers to complete tasks. Despite an employee not being the traditional W-2 employee, many independent contractors may have enough contact with an employer to be covered by workers’ comp if they’re injured on the job.
When evaluating workers’ comp claims for independent contractors in Georgia, the following factors will be considered:
- The payment method
- Length of time working for the employer
- Whether you or the employer choose and manage the materials and tools
- Whether you or the employer decide your hours per week
- What you and your employer intended when they created a work contract (i.e. were you in the process of receiving an official position within the company or was the position intended to be short-term)
- Whether or not the employer has the right to hire and fire you
The criteria are difficult to analyze and you have no way of knowing how your claim will be processed without the help of a legal professional. If you’re an independent contractor in Georgia and were injured at a job site, you need to speak with a workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible to make sure your claim is managed properly.
Telecommuters and remote workers
The issue of telecommuters and remote workers is a grey area in employment law. Though these cases were dismissed early on, the increase in remote work among today’s job market has changed the face of workers’ comp. Now, most states require that employers provide workers’ comp for telecommuting and remote employees. As a result, employees who work off-site and/or at home may file a claim for workers’ comp.
In order to receive workers’ comp for a remote position, you must have been injured within the scope of employment. It’s up to your employer to clearly define the your job responsibilities, and if your injury was clearly connected to your job, then there’s a good chance you may recover. These claims are more subjective than other workers’ comp cases, so it’s strongly encouraged that you speak with a Georgia workers’ comp attorney if you’re recovering from a telecommuting or remote work accident.
The statutes of limitation for workers’ comp claims
One of the most important aspects of managing your workers’ comp claim is that it’s filed on time. Below are 3 Georgia statutes of limitations to keep in mind:
Claims for new injuries or health conditions
In Georgia, an employee may file a claim for workers’ comp whenever they’re injured on the job. Similarly, an employee may pursue compensation if the employee develops a disease or disorder connected to their job. These ailments can come from exposure to chemicals, repeated heavy lifting and overall unsafe conditions.
If you want to pursue workers’ comp from a workplace accident, you have 1 year from the actual accident to pursue the claim, as stated in §34-9-82 of the Georgia code. Georgia law, however, also states that the accident must have at least been reported to the appropriate supervisor or manager within 30 days of the incident.
If you’re suffering from a disease connected to your employment, such as asbestos exposure or respiratory issues, the statute of limitations is 1 year from the medical appointment that revealed your diagnosis. If your occupational disease stems from exposure to a hazardous chemical or other dangerous condition, your medical diagnosis must come within 7 years of your last date of exposure.
Wrongful death claims
If your loved one was killed in an accident where they worked, a wrongful death claim may also be available as part of workers’ compensation. The statute of limitations for these claims is 1 year from when the accident occurred.
Claims for continuing payments
Workers’ comp claims aren’t just for new or recent health problems. A claim can also be filed if an employer stops paying for your medical treatments or if they stop paying your weekly income benefits.
In order to file a claim to reinstate payments, you must file within 1 year of your last medical treatment covered by your employer or 2 years from your last weekly income payment.
It’s important to note that the process and time limits may be different if your employer was paying you “off the books” or simply not according to the official workers’ comp laws. If you have any questions regarding what your employer is required to continue paying you, you should speak to a qualified workers’ comp attorney.
The difference between workers’ comp and personal injury claims
Though Georgia employers are required to provide workers’ compensation for their employees, the payments received may not be as comprehensive as those associated with personal injury lawsuits. Pain and suffering, for example, isn’t covered by workers’ comp benefits.
Despite the financial limitations, personal injury cases aren’t available for most workplace accidents. You may only file a personal injury claim if your accident was caused by a third party. An equipment manufacturer, for example, would be a third party who would be a possible defendant to the personal injury case.
The other possibility for a personal injury lawsuit is if your employer’s direct wrongdoing caused your accident. There are 3 scenarios that will most likely to allow you to sue your employer for damages in a civil case:
- If you were intentionally injured by your boss
- If your boss engaged in a criminal act
- If your boss committed an act of gross negligence
Here again, if you have concerns as to whether or not you’re eligible for a personal injury claim against your boss, a consultation with a Georgia workers’ comp attorney is strongly encouraged.