Learn about what’s covered (and what’s not) under GA workers’ compensation law
When you’re injured in a workplace accident in Georgia, your first and main concern should be to recover as fully as possible. Medical bills and your ability to work will certainly be a possible cause of stress, but Georgia’s workers’ compensation benefits are fairly comprehensive.
This article discusses the general disability benefits that may be available to you. Consult with a workers’ compensation attorney if you have any questions or concerns about what’s specifically covered in your case.
Overview of Georgia’s workers’ compensation benefits
Injured workers in Georgia typically fall into one of four main categories of workers’ compensation benefits depending on how long they will suffer from the injury and how severe it was. These categories are listed below in order of least to most severe:
Temporary partial disability
Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits apply to workers who can return to light work or a modified version of the job they worked before an accident. These injured employees are often making less money than they did before the accident, so the coverage attempts to fill in this financial gap.
The coverage is two-thirds of the difference between your two salaries. In other words, if you earned $800 a week before your accident but now only make $400 a week, you would receive approximately $265 a week in disability. In Georgia, the maximum you can receive per week, however, is $383.
As these benefits are meant to be temporary, TPD payments stop after 350 weeks or when you reach maximum medical improvement, depending on whichever comes first. Maximum medical improvement refers to whatever capacity your body has to recover from the injury.
Temporary total disability
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are awarded in Georgia if a person is unable to work for at least 7 days. The benefits are meant to cover two-thirds of your weekly salary before your injury occurred, but the maximum amount an employee can receive for TTD is $575 a week. This type of coverage lasts 400 weeks or until you achieve maximum medical improvement.
In some cases, you may never fully recover and you may be able to switch to permanent disability workers’ compensation (see below).
Permanent partial disability
When an employee is injured with permanent damage but has some capacity to still work, Georgia provides benefits known as permanent partial disability (PPD). These benefits have specific criteria and are broken down into what are called “scheduled” and “unscheduled” awards.
Though the name is quite misleading, scheduled awards don’t pertain to a schedule aside from weekly payments. Instead, the word “scheduled” refers to injuries that specifically identified by Georgia as having a specific payment category. Scheduled injuries include damage to fingers, hands, legs, feet, your hearing or your vision. The compensation is two-thirds the difference of your weekly salaries before and after the accident.
Before you receive this form of workers’ compensation, a doctor will assess your “impairment rating” or the loss of the body part that was used. For example, you may have a 50% hearing loss. That 50% is used to determine how long you will receive the weekly payments. The maximum duration of PPD payments for loss of hearing in both ears is 150 weeks. Thus, if you have a 50% loss of hearing, you’ll receive weekly compensation for 75 weeks.
Though the confusing name suggests otherwise, unscheduled awards also refer to weekly disability payments. The term “unscheduled” merely refers to the fact that these injuries aren’t part of he specific list created by Georgia of clear payment amounts. These injuries include damage to your brain, spinal column and other organs.
The maximum duration of unscheduled awards in 300 weeks. Like scheduled awards, the duration of your PPD payments is affected by your impairment rating. If a doctor establishes that you had damage to 30% of your brain, you would receive your disability payments for 90 weeks.
Permanent total disability
Like PPD, permanent total disability (PTD) payments are calculated based on an impairment rating which considers the extent of your injury and other factors. PTD benefits are only awarded after a medical professional declares that your medical treatment is complete. In other words, nothing else can be done to correct the damage connected to your workplace injury.
Permanent total disability is typically awarded in severe injury cases such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations, blindness and paralysis. Though a workers’ compensation attorney is recommended in most workplace accident cases, if you believe you qualify for PTD, we strongly encourage you to consult with a lawyer before your medical evaluation and any paperwork is signed.
Additional workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia
As you can tell from above, most workers’ compensation benefits pertain to your lost wages and inability to work. However, aside from lost income benefits, injured workers in Georgia are also entitled to:
As you might expect, if you’re injured on the job, your workers’ compensation is likely to cover all of your necessary medical bills connected to treatment. Many Georgia employers will provide a list of doctors who are considered to be “approved” medical providers.
If your employer provides you with a list of six doctors (also known as a “panel of physicians”), then you’re typically required to receive treatment from one of those healthcare professionals. Independent medical exams are possible for second opinions, but the process can be tricky.
If you have any concerns regarding your quality of medical care, we encourage you to speak with a workers’ compensation or personal injury attorney in your area.
Because extensive travel may be necessary for medical treatment, Georgia’s workers’ compensation benefits include mileage costs for trips back and forth to the doctor or to receive medical care for the work-related injury.
If you are unable to return to your previous job or place of employment, workers’ compensation benefits may include job placement services and additional career-finding support.
Like other wrongful death claims, the spouse or children of a deceased employee is typically able to receive a form of workers’ compensation known as death benefits. This total is subjective and typically requires some form of litigation, but the family may receive payments of up to two-thirds of the employee’s weekly salary as well as for funeral expenses. Georgia allows up to $7,500 in funeral expenses to the family members of the worker killed in a work-related accident
Filing for workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia
Trying to calculate the benefits you’re entitled to can be an overwhelming experience. Fortunately, you don’t have to face alone. Meeting with a workers’ compensation lawyer will help you understand the benefits you qualify for and will also help make sure that your employer’s insurance company is treating you fairly.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.