Below you will find a list of Frequently Asked Questions in Workers’ Compensation.
If you don’t find the answers to your questions below, don’t hesitate to contact me for a free initial consultation at 770-271-1077. I will be happy to do my best to answer your questions.
Remember, it is not your fault you were injured on the job! You may be surprised to find obstruction, hostility to your work injury. But Georgia law requires these injuries be dealt with under workers’ compensation. With better information, you can decide what steps to take next, whether or not it involves hiring an attorney.
Can they fire me after I am hurt on the job?
Georgia is a “work at will” state, and aside from a few protected instances, either your employer or you, the employee, can terminate the employment relationship without a specific reason. However, the end of your employment does not end the employers’ obligation for compensation of an injury which occurred during your employment with them. The most important thing to do is to immediately document your injury and notice to your employer of that injury, so that if you are terminated, your rights will still be protected and you will receive benefits. Also, keep the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the injury.
What if my supervisor ignores me and refuses to write up an injury report?
This happens more often than you would expect, and is a frequent problem. First, you should send or hand deliver a written letter to a manager or supervisor or your Human Resources Department. Second, the notice forms need to be filed with the State Board, which are not the same as the internal company injury reports. There are numerous statute of limitations running in workers’ compensation cases, one of which is that unless a Notice is filed with the State Board within one year from the date of your injury, you will lose your right to pursue any claim for benefits.
I’ve always been a good employee. Why is my supervisor (or anyone else at my job) being mean to me now after I’ve been hurt?
After you are injured on the job, you become a liability to your employer. No matter what your pasts contribution or record is with the company – even if it has been outstanding – you will now cost them money. Your employer is required (if they have three or more employees) to carry insurance to cover injuries on the job, and the rate of that insurance may go up as a result of claims made or more injuries on the job. None of this is your fault, obviously. And, some employers do the right thing and accept this responsibility under the law. Others, however, do not, and may become outright hostile about it, try to avoid documenting injuries, and intimidate employees into being quiet about it, or putting medical treatment under group insurance instead. These employers are the ones most likely to fire you later, for example, after the company doctor gives you a “normal duty” work release, claiming you now have “attitude issues.” The best thing to do to protect yourself is to, at least, get a consultation with an attorney to discuss your rights in the situation.
The company doctor has released me to return to work on “light duty” status, but my employer does not have light duty work, so now what do I do?
Your employer’s insurance company must pay or continue paying your weekly “temporary total disability” income benefits if your employer does not offer you light duty work. Your employer may offer light duty work if they choose, but if they do not, you continue to receive your weekly checks after you have been released to “light duty” work.
What if my employer offers me a light duty job, but I am not able to do that job due to my injury?
First of all, the requirements of the light duty job must not exceed the doctor’s restrictions. So, if your doctor has limited you to not lifting over ten pounds, whatever light duty job is offered can not require you to lift more than ten pounds. Also, if you have been receiving benefits already, there are strict “notice” requirements the employer must follow. Second, you are only required to make a reasonable effort at attempting to perform the “light duty” job. This situation is one of the most difficult to handle, and it is very important to get advice from an attorney. The requirements for both your employer and you, the injured worker, are complicated. If you do not understand and perform your side of it, you can lose your weekly benefits, and potentially jeopardize your claim. On the other hand, if you continue working at a job that exceeds your ability, you can easily re-injure yourself or aggravate your original injury. It is important to seek legal advice if this issue if it comes up for you, to avoid these problems.
Do I have to go to the company doctor or can I choose my own doctor?
In some circumstances, you can choose your own doctor. for example, if the employer denies you any medical treatment, or does not have a valid panel of physicians available, then you can choose your own doctor. In other circumstances, you will need to at least start with the company doctor selected from the panel.
You are entitled to a second opinion, through a another doctor off the panel or an independent medical evaluation, which they have to pay for, if you are receiving weekly benefits, up to 120 days after those benefits stop. A second opinion is important , especially if the company doctor seems biased against you or is not being fair in terms of the work restrictions or the opinions generally.
If I file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, will I have to quit my job?
No. Sometimes after a claim is filed, the issues are resolved, and the employment continued. Filing a “notice only” claim with the Board only preserves your right to a hearing if you ever need to litigate an issue. Normally, the only thing which involves a resignation is a final settlement of your claim, which is always a choice on your part, and the employer both, as an agreement, and is never required. Many factors go into deciding to settle your claim. I do not pressure clients (and it is unethical to do so) to settle a claim in favor of keeping employment or for any reason.
Will I owe money for attorney fees if I hire a lawyer? What exactly is a “contingency fee” and how does that work?
Attorney fees in workers’ compensation, which are regulated by the State Board, are limited by law to 25% of the benefits recovered as the result of litigation or a final settlement of the claim. You (as the client) pay nothing up front, and you never owe any attorney fees if there is no recovery of benefits or settlement in your case. Also, no attorney fees or percentage is taken out of benefits which are the employer/insurer pays voluntarily in your claim, regardless of whether that happens before or after you hire a lawyer. One of the reasons to hire an attorney in your claim, is sometimes to monitor the progress, and make sure benefits are paid as they should be, in a full and timely manner, medical treatment is provided, and so on. No attorney fee is owed until and unless a full and final settlement is reached.