In some parts of the country, the adoption of a system that fixes the amount of benefits paid by employers while providing medical and income benefits for injured workers is over 100 years old. Georgia has a few years to go before the centennial – it didn’t adopt workers’ compensation until 1920, the 42nd state to do so. The rise of industrialization and the corresponding increase in work-related injuries eventually made the old common law system of employer liability obsolete in every state.
Instead, it became obvious that meeting the needs of injured workers and their employers was better served if each side made a tradeoff, so that the employers bore the cost of work-related injuries because they could buy insurance to cover the losses. Employers gave up their common law defenses, but gained monetary limits on their liabilities. Employees gave up their right to sue, but gained quick and certain amounts of compensation.
The system in Georgia allows for the following types of benefits (but only one type of benefit is payable at a time):
1) Medical Benefits
An injured worker is entitled to reimbursement of money spent on medical care related to a qualifying injury or illness, including surgery, hospital care, physical therapy, prescriptions, and related travel expenses. To be covered, the treatment must be related to the on-the-job injury and be prescribed by an “authorized” physician. These physicians are listed in a “panel of physicians” that the employer is required to post on their premises in an accessible, prominent location. In an emergency, the worker can get temporary medical care from the nearest emergency location available, but once it is over, he or she must continue care by selecting a doctor from the list of physicians. In the event of a catastrophic accident, basic rehabilitative services are covered, including costs for vocational rehabilitation.
2) Temporary Disability Benefits
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are available if an approved physician determines an injured worker cannot work for a period of time. The benefits are paid at up to two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage earned at the time of the injury or illness, and cannot total an amount greater than $500 a week. Unless the injury is “catastrophic” (loss of a limb, severe burn, etc.), payment of benefits is limited to 400 weeks from the date of injury.
Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits are available if the injured employee can return to work, but only at a job that involves lighter duty and less pay. The benefits are paid at up to two-thirds of the difference between the worker’s average weekly wage before and after the injury, and cannot total an amount greater than $500 a week. Payment of benefits is limited to 350 weeks from the date of injury.
3) Permanent Disability Benefits
These benefits are payable only after an injured worker has exhausted the 400-week temporary total disability benefits, the 350-week temporary partial disability benefits or has returned to work. Within 30 days after those benefits have ended, the employer or insurer must request an “impairment rating” assigning the percentage of impairment the employee has due to the work accident. If an authorized physician determines an on-the-job injury has resulted in a permanent disability, the hurt worker can receive temporary total disability benefits for as long as he or she is disabled. “Permanent” is defined as unable to return to work for 12 months or more. If the person can work, but only at a lesser-paying job, the benefits are based on the impairment rating.
4) Death Benefits
These are paid to the eligible dependents of a worker whose on-the-job injuries result in death. The main purpose of the benefit is to compensate dependent family members for the loss of financial support; dependents may include a spouse, minor children, a parent, or a sibling. This benefit extends a limited amount toward funeral expenses plus a weekly benefit up to two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage at the time of the fatal accident.
We Can Help
If you have any questions about this topic, think your workers’ compensation benefits have been wrongly calculated or denied, or have lost a loved one to a workplace accident, we can help. The Mann Law Firm has more than 50 years of experience in representing clients in Georgia workers’ compensation claims. Contact us today by calling 478-742-3381 in Macon, Dublin, Warner Robins or Milledgeville, or through our online form. We have the knowledge and the expertise to ensure that your rights are fully protected.