Atlanta, Georgia Workers Compensation Attorney
Our workers compensation lawyers at William C. Head, PC are well-versed in workers compensation laws in Georgia and work hard for victims of injuries they have suffered while at work. Our Georgia-based legal team have fought tooth and nail for those who have had to go through physical, financial and emotional burdens as a a result of the negligence caused by the company where the employee worked. For the past 42 years, our law office has been honored on a statewide and national level for providing stellar legal expertise and going above and beyond as compared to area law firms seeking new workers compensation cases.
Whether you are unsure if you need to hire a worker’s comp lawyer or not, it is beneficial to know what worker’s compensation or workman’s comp is. It is a form of insurance that offers the replacement of wages lost and medical benefits to employees who were injured while performing their job duties without being able to file a lawsuit against the employer. Typically, your employer and its insurance company may not agree to have your claim settled. Now, if they did have a settlement offer, there is no obligation on your part to agree to their terms if you are not comfortable with what is on the table. Regardless of what their stipulations are, we recommend that you meet with a worker’s compensation lawyer who is knowledgeable about workers compensation bill of rights. Our top lawyers that deal with workers compensation can review your workers comp attorney settlement and include a realistic estimate of how much you could potentially receive in the settlement.
With the understanding of what workers compensation is, it’s also important to note that in Georgia, like in several other states, there are two types of workers’ comp settlements. There’s a liability settlement which resolves a claim that the insurance company has agreed to pay and a non-liability settlement which ends a claim where there is a valid disagreement over your eligibility for benefits.
As far as how settlements are paid, most are paid in a single lump sum. But the insurance company might aim for a structured settlement instead. These are usually used when a worker has suffered injuries that are permanently disabling and require long-term care. In those cases, you might receive payments monthly, annually, or every couple of years.
For the most part, insurance companies demand a “full and final” settlement of your claim. This basically means that you’ll be giving up all rights to your workers’ comp claim, including future medical care so you would not be able to request more money if your condition gets worse down the line.
In rare instances, the insurance company will agree to a more limited settlement. For example, it may agree to settle your disability benefits, but also continue to cover your future medical treatment. Keep in mind that these are difficult to come by because insurance companies would rather close out cases and cut down on costs. Therefore, when you ask your friends and family, “Should I get a lawyer for workers comp?” you’ll most likely get a resounding “YES!” We expect you’ll have plenty of questions to ask your workers compensation lawyer and you can expect we’ll have answers for you.
Fortunately, the State Board of Workers’ Compensation in Georgia must approve all workers’ comp settlements. The approval process for liability and non-liability settlements are quite similar. Once you and the insurance company agree on the terms of your settlement, you will be required to file documents with the board, which might include:
- A stipulated settlement agreement (explaining the terms and conditions of your settlement)
- Claims forms (such as the Employer’s First Report of Injury)
- Medical records of your current condition
- Information about unpaid child support
- Your lawyer’s fee agreement and other fee-related documents
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The board will then review these documents without having to hold a hearing. If your documents look complete, the board will typically approve your settlement.
Not sure what workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to as well as your workers compensation exemptions? Well, in Georgia the workers’ compensation program offers cash benefits and medical care for injuries or illnesses that occurred during a job. Being a “no fault” system, employees are not required to prove that an employer was at fault to be entitled to workers comp benefits. The only thing that must be proven is that the injury or illness happened in the workplace or that it was job-related.
How Much Will I Receive in a Settlement?
As far as what your workers compensation settlement amount would probably be, it is not as simple to figure out as online settlement calculators make you believe. While online settlement calculators can be somewhat useful, it is best to sit down with an attorney who has worked on many workers compensation cases and can tell you from experience what those numbers may look like. Why? Because your claim’s settlement value will depend on several factors, including the severity of your injuries, whether there is conflicting evidence in your case, and whether you can return to work or not. To get a better idea of how much you might be entitled to, speak with one of our Georgia workers’ comp attorneys about benefits as only a lawyer familiar with your case can tell you whether a settlement offer is fair. Every workers’ compensation claim varies from person to person. With the complexity of Georgia workers’ compensation law, most workers end up hiring lawyers to help them gauge settlement offers and negotiate with the insurance company.
When evaluating a settlement offer, you should consider several factors, including:
- How much you might be owed in permanent disability benefits
- The potential cost of your future medical bills
- Any temporary disability payments that the insurance company failed to pay
- Any unpaid medical bills to date
- Any penalties that the insurance company owes you for failing to pay your benefits on time.
You should also think about the weaknesses in your claim, if it is being disputed. When you take a case to trial, there is a chance that you may lose. If there is a major dispute about whether you’re entitled to benefits, and it is unlikely that you will win your case at trial, you may want to accept a lower lump sum settlement instead.
Some items will be deducted from your settlement check, depending on your claim. These costs may include:
- Attorneys’ fees and legal costs
- Unpaid medical bills
- Unpaid child support (out-of-state child support included)
- A Medicare set-aside account (funds to cover future medical expenses related to your work injury, which must be spent before Medicare will cover treatment)
While most employees are eligible for workers compensation benefits, those who are ineligible under Georgia workers’ compensation laws include the following workers:
- U.S. government employees
- Those who are self-employed
- Farm laborers
- Railroad workers
What is the Workers Comp Settlement Process?
If you suffered an injury at work or developed a work-related illness, you must report that in writing to your employer immediately. This step is vital to protect your right to receive benefits. If you do not report this to your employer within 90 days, you may lose any right to benefits. However, you still have up to two years to file a claim for benefits. Upon notifying your employer, he or she will have ten days to report your injury or illness to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, which approves the payment of benefits to you. If your employer fails to file a claim with the board, you can file a claim directly with them. You can also file a claim if you believe you are not receiving all the workers compensation benefits to which you are entitled to, or if your employer disputes your injury or illness as work-related.
You can settle your workers’ comp claim at any given time, but it can be difficult to efficiently value a settlement while you are still not fully healed from your injuries or illness. That’s why most employees wait to settle their claims until your condition is stable and will no longer improve with treatment. However, most workers decide to wait on settling until their medical conditions are stable and not expected to improve anymore. This is known as maximum medical improvement (MMI). It is risky to settle before MMI because it might not still be known whether you will need further medical treatment or whether your condition will be permanent. Without knowing the actual extent of your injuries, it can be very challenging to accurately value your claim.
Since settlements are voluntary in Georgia, like in all other states, nobody can force you or the insurance company to settle. Both parties must agree to the terms of the settlement before moving forward.
Most settlements require you to release all claims against your employer coming out of your work injury—including the right to any additional medical treatment, wage loss benefits, and vocational rehabilitation services. We’ve mentioned this already, but it is worth hearing it again, just like how a settlement can be more limited. For example, a limited settlement might end your wage loss and vocational rehabilitation claims, but it would allow you to continue receiving medical benefits in the future. However, most insurance companies are not willing to leave claims partially open as they would much rather close a workers’ compensation claim and be done with their obligation to pay any more benefits.
Types of Workers Compensation Benefits
Your employer or its insurance company will cover medical care related to your work-related injury or illness. This of course includes your doctor’s visits, prescriptions, physical therapy, surgery, and other necessary treatment. If you see a doctor selected by your employer or their insurance company, your doctor or the hospital will be paid directly by your employer or their insurance company. If you chose to see a doctor of your preference, your medical care will not be paid for.
Compensation for Lost Wages
If you are not able to work due to your injury or illness, you are considered “temporarily totally disabled” and you can be paid the wages you would have earned had you been able to continue working during your recovery time. You are eligible for payment of lost wages if you cannot return to work for at least seven days.
If you’re able to work, but earning less due to your injuries, you can receive two-thirds of the difference in your wages. Temporary total disability benefits will continue until your doctor says you can go back to work.
If you are permanently impaired, you will be eligible to receive further compensation or permanent partial disability (PPD) payments. These benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to the same weekly maximum as temporary disability benefits. If you have a partial loss of use, you will receive benefits for a proportional number of weeks.
As for permanent total disability (PTD), if you have lost both of your hands, feet, arms, or legs, lost vision in both eyes, or have suffered a combination of two of these types of losses, you are considered totally and permanently disabled and are eligible to receive more benefits. You will continue to receive benefits at your total temporary rate for up to 500 weeks. Paraplegics, quadriplegics, and brain-damaged workers can receive lifelong benefits.
If you were denied benefits or disagree with the benefits decision, you have the right to make an appeal. If you disagree with the board’s decision, then you have the right to file an appeal to be heard by the Board.
With all these processes that are involved, it’s helpful to know what questions to ask your workers compensation lawyer including workers compensation settlement amounts and what benefits to expect for the workmans comp settlement after your surgery.
Because you are the one with the claim, you or your attorney will typically begin the process by giving the insurance company a settlement demand. The insurance company will reply to your demand by accepting it, rejecting it, or making a new offer. This negotiation process can continue until you agree on a settlement amount, which can be a time-consuming process.
Mediation is another way to try to settle your case. It is an informal conference where you and the insurance company will present your sides of the dispute to a neutral party also called a mediator. The mediator will guide you through negotiations and try to help you reach an agreement.
Once you and the insurance company have agreed on a settlement, a judge must approve it. You will not actually have a hearing and instead a series of documents and forms will be submitted to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Board. Those documents and forms lay out the terms of your settlement and how your settlement money will be distributed. Attorneys’ fees, unpaid medical bills, and unpaid child support payments might be subtracted from your settlement. Also, if you are a Medicaid or Medicare recipient, you may have to put aside a portion of your settlement money to pay for future medical treatment related to your work injury. How long your workers comp settlement may take depends on you and the insurance company, but that is something we can help move along as smoothly and quickly as possible