Over the last twenty-six (26) years, I have handled thousands of workers’ compensation cases. Clients are usually unaware of the benefits afforded by employers for job-related injuries. During the initial meeting, I always clarify what workers’ compensation pays and what it does not.
In Georgia, workers’ compensation benefits fall into three (3) categories. First, the employer is responsible for payment of medical care associated with the job injury. This is not an unlimited right as the Employer always seeks to control medical treatment and costs. Medical benefits include such items as: office visits, diagnostic studies, surgeries, physical therapy and reimbursement for mileage in traveling to and from the doctors.
The second type of benefit is what most people have heard referred to as the workers’ compensation check. This weekly check replaces lost income because of a disabling injury. The workers’ compensation check is based on a percentage of the worker’s average weekly wage. A supplement check should also be paid when the injury allows for light duty work but at a reduced earning job.
The final type of workers’ compensation benefit is known as a permanent partial disability award. This benefit is paid when the doctors agree that the injury has permanent consequences. When a doctor gives the injured worker a permanent partial disability rating, the workers’ compensation laws set out an amount that should be paid. This permanency award is usually tied to a settlement but can be paid weekly to the worker once he or she returns to work.
Pain and suffering along with punitive damages were not mentioned in the discussion above. That is because they have no place in the workers’ compensation system. Likewise, a spouse of an injured worker has no claim for workers’ compensation benefits absent a workplace death. Once again, workers’ compensation benefits are limited to medical care, a portion of lost wages and a cash award if the injury has some permanency element.
In summary, this article is a general overview of the benefits that an injured worker should expect from his or her employer. In no way, should an injured worker rely on this article in proceeding through the workers’ compensation system. Instead, I strongly urge an injured worker to consult with experienced workers’ compensation counsel. I can assure you that the responsible employer and its insurance company have lawyers ready to pounce if the unknowing injured worker makes a mistake.