Getting hurt on the job can majorly disrupt your life. This is especially true if your injury prevents you from being able to work and earn income, or if it forces you to work at a lower-paying job than you had before the injury. Georgia workers’ compensation benefits – often referred to as “workman’s comp” benefits – are designed to help you to get through this difficult time.
Any employer with three or more workers, including regular part-time workers, must carry workers’ compensation insurance in Georgia. You can receive these benefits regardless of who was at fault for your injury. The workers’ compensation program provides for four types of benefits:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Ongoing or future care (rehabilitation)
- Death benefits.
In this article, we will discuss how much an injured worker may receive in lost wage benefits, or “disability benefits.” We will also discuss death benefits available to a deceased worker’s surviving dependents. But keep in mind: Every case is different. If you or a loved one was hurt on the job in Georgia, you should seek help from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible and ask for a review of the specific facts of your case.
At Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., our attorneys have decades of experience with helping injured workers in Douglasville and throughout Georgia. We can provide a timely and free review of your workers’ compensation case and help you to understand the lost wage benefits and other benefits that you may be eligible to receive. If an employer refuses to pay the workers’ compensation benefits that you are due, we will aggressively protect your rights. Contact us now to learn more.
What Is Your Average Weekly Wage?
To calculate how much you can receive in lost wage benefits, you must first determine your “average weekly wage.” Generally speaking, this figure will be the average gross wage that you earned during the 13 weeks immediately prior to your injury. In other words, to get your average weekly wage, you take the gross amount of your income during that 13-week period (which could include salary, tips, bonuses and other pay, regardless of whether it was for the same employer or a different one) and divide it by 13.
If you did not work during the 13 weeks before your injury – for instance, you got hurt on your first day on the job – then the average weekly wage of a similar employee over that 13-week period could be used us a figure. (See O.C.G.A. § 34-9-260 for other ways to calculate a worker’s average weekly wage.)
Types of Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits
After you suffer a work-related injury, a doctor will assess the injury and its effect on your ability to work. Depending on the doctor’s assessment, you may be eligible for:
- Total disability benefits
You can qualify for temporary total disability benefits if you can’t work at all due to your injury. Your benefits would equal two-thirds of your average weekly wage. However, Georgia will cap the amount at $575 per week. You can receive these benefits until you reach maximum medical improvement or until 400 weeks have passed since the date of your injury – whichever comes sooner. You could receive permanent total disability benefits at this rate if you have suffered a “catastrophic” injury such as severe paralysis, brain injury or loss of a limb.
- Partial disability benefits
You can receive temporary partial disability benefits if you can return to work, but your injury prevents you from earning the wages that you did before the injury. These benefits are equal to two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury average weekly wage. However, the amount would be capped at $383 per week. You can receive these benefits until 350 weeks have passed since your injury or until you have reached maximum medical improvement – whichever comes first.
If you qualify for permanent partial disability benefits, the amount you receive in benefits will depend on your impairment rating and whether the affected body part appears in the schedule set out in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-263. The rate would be equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage. The schedule sets out the maximum number of weeks that a worker can receive benefits at that rate for loss or loss of use of certain body parts such as the arm, leg or hand. If the affected body part is not listed on the schedule, then the number of weeks will depend on the extent to which your “body as a whole” is impaired. In no case could you receive more than 300 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.
Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
The Georgia workers’ compensation system also provides benefits to the dependents of a worker who has died from a work-related injury such as the worker’s surviving spouse and children. Death benefits generally are equal to two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage. The amount would be less if the person was only “partially dependent” on the deceased worker.
The number of weeks of in which a dependent can receive benefits can also vary. It can depend on factors such as whether the deceased worker previously received benefits and whether the recipient of benefits is a spouse or child. For example, if the surviving spouse remarries or “cohabitates” with another in a “meretricious relationship,” the spouse’s benefits would be terminated.
In addition to these benefits, surviving family members can receive up to $7,500 to cover the funeral and burial expenses.
Our Experienced Georgia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Can Help You
For more than two decades, the attorneys at Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., have fought for the rights of those who have been injured in Douglasville and across Georgia, including workers who were hurt on the job. If you need assistance with filing for workers’ compensation benefits, or if your claim has been denied, we are here to help you. Our consultations are free, and we won’t charge you anything unless we secure the benefits you deserve. Contact us today to discuss your situation.
John W. Sherrod is a Founding Partner of Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., who has represented injury victims and their families in Georgia for more than 30 years. A native of Marietta, Georgia, John graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia in 1984 and graduated from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law at the top of his class in 1987. In addition to his law practice, John is a frequent speaker at trial lawyer functions and an active member of several professional organizations, including the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and Southern Trial Lawyers Association.