If you get hurt on the job in Georgia, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits could play an important role in your recovery. For instance, they can pay for your injury-related medical care and reimburse you for some of the costs of driving to your medical appointments. If your injury prevents you from working or forces you to work a lighter-duty, lesser-paying job, these benefits can also cover a portion of the wages that you would otherwise lose.
However, to receive workers’ compensation benefits, you must meet different deadlines. One of those deadlines is the statute of limitations for filing a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia. Generally, you have one year from the date of the injury to file your claim. If you miss that deadline, your claim will be barred, which could be devastating for you and your family.
Here, we discuss the statute of limitations and other important deadlines that apply to Georgia workers’ compensation claims. If you wish to discuss the specific deadlines in your own case, please feel free to contact our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Sherrod & Bernard, P.C. We will review your case in a free consultation.
Notice of Workplace Injury
Before you worry about meeting the statute of limitations for filing a Georgia workers’ compensation claim, you need to make sure that you give notice of your injury to your employer. Under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-80, you must notify your employer about your workplace injury within 30 days after the injury occurs. If you fail to give timely notice, you can lose your right to file a claim.
Technically, you can give oral or written notice to your employer. However, the best practice to follow is to give the notice in writing. You can use a form that your employer provides, or you can give the notice by e-mail, fax or certified letter. You should keep a copy of it. The copy can serve as proof that you complied with the notice requirement.
You do not need to argue your claim in the notice. Instead, the notice should simply state the date, time and location of your accident and injury. You should also describe what body part was injured.
If you are the survivor of a deceased worker, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation death benefits. You will need to give notice to the employer within 30 days after the death. This date may be different from the date of your loved one’s work-related injury.
Statute of Limitations for Workplace Injuries
Under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-82(a), you must file your claim with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation (“Board”) within one year after the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, the statute clearly states that your claim “shall be barred.” With that said, the statute does provide for two exceptions:
- Last medical treatment – If your employer pays for your medical treatment, then you will have up to one year from the date of the last paid treatment that you received in which to file your workers’ compensation claim.
- Last weekly income benefits – If you receive income benefits from your employer (also called lost wage benefits or disability benefits), then you will have up to two years from the date of the last benefits check that you received in which to file your claim.
If you file a claim for workers’ compensation death benefits, then under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-82(b), you must file the claim within one year from the date of your loved one’s death – not one year from the the date of injury.
Statute of Limitations for Medical Payments/Mileage Reimbursement
As mentioned above, workers’ compensation benefits will cover the costs of your injury-related medical treatment. You can also receive reimbursement for mileage expenses that you incur while going to and from your treatment. However, in order to receive those benefits, you must file with your employer or its workers’ compensation insurer:
- The medical bill within one year after you received the treatment, or
- Your mileage reimbursement request within one year after you incurred the mileage expense.
Typically, your medical care provider will send a bill directly to your employer or the insurance company. However, you should still be aware of this deadline in the event that you must send the bill yourself.
Statute of Limitations for Occupational Diseases
If you suffer from an occupational disease and not an injury, then a slightly different statute of limitations applies. Under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-281(b)(2), you must file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits within one year after the date that you knew or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the disease and its relationship to your employment. In no event can you file a claim more than seven years after your last exposure to the hazard at work which caused your disease.
An exception exists for asbestosis or mesothelioma claims. This is mainly due to the fact that the symptoms for those diseases can take many years to appear. You must a file workers’ compensation claim based on either one of those diseases within one year of the “first disablement” after diagnosis, or the date when you could no longer work due to your illness.
Statute of Limitations for a Change in Conditions
If you experience a “change in condition,” then under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-104(b), you can apply to the Board for another decision on your claim. However, you can do this only if no more than two years have passed since you were last paid income benefits, and the earlier decision was not based on a settlement.
Georgia law defines a “change of condition” as “a change in the wage-earning capacity, physical condition, or status of an employee or other beneficiary covered … [that] … occurred after the date on which the wage-earning capacity, physical condition, or status of the employee or other beneficiary was last established by award or otherwise.”
Get Help from an Experienced Georgia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
The best way to ensure that you meet the deadlines which apply to your Georgia workers’ compensation claim is to get help from a knowledgeable attorney. Don’t wait too long to act. Contact us today at Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., and receive a free review of your case.
Kenneth R. Bernard Jr. serves as the Managing Partner of Sherrod & Bernard, P.C. A native of Douglas County, Kenneth earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia. He then served his country as a Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Marine Corps, attaining the rank of Captain during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. After his service, Ken returned home and joined forces with John Sherrod to launch Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., a law firm with a mission of providing superior legal services with a neighborly touch. In addition to his practice, Ken has served on several boards and committees, including three terms as Chairman of the University System of Georgia Foundation, Inc.