What actually happens at an Atlanta Workers’ Comp hearing? Workers’ compensation insurance is meant to protect you in the event of a work-related injury or illness. However, you may not always receive workers’ comp benefits after you file a claim. The employer may raise unfair objections, or the insurance company may turn down your claim. This is when you have the option of requesting a hearing in front of an administrative judge.
A Look at Georgia Workers Compensation Laws
As per Georgia laws, you are eligible for compensation for a workplace injury or illness if you get injured at work. This applies even if it’s your first day on the job. Under workers’ comp insurance, you receive medical benefits, lost wages, as well as permanent or temporary disability benefits.
On your part, you are legally required to report your injury to the employer as soon as possible. Delays in reporting the injury may cause you to lose your right to benefits.
Requesting a Hearing
Although Georgia laws are very clear about it, some employers or companies fail to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Then there are employers who offer compensation that doesn’t sufficiently cover your financial or non-financial losses caused by the workplace injury or illness. And there may be instances when an insurance company delays the disbursement of payment, or denies your claim altogether.
If you have to face any of these scenarios after a workplace injury, you can request a workers’ compensation hearing to get your rights. The request for a hearing is filed with the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. You can file this request by submitting a Form WC-14.
The Pre-Trial Process
Before the hearing, you must duly fill out the relevant documents and forms. The forms and documents can be downloaded from the SBWC website linked above, or you can get these forms from the SBWC office in person.
After the paperwork is complete, you are required to send a copy of these documents to your employer and another copy to your employer’s insurer. The SBWC forms are submitted to the Board, requesting a formal hearing on your case. You then receive a ‘Notice of Hearing’ about the time, location, and other details of your hearing.
Before the actual hearing for your claim, you are provided an opportunity to resolve your claim with your employer or the insurer out of court. This is an informal process known as mediation. The purpose of mediation is to avoid unnecessary court expenses and save the precious time of both parties if both can come to some sort of agreement.
A mediation session is overseen by a qualified mediator who is typically an attorney or an expert in the specific legal area relevant to your claim. The mediator encourages you to negotiate with your employer and come to a common ground. All the information you provide during this pre-trial session remains confidential and cannot be used against you in case your claim moves to the hearing phase.
During The hearing
During the hearing, you are required to provide your arguments and other evidence to show that you have a right to the workers’ comp benefits. The evidence typically comprises medical records and other documentation confirming the severity and nature of your injuries.
You can also bring relevant witnesses to testify in your favor. Witnesses may be your work colleagues or any other persons who were around at the time and location of your injury. Your physician can also testify as an expert witness at the hearing.
After The hearing
After reviewing all the evidence and information presented during the hearing, the presiding judge doesn’t make a decision right away. Instead, a decision is typically made within 30 to 90 days after the hearing. This decision is relayed to you via mail. If the decision is in your favor, your employer or employer’s insurer is obliged to pay you the benefits.
If the judge maintains that you are not entitled to workers’ comp benefits, you next have the option of appealing to the Appellate Division of the SBWC. Such an appeal must be made within 20 days of receiving the judge’s decision.
Hiring a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Atlanta, GA
If your workers’ compensation claim has been turned down by your employer or insurer, it is important to get legal help. A good lawyer will help you file a request for a formal hearing, and work with you to prepare for the hearing. Here at Ted Greve & Associates, we have a long experience of handling workers’ compensation claims. We help you gather the relevant evidence and witness statements to support your claim. If the judge doesn’t rule in your favor, we also work with you to take your claim to the Appellate Board. Call us today to discuss your Atlanta workers’ comp claim with our lawyers.