Workers’ Compensation: Employee Rights and Responsibilities
In Georgia, employees statewide are granted certain rights and responsibilities if they are injured while working. Having a sound understanding of these rights can make all the difference in how much compensation an injured party is able to receive, so if you were injured in a workplace accident, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced Atlanta workers compensation lawyer attorney who can help explain your legal rights.
Georgia residents who are injured while working have very specific rights, including the rights to:
- Receive medical, rehabilitation, and income benefits for the purpose of helping the employee return to work;
- Compensation paid to family members in the event of an employee’s death;
- Choose a doctor from an employer’s list of at least six certified doctors who will provide medical care;
- Make one change to another doctor not on the employer’s list without permission;
- Receive compensation for authorized doctor bills, hospital bills, rehabilitation, physical therapy, prescription medications, and travel expenses if injured while at work;
- Receive weekly income benefits for injuries requiring more than a week off in the form of a check, which should be mailed within three weeks after the first day of missed work;
- Receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the entirety of the time that they are unable to return to work if they suffered a catastrophic injury, such as an amputation, paralysis, severe burns or blindness, or a severe head injury;
- Receive medical and vocational rehabilitation benefits to help in the recovery process;
- Receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for non-catastrophic injuries that are not totally disabling until up to 400 weeks after the accident;
- Receive weekly benefits for 350 weeks if, when able to return to work, employees can only retain a lower paying job because of the injury; and
- Receive an additional penalty from an employer or insurance carrier for overdue benefits.
These rights can go a long way towards ensuring that injured employees are able to cover all of their bills and get back on their feet. However, these rights also come with specific responsibilities, including:
- Following an employer’s written safety rules, policies, and procedures;
- Reporting any accident immediately and no more than one month after the date of the accident to the employer, the employer’s representative, and the supervisor;
- Accepting reasonable medical treatment and rehabilitation services when ordered to do so by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation;
- Refraining from demonstrating willful misconduct, which is not compensable if it causes an injury;
- Notifying an insurer or employer of a new address;
- Notifying an employer when able to return to work, whether on a full-time or part-time basis;
- Providing notice to an employer of the amount of weekly earnings owed;
- Attempting a job approved by a doctor even if the pay is lower;
- Filing a claim within one year of treatment or within two years of the last weekly payment if a workers’ compensation claim is denied;
- Agreeing to submit to a drug test following an injury, as a refusal will lead to a presumption that the accident was caused by alcohol or drugs meaning that the claim for compensation will be denied; and
- Submitting any requests for reimbursement for mileage or expenses related to medical care to an employer within a year of the date that the expense was incurred.
Dependent spouses and dependents also have specific responsibilities. For example, a dependent spouse of a deceased employee is required to notify the company or its insurer upon a change of address or remarriage. Additionally, dependents that do not receive compensation must file a claim with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation within one year after the employee’s death or they will lose the right to these types of benefits.
Employees are required to be honest and refrain from making false or misleading statements when claiming workers’ compensation benefits. If it is discovered that an employee was dishonest in reporting an injury, he or she can be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of a 12 month prison sentence and the payment of a $10,000 fine. Additionally, all false statements given under oath will be considered perjury.
Employers in Georgia who hire three or more employees are similarly bound by certain duties, including:
- Providing workers’ compensation insurance coverage that will provide prompt medical and disability benefits for injuries sustained on the job;
- Ensuring payment of benefits by securing an insurance policy or by becoming self-insured;
- If self-insured, filing an application with the Board complete with three years of financial statements and if approved, a surety bond or letter of credit; and
- Completing and filing a claim immediately (within 21 days) upon discovering the existence of an employee’s injury.
An employer who fails to provide coverage will be held personally responsible for an employee’s injury as well as attorney’s fees and civil penalties.
Employers who fail or refuse to file an injury report or who violate any government regulations concerning workers’ compensation will be required to pay at least $100, but no more than $1,000 in fines per violation. Making false statements in order to obtain or deny benefits is treated even more harshly and will result in the payment of a fine of at least $1,000, but no more than $10,000. Finally, by refusing to provide workers’ compensation coverage, an employer risks paying a fine ranging between $500 and $5,000 for each violation. This violation also has criminal penalties and is punishable as a misdemeanor, which carries a possible prison term of one year or the payment of a hefty fine.
Contact an Experienced Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Navigating the workers’ compensation program can be difficult, so if you or a loved one live in Atlanta and were recently injured in a workplace accident, please contact the law firm of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. and a dedicated Atlanta workers comp lawyer will help you schedule a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.