How Georgia law defines and distributes workers’ compensation to hurt employees
Georgia is very serious when it comes to workers’ compensation. The state has laid out a number of provisions that govern how and when a business must provide workers’ compensation insurance. Per Title 34 Chapter 9 of the Georgia legal code, a business with 3 or more employees must provide insurance for those workers.
When was Georgia’s workers’ compensation system enacted?
The first workers’ compensation statute for Georgia came in 1920. Prior to the creation of this law, there was no other way (short of a lawsuit) for an employee to collect any compensation for a workplace injury.
Before Georgia workers’ compensation laws, it was difficult for an employee to prove a workplace injury and win a lawsuit. However, those who could prove this were often able to take down a sizable chunk of money from their employer. In some cases, the employer would be completely wiped out by one successful injury lawsuit from one of their employees.
It was a system that wasn’t working all that well for anyone.
Under what circumstances is workers’ compensation mandatory?
Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act makes it clear which circumstances make providing insurance necessary. For example, the threshold of 3 employees is strictly enforced. Those 3 employees could even be part-time or seasonal workers and the business would still be required to provide workers’ compensation to them.
Someone who is self-employed is not legally required to have workers’ compensation insurance under Georgia law, but they may want to have it anyway.
What are the penalties for not having required workers’ compensation insurance?
There are consequences for not carrying workers’ compensation insurance. These penalties can be civil and criminal, depending upon the exact circumstances of the case.
The employer can still be held liable for covering the medical expenses and other benefits of an injured employee, even if they fail to have the insurance they are required to. In that situation, the employer may also be assessed a 10 percent penalty on top of the usual payments, and have to pay court fees and more for their negligence.
Criminal penalties also exist for failure to have workers’ compensation insurance when required by Georgia law. An employer who fails to provide workers’ comp as they are supposed to could face a fine of up to $10,000 and even up to 1 year in jail for failure to comply.
Aside from the fact that an employer could face any or all of the civil and criminal penalties mentioned above, providing workers’ compensation insurance simply makes sense from a fiscal standpoint as well. The average cost is only about $1.10 per $100 covered on an employee’s payroll. That is an absolute bargain to remain within all of the state laws and regulations regarding workers’ compensation. It is hard to make the argument that one should forego this when there is so little cost to avoid such high penalties.
How are workers’ compensation benefits paid in Georgia?
There is a whole system for determining how much workers’ compensation will be paid out for a worker who has sustained an injury. The state lays out clear guidelines that an employer has 1 of 2 options:
- Board of Physicians. This is the most commonly applied route as it consists of a board of 6 physicians who are authorized to examine the injured worker to determine the extent of their injuries. No more than 2 of those physicians may be from industrial clinics, and the state requires that at least 1 of the physicians be a racial and ethnic minority whenever possible.
- Workers’ Compensation Managed Care Organization. This is an organization that is certified to create a workers’ compensation plan per Georgia‘s Workers’ Compensation Act. They will be the sole judge in this circumstance if an employer chooses this option. They also ask that there be racial and ethnic minority members on the board to ensure fairness in its judgments.
What about workers’ compensation in the event of a death?
Workers’ compensation benefits can be awarded even for a person who dies on the job. The surviving spouse would collect those benefits in the majority of cases, but there are circumstances under which a minor under the age of 18 could collect the money. Those children could be biologically related to the deceased, adopted or foster children. Under Georgia law, any of these children would be eligible for the payments.
There is a cap of $270,000 worth of payments or 400 weeks worth of payments (whichever is less). The benefits end if the widowed spouse remarries or cohabitates with another person while benefits are being received.
It’s important to know about all of these regulations in case you are ever in a circumstance where they come into play. Georgia workers’ comp laws can be complicated and confusing, which is why you should reach out to Westmoreland Law with any questions you may have.