Debunking the most common misconception about workers’ compensation in Georgia
Most Georgia employers are required to provide workers’ compensation. This means that if you suffer an on-the-job injury, you may be able to file a claim to collect benefits to help pay medical bills or replace lost wages if you take time off work during recovery.
When it comes to workers’ compensation, myths and misconceptions abound—make it more confusing for injured workers in Georgia to separate fact from fiction when it comes to their rights.
At Westmoreland Law, we believe it is important to debunk common workers’ compensation myths and help injured workers understand their rights under Georgia laws.
Have you heard these workers’ compensation myths?
Perhaps you’ve heard a story from a coworker about a time when they were injured on the job and experienced problems during or after filing a workers’ comp claim. It doesn’t mean that all the information you are receiving is true. People make mistakes and information can be misinterpreted.
In our decades of experience, here are the most common and pernicious misconceptions that many Georgia workers and others have about the workers’ compensation program:
- The injury must occur while a workplace duty is being carried out
- The injury must occur at a job site
- An employer can terminate you for reporting an injury
- Workers’ comp only covers acute injuries, not long-term illnesses
- You have no options if your claim is denied
- There are no restrictions on what types of injuries are covered
Workers’ compensation facts
If you suffer an injury at work, your top priority should be seeking medical attention. Even if you think your condition isn’t severe, it’s always best to see a doctor since not all injuries are immediately apparent.
Also, obtaining medical attention means that written documentation of the incident will be on the record, which can come in handy down the line when seeking benefits. This is especially true if there are complications regarding an attempt to deny your claim or other issues.
In addition to seeking medical attention, it’s critical that you report your injury to your employer in a timely manner.
Contrary to common belief, you don’t necessarily have to be doing your job when an injury occurs in order to be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, you don’t have to physically present at your job site.
For example, perhaps you work on the 5th floor of a building and are walking up a set of stairs to get there. This is not technically a workplace duty; yet, if you were to fall and sprain your ankle or hurt your back, you could still file a claim to collect benefits.
Many workplace injuries occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents. If you’re a delivery driver, for instance, you might be en route to a delivery (and not at your job site) when a collision occurs that causes you to get hurt. The fact that you weren’t at the office when you suffered this injury shouldn’t prevent you from filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Many people hesitate to file a workers’ comp claim because they believe the myth that their employer can dock their pay or fire them for doing so. In Georgia, it’s true that employers can typically fire employees at will.
However, your employer may not target you for termination as a direct consequence of filing a workers’ compensation claim or because you have suffered disability due to a workplace injury.
This is a type of employment discrimination, which is prohibited in the workplace. If you believe that your employer passed you over for a promotion, revoked a bonus or terminated you from your position as a repercussion against you for filing a workers’ comp claim, it’s important to learn more about your worker’s rights.
Not all injuries occur suddenly. If your job involves repeated motions, such as typing, lifting or loading boxes or working on an assembly line, you might be at increased risk for repetitive strain injuries. Symptoms of such injuries tend to develop over a long period of time, but you can still file a workers’ comp claim to collect benefits to help pay medical bills or replace lost wages.
It’s common for an employer or insurance agency to deny an initial workers’ compensation claim. However, if this happens, it doesn’t automatically mean that you have exhausted all options. You can file an appeal if your claim is denied. Many injured workers who have their initial claims denied are able to collect benefits when their appeals are accepted.
Not all injuries are physical by nature. Something might happen at work causing you to be involved in an accident, such as a collision, a fire or other situation that causes severe emotional trauma such as PTSD. Your physical injuries might result in a permanent scar or even disfigurement. Such injuries may not be covered by workers’ compensation, depending on your occupation.
In addition, there are certain damages that are typically listed in a personal injury lawsuit (such as pain and suffering or punitive damages) that are not generally provided for under workers’ compensation. The exception is if your employer intentionally caused you harm that resulted in injury.
How can you tell fact from fiction regarding workers’ comp myths?
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney stays updated on all existing employment laws and regulations regarding the workers’ comp program. It can be helpful to discuss your case with an attorney before submitting your initial claim, and certainly before appealing your denied claim. Filing a claim or navigating the appeals process is a lot less stressful when someone who is well-versed in employment laws can speak and act on your behalf.