Did you or a loved one suffer a catastrophic injury on the job?
Our Macon, GA attorneys can help you seek workers’ compensation for ALL damages — past, present and future.
577 Mulberry St, Suite 600
Macon, GA 31201-8242
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Although catastrophic injuries account for less than 1 percent of all workers’ compensation claims, they result in as much as 20 percent of total workers’ compensation losses. The annual cost of medical treatment can exceed $100,000 in many such cases, and extensive care may be required for years — if not decades.
If you or your loved one suffered a catastrophic work injury, we understand that you’d probably trade any amount of money to make life “normal” again — or at least how it was before the accident. While it’s impossible to rewrite history and erase your injury, it is possible for catastrophic injury victims to financially be made whole again in the form of workers’ compensation.
This is where we can help. At the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, our Georgia attorneys have assisted hundreds of injured workers with their workers’ compensation claims, from appealing straightforward claim denials to navigating the complex waters of catastrophic injury claims.
We can help you throughout the entire process, starting with securing a catastrophic designation and calculating the full cost (past and future) of your injury. We have the experience, knowledge and commitment to see your claim through to the end and secure the best possible outcome.
What makes an injury “catastrophic”?
Any on-the-job injury, no matter how severe, can be devastating for the person who is hurt and their family.
But when is an injury considered “catastrophic” under Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws?
The term “catastrophic” can be ambiguous and subjective based on each individual’s life and circumstances. One person’s definition of a catastrophic injury might not be the same as another’s. However, this designation has very real consequences on a work injury claim. Insurance companies can reduce your benefits and your employer can ask you to return to work if they believe that you’ve recovered to a certain extent.
Catastrophic injuries don’t just impact an individual physically and emotionally, but these types of injuries are also financially devastating because the medical bills are so extensive and the person is often unable to pursue meaningful work. This permanent loss of purpose and fulfillment in being gainfully employed — not to mention the loss of other life enjoyments such as traveling, hobbies, exercise and activities — can be difficult for victims to process.
While some people who have suffered a catastrophic injury can, with much difficulty and expense, learn new skills for a job that falls within their limited scope of ability, many victims are so physically or mentally impaired that it’s impossible to find any employment. In addition to the physical pain they may experience, catastrophic injury victims often experience depression, anxiety, distress and other mental health conditions as a result of the pain and suffering that is common with permanent and debilitating injuries.
Types of catastrophic work injuries in Georgia
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act clearly lays out what the state considers to be a catastrophic injury. These 5 conditions are expressly mentioned by the statute as being “catastrophic”:
- Spinal cord injury
- Head and brain injury (TBI)
More specifically, the state also defines how severe each type of injury must be to meet the catastrophic designation. This information can be found in the Official Code of Georgia (§34-9-200.1):
(g) “Catastrophic injury” means any injury which is one of the following:
(1) Spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk;
(2) Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of that appendage;
(3) Severe brain or closed head injury as evidenced by:
(a) Severe sensory or motor disturbances;
(b) Severe communication disturbances;
(c) Severe complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function;
(d) Severe disturbances of consciousness;
(e) Severe episodic neurological disorders; or
(f) Other conditions at least as severe in nature as any condition provided in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of this paragraph;
(5) Total or industrial blindness; or
(6) (6)(A) Any other injury of a nature and severity that prevents the employee from being able to perform his or her prior work and any work available in substantial numbers within the national economy for which such employee is otherwise qualified; provided, however, if the injury has not already been accepted as a catastrophic injury by the employer and the authorized treating physician has released the employee to return to work with restrictions, there shall be a rebuttable presumption, during a period not to exceed 130 weeks from the date of injury, that the injury is not a catastrophic injury. During such period, in determining whether an injury is catastrophic, the board shall give consideration to all relevant factors including, but not limited to, the number of hours for which an employee has been released. A decision granting or denying disability income benefits under Title II or supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act shall be admissible in evidence and the board shall give the evidence the consideration and deference due under the circumstances regarding the issue of whether the injury is a catastrophic injury; provided, however, that no presumption shall be created by any decision granting or denying disability income benefits under Title II or supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
This last catastrophic designation (6-A) is somewhat of a miscellaneous subcategory and therefore tends to be more complex. It provides a general framework for designating catastrophic injuries that don’t necessarily involve the injuries expressly listed in the statute (spinal cord, amputation, head/brain, burns, blindness). This subcategory essentially means that any work injury can be designated as “catastrophic” if you can prove that you are unable to work in any capacity as a result of your injury.
Other examples of catastrophic injuries that aren’t specifically mentioned in Georgia law include:
- Internal injuries (organ damage)
- Multiple serious bone fractures
- Hazardous chemical exposure
Signs that you have suffered a catastrophic work injury
If you suffered a severe on-the-job injury to your spine, head or brain, or if you were severely burned, blinded or a body part was amputated, then this is the most obvious indication that your injury is designated as a catastrophic injury under Georgia law. However, even if your injury isn’t clearly defined but you’re unable to work, you may still have a catastrophic claim on your hands.
If any of the following statements are true, we advise reaching out to our Georgia workers’ compensation lawyers right away to determine whether you have a catastrophic work injury claim:
- Your medical bills are extremely high. While there is no set dollar amount that determines if an injury is designated as “catastrophic,” typically catastrophic work injury victims face substantial medical bills that can add up to hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars due to the long-term, expensive surgery, treatment and therapy that may be required.
- You’re unable to return to your former job, or any job at all. If you were permanently injured or disabled as result of a work injury and can no longer do your prior job, then you might be eligible for catastrophic injury benefits.
- You and your family are having serious financial trouble due to your injury. Any injury that makes it difficult or impossible for you or your family to make ends meet and pay the bills may be catastrophic.
Catastrophic workers’ compensation benefits, settlements and protections
Unfortunately for injured workers, Georgia’s workers’ compensation system is largely set up to favor employers and their insurance companies. However, having your work injury designated as “catastrophic” can greatly impact your workers’ compensation claim and open up additional benefits and protections.
For starters, you may be eligible for permanent partial (PPD) or permanent total (PTD) disability benefits, as well as Social Security disability, to compensate you for lost wages. In addition, you may be entitled to past temporary disability benefits that you may not have received immediately following your accident.
If your injury is designated as catastrophic, the insurance company may also be prevented from reducing your workers’ compensation benefits just because a doctor said you are able to do some “light duty work” but there are no such jobs available to you.
Most workers’ compensation benefits are given for a maximum of 400 weeks; however, in certain catastrophic work injury cases you may continue receiving compensation for medical treatment after this limit. You may also be compensated for seeking professional help to retrain or find a new career or job that you’re able to within your new limitations.
Due to these and other factors that arise in catastrophic workers’ compensation cases, it’s fairly common for final settlements to reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. While this might sound like a jackpot or winning the lottery, the reality is that this compensation is necessary to financially compensate a victim for a lifetime of medical costs, lost earning potential, emotional trauma and other expenses that come with a catastrophic injury.
Workers’ compensation resources and links
- Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation
- Georgia Workers’ Compensation Employee Handbook
- Enjuris Guide to Workplace Accidents in Georgia
- The Danger of Working with Electricity
- How to file a workers’ compensation claim in Macon, GA
- Georgia workers’ compensation laws & requirements
- Georgia workers’ compensation benefits
- Why workers’ compensation claims are denied
- How to appeal a workers’ compensation denial
- Georgia workers’ compensation FAQ
- Compensation for agriculture workers
- Compensation for automotive workers
- Compensation for industrial workers
- Compensation for construction workers
- Compensation for independent contractors & freelancers
- Workers’ compensation mistakes to avoid
“Great staff. Very professional and knowledgeable. Staff went out of their way to accommodate us in every way possible. Made the whole process less painful. They made sure we understood everything that was going on and would answer any questions a hundred times over if needed.”
The resources needed to win
Unlike some work injury attorneys who settle all of their cases, we are not afraid to appeal a denied claim if needed. Our firm has the resources needed to thoroughly prepare, try and win complicated cases.
We are dedicated to doing everything legally and ethically possible to obtain the best results for our injured clients. Hard work and dedication have allowed us to recover millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients in workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.
Did you suffer a catastrophic injury on the job?
Our Macon work injury lawyers want to help.
Catastrophic work injury cases are more complex and confusing than non-catastrophic workers’ compensation claims for many reasons. For starters, the medical expenses are much higher and more extensive for victims of a catastrophic injury. Also, these injuries are long-term and often permanent, which means it may be impossible or extremely difficult for you to return to work and support your family.
In addition, the actual value of a catastrophic injury claim can be very difficult to calculate — in part because it’s common for an injury to require further treatment and therapy many years (even decades) after the initial accident happened.
In order to determine the true cost of a catastrophic injury, one must not only consider past and present expenses, but also future losses and lost earning potential. Coming up with this figure is very complex and challenging.
Lastly, insurance companies and employers frequently contest catastrophic work injury claims since it means that they will have to pay you more benefits for longer. Insurers often employ a team of highly skilled and trained lawyers whose sole job is to fight such catastrophic designations.
For these reasons and more, it’s imperative that you contact our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys if you or a loved one recently suffered a catastrophic work injury near Macon, Georgia. The least we can do for you and your family to help cope with this devastating loss is secure your financial future and security.
If you need help getting your workers’ compensation benefits, give us a call or contact us online for your free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer. From offices in Macon, Albany and Warner Robins, we help injured workers throughout Georgia. Don’t settle for less, get more.