Injured Georgia workers typically find themselves out of work and struggling to pay the bills without their income. For this reason, some may wonder if they wouldn’t be better off just filing a lawsuit to recover for their injuries as opposed to collecting a small weekly check from workers’ compensation. This question underscores several key misunderstandings about workers’ compensation in general.
What Exactly Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is an insurance policy that is regulated by the state and paid for by your employer. The workers’ compensation program was originally a way to pay injured workers who served in maritime professions, such as longshoremen. Over the years, the program evolved to protect the rights of all injured workers. In short, it strikes a compromise between ensuring injured workers are compensated for work-related injuries and protecting employers from large and unpredictable personal injury awards. The program makes it possible for an employer to pay all of the worker’s medical bills and pays for the doctor, while also compensating for the injuries. Yet, it largely prevents workers from filing lawsuits.
By paying the premiums, the employer is protected because a worker must file a claim for workers’ compensation if the injury is work-related. This is because filing a claim is the worker’s “exclusive remedy.” Only in certain limited exceptions may the worker file a personal injury lawsuit. The State of Georgia offers a great explanation of the process here.
What Happens If the Worker Dies from the Injuries?
In short, your dependents will receive the compensation. At the moment, a dependent would receive $550 weekly. However, there are limits on the amount they can receive. For instance, the un-remarried widow with no children is limited to $220,000 in total compensation. Nevertheless, as you can see, workers’ compensation law does protect the interests of dependent survivors.
Will I Be Compensated If I Cannot Work Anymore?
Yes. Not only are there provisions under Georgia law that allow for limited continuing benefits if you cannot find a similar paying job. The State of Georgia also offers vocational retraining for those who qualify. Also, it should be noted that you may still qualify for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) if you become totally and permanently disabled as a result.
Why Get a Lawyer If I Am Not Filing a Lawsuit?
Much like any case involving a defendant who is insured, the insurance company works for its client, your employer. It has an interest in reducing costs and paying as little as possible for your injury. It is not uncommon for policies to refuse pay-outs based on tiny exclusions, such as a policy exclusion for workers who are not wearing proper safety equipment or who were on duty past their allowed shift hours. This may ignore the fact that the employer required the employee to work late or did not provide the equipment. Therefore, even though you do not usually “sue” in a traditional sense, the process can still be quite adversarial and be wrought with complexity that requires a skilled attorney.
If you have been injured in a work-related accident, contact the Georgia workers’ compensation lawyers at the Bader Law Firm, LLC who can fight for your right to be compensated.