April 1, 2020

Back Pain Claims Under Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law – Avoid the Runaround

Back injuries that occur on the job are the most common type of injury claimed by employees under the Georgia workers’ compensation system.  This is not surprising since a back injury can occur when you are lifting, carrying, pushing or stooping.  You can also injury your back when you slip on a wet floor, or if you fall off a ladder or scaffold.

Whatever the reason for your injury, if you hurt your back while working you are automatically covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.  Your employer does not have the option to “opt out” of workers’ compensation coverage.

Once you report your on-the-job injury to your employer, a workers’ compensation insurance company will get involved and  this is where you may begin seeing problems.

You are Only a Number to the Insurance Company

Even if you are a long time employee, cherished by your boss and treated like a member of the family, your employer’s insurance company will see you only as a number and a cost that they need to keep down.   Many of our clients have expressed frustration and anger at the disrespect showed to them by their employer’s insurance company. [Read more…]

Am I Entitled to More than One Independent Medical Exam if I have Multiple Work Injuries?

posted panel of physiciansUnder Georgia’s workers’ compensation law, your employer gets to direct where you get medical care if your employer provides you with a valid “posted panel of physicians.”   Not surprisingly, posted panel doctors sometimes bring a pro-employer bias to their treatment of you.  I regularly see – and you have no doubt heard stories about – cases in which a seriously injured man or woman is given a regular duty return to work, only to end up in surgery a few weeks later.

In 1990, the Georgia legislature gave injured workers an important new right, the “claimant’s IME (independent medical exam).  Under this law, an injured worker can request an independent medical examination with a doctor of his choosing, paid for by the employer’s insurance company.

When properly used as part of a effective claim strategy, your claimant’s IME can be used to:

  • refute the unfair and biased claim of industrial clinic doctors
  • contest a premature return to work demand by the insurance adjuster
  • support a request for a change in authorized treating physician
  • support a reasonable settlement demand

However, as important and valuable as your claimant’s IME rights may be, this right is not open ended and it can be wasted if not used properly. [Read more…]

National Public Interest Organization Criticizes Georgia Workers’ Comp System

A report from the Center for Justice & Democracy, a private consumer rights advocacy group, suggests that Georgia offers less that adequate protection for injured workers with its workers’ compensation laws. Among the findings:

  • lost wage benefits for injured workers are among the lowest in the nation. In Georgia, an injured workers is paid 66% of his average weekly wage with a maximum payment of $450 per week. Most states pay 75% to 100% of the average weekly wage with no cap at all.
  • except in certain catastrophic cases, injured workers in Georgia may only collect lost wage benefits for 400 week (7 1/2 years). Most State have no benefit term cap. From the perspective of a workers’ compensation lawyer, this limitation on the total amount of lost wage benefits is reduces the insurer’s exposure and therefore reduces an injured workers’ negotiation power for settlement purposes.
  • lobbyists for business and insurance interests are actively lobbying to get rid of the “catastrophic” designation and therefore apply a 400 week cap on wage benefits in all cases. A worker who ends up in a wheelchair unable to move, therefore, would only be entitled to less than 8 years of wage benefits with no chance of recovering a monetary settlement sufficient to care for his lifetime needs
  • the Georgia legislature has been eroding the “no fault” nature of Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws. Insurers can deny benefits by claiming that an employee did not follow procedures or if an employment application was not filled out completely. Insurers can deny benefits if a worker is hurt on a break or by claiming that he is not performing work within the scope of his employment. These eligibility issues are similar to the issues that arise in negligence civil litigation such as car accidents or malpractice, except that in a workers compensation setting the injured worker cannot recover pain and suffering damages. Typical workers’ compensation settlements, therefore, are significantly lower than a negligence settlement would have been for the same type of injury.