Can Short-Term Disability Benefits Affect Georgia Workers’ Comp Eligibility?

Employees injured while working on the job can seek compensation for their injuries through Georgia's workers' compensation system. Sometimes workers face a dilemma, however, in deciding whether to pursue workers' compensation, short-term disability or just use a couple sick days.

If a worker makes the wrong decision, it may be more difficult to obtain benefits under workers' comp. For example, a woman who worked for her employer for almost 20 years twisted her knee while at work. She mentioned the pain to her supervisor, but decided to deal with it on her own. Later in the week, she saw her family doctor. The doctor was concerned the pain might be more serious and referred her to a specialist.

After consulting with the specialist, the woman discovered she needed to undergo knee surgery. She was out of work for six weeks. At this point, she recognized that the injury stemmed from twisting her knee while at work.

An application for short-term disability asks whether the injury occurred while on the job. If a worker believed his or her injury was not serious and applied for short-term disability, it could later affect a workers' compensation claim. If the worker indicated on the short-term disability application that he or she did not sustain the injury while on the job, the workers' comp claim could be denied.

Vacation or Sick Leave to Recover

In another situation, an older woman who worked in a grocery store for 25 years hurt her back and neck. She sought treatment without mentioning the injury to anyone at the store. The woman did not think the injury was serious. The pain got worse and after another injury, she needed back surgery. At that point, she assumed short-term disability was the best route to cover the treatment.

A path was built away from workers' compensation that later proved a bar to any workers' comp recovery. Without documenting when and where the injuries occurred, a claim can be denied. The workers' comp insurer can also easily argue that injury was not work-related, because of the short-term disability application.

In addition, it may not be a good idea to take vacation or sick leave to recover from a workplace injury. Some workers do not want to bring up workplace injuries to managers for fear of losing their jobs in this difficult economy.

For instance, a hot tub deliveryman who strains his back while going up steep stairs may not want to bother his employer and just take a couple days at home to recover. If the injury is worse than initially thought or requires surgery in the future, it may be more difficult to prove the back injury was work-related.

If you are injured on the job, seek the counsel of an experienced Atlanta workers' compensation attorney. Before assuming that a couple days of sick leave or short-term disability are the correct paths, talk with an attorney. You may protect your rights down the road by discussing your individual circumstances immediately following the injury.