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Understanding Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits

After a work-related accident, most injured workers have two questions:

  • “How am I going to pay my medical bills?”
  • “How am I going to support myself if I am unable to work?”

Your benefits from Georgia workers’ compensation are designed to pay your medical bills and help you support yourself while you are unable to work. Under Georgia law, every employer with more than three employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. With very few exceptions, any injury that occurred in connection with the performance of your job is covered by workers’ compensation.

However, the process for receiving all the benefits you deserve from workers’ compensation can be complex. If you have suffered a serious injury, it is important that you have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney representing you from the start. At Hilley & Frieder, P.C., in Atlanta, we are here to help.

Call for a free initial consultation about your workers’ compensation benefits. Contact our office at 404-233-6200 today to speak with one of our lawyers.

Seeking the Maximum Workers’ Comp Benefits Available

At the law firm of Hilley & Frieder, our Atlanta workers’ comp lawyers provide comprehensive workers’ comp services to clients in the Atlanta area and throughout Georgia. We have a complete understanding of the law in these matters, and we can help you secure the full compensation benefits you are entitled to under the law.

Workers’ Compensation Medical Benefits

Injured workers are entitled to all medical care that will help them recover from their injuries. Medical care is paid by the insurance company and there are no deductibles, no copays and no dollar limit for the care provided. Although there is no limit to the dollar amount of care, there is a time limit for medical care. Except for repair or replacement of certain medical devices, medical care ends 400 weeks from the date of injury for noncatastrophic injuries occurring after July 1, 2013. For example, if you suffered a workers’ compensation injury that occurred after July 1, 2013 and had either a spinal cord stimulator or intrathecal pump device implanted within the initial 400 weeks, all repair or replacement for the medical devices will be provided for as long as you have the device or its replacement.

Medical benefits include all types of treatment for your injuries. In some cases, these treatments must be administered by employer-provided doctors. In every case, we seek complete benefits packages that accommodate clients’ current and future needs.

Examples of available medical benefits for a work-related injury include:

  • Hospitalization
  • Surgery
  • Medications
  • Physical therapy and other rehabilitation services
  • Medical equipment, including crutches, wheelchairs and prosthetics

Most occupational injuries and illnesses will receive the actual value of necessary medical care through workers’ comp insurance coverage. However, some injuries come with scheduled awards. This means they receive a specific payment amount based on the nature and type of the injury.

Scheduled injuries in Georgia include the loss of vision or hearing, damage to hands and feet, and damage to legs. Unscheduled injuries that are not on Georgia’s list include catastrophic injuries such as brain trauma and spinal cord injuries. Learn more about how your workers’ compensation medical benefits work.

Workers’ Compensation Wage Benefits

In addition to medical care, an injured worker is entitled to weekly disability income benefits to help compensate for lost earnings. There are three types of income benefits: temporary total disability, temporary partial disability and permanent partial disability.

Under Georgia law, you are entitled to receive income benefits if your injury keeps you away from work for more than seven days. Wage benefits can fall into one of the above three categories, depending on the severity of the injury, the extent of your recovery and your ability to perform regular job tasks.

Temporary total disability (TTD)

If you are unable to work for at least seven days, you may receive a weekly check equivalent to two-thirds of your average weekly wage for a temporary total disability (TTD). This type of compensation is meant to help your family pay the bills while you recover from your total disability. You may receive this benefit for up to 400 weeks. Currently, there is a maximum weekly benefit level of $725 for injuries on or after July 1, 2022. If your disability becomes permanent, you may receive disability benefits for your lifetime.

Temporary partial disability (TPD)

With temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits, if you are able to return to work in a limited capacity or you are forced to take a lower-paying job because of your injury, you are entitled to receive income benefits equal to two-thirds of the difference between your average weekly wage prior to the injury and the weekly wage you are able to earn after. Currently, there is a cap of $483 per week on TPD benefits.

TPD benefits are meant to reimburse workers who are able to return to modified versions of their jobs or light work but cannot complete the full tasks of their jobs as they did prior to their accidents. Since these benefits are for temporary partial disabilities, they will not last forever. Georgia law pays TPD benefits for a maximum of 350 weeks, but they will stop earlier if you are able to return to work.

PTD benefits will also stop if you reach your point of maximum medical improvement. This is the point in time at which your doctor believes you will not recover any further from your injuries. If at this point you are still unable to return to the full capacity of your job, you may be able to switch to permanent partial disability benefits (PPD).

Permanent partial disability (PPD)

If your doctor has determined that you have reached “maximum medical improvement” and you are still partially impaired, you will receive an impairment rating according to American Medical Association guidelines. If you are not receiving TTD or TPD benefits, you are entitled to receive PPD benefits in accordance with your impairment rating.

PPD workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia pay out a maximum of $725 as of July 1, 2022. This type of payment will only be awarded after a doctor declares that your medical treatment has been completed and nothing more can be done to correct the damage or disability connected to your workplace injury. PPD benefits are most commonly awarded when a worker suffers a catastrophic injury, such as an amputation, spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury.

Learn more about how wage loss benefits are determined.

Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Benefits

In addition to medical benefits and lost wage reimbursement, you may also qualify for rehabilitation benefits after being injured on the job in Georgia. This specifically refers to vocational rehabilitation payments, which you may qualify for if you cannot return to your previous job due to a permanent partial or total disability.

If your physical or mental limitations from an occupational accident require you to find a new job, vocational rehabilitation benefits can pay for job placement services, career-finding support, new job training, education and other services that you need to find a different job that is suitable for your current state of health and physical capabilities.

Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits in Georgia

Every year, Georgia loses dozens of workers to fatal occupational injuries and diseases. If an individual dies as a result of a work-related injury, the workers’ compensation system will provide death benefits. First, an employer is required to pay for the cost of the employee’s funeral or burial, up to a reasonable amount that does not exceed $7,500. If there are no surviving dependents, this will be the only compensation available through workers’ comp for the death of an employee in Georgia.

If the deceased worker did leave behind surviving dependents – including a spouse, children or stepchildren – the employer must also pay an amount to match two-thirds of the worker’s weekly wage, up to $725 per week. A spouse who is widowed and does not have any children can receive a maximum of $290,000 in workers’ compensation death benefits unless he or she remarries or cohabitates in a marital-like relationship.

How Long Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

The maximum period that you can be paid weekly benefits depends upon what type of benefits you are collecting. How long you can collect is measured from your date of injury. The maximum period for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits is 400 weeks for a claim not designated catastrophic. For catastrophic claims, the maximum is life. The maximum period for temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits is 350 weeks.

An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can make sure that you receive the correct amount of benefits and for the correct length of time. Our lawyers can also advise you if it would be in your interest to trade your continuing right to medical care and weekly benefits for a lump sum settlement.

Schedule Your Free Consultation

To schedule a free initial consultation with our Atlanta workers’ compensation law firm, please contact us today.

Ronald Hilley was the contributing attorney to this content.