Georgia Workers’ Compensation
Your case will be handled by a law practice that specializes primarily in Workers’ Compensation and helping those employees injured on the job. Workers’ compensation was first enacted in Georgia in 1920. Every year some 230,000+ on the job injuries are reported to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation in Georgia. Because of the Workers’ Compensation laws, not one of those injured employees who are eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits can file a lawsuit in the courts of Georgia and collect tort damages from their employers or co-workers – not one. On the other hand, because of the Workers’ Compensation laws, every one of those injured workers’ should have health care to treat their injuries to them at no cost.
Unlike a tort claim, a Workers’ Compensation claim is a no fault proceeding. It does not matter who was at fault for the injury, except in the case of willful misconduct. The recovery is limited by statute to basically a percentage of lost wages and medical expenses. There is no provision for general damages or pain and suffering. A Workers’ Compensation claim is decided with an administrative proceeding. The hearing is held in front of an Administrative Law Judge with no jury. It is a fast track proceeding. The hearing you request today will be set on a calendar to be heard 30 to 90 days from today. You may need the benefit of experienced legal counsel in order to have your evidence and witnesses ready to go to trial before the hearing.
Experienced legal counsel can be extremely helpful in the preparation of a Workers’ Compensation case in Georgia. Prior injuries or medical conditions are favorite subjects for impeachment or discrediting of the employee. An attorney can help to minimize the effects of such information on behalf of the employee. There may be written or recorded statements taken by the employer or insurer that can be reviewed. These should be pursued in discovery, which is a very common practice for experienced legal counsel.
Most Workers’ Compensation cases involve medical questions, such as did the injury cause or aggravate the medical condition or conditions from which the employee suffers? Or has the employee sufficiently recovered from the injury to return to the light duty job offered by the employer? Therefore, counsel will need copies of the employee’s medical records. If the medical records do not answer the critical questions in the case, counsel may need to go to the medical experts or doctors to try to develop these answers.
The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation recently implemented an electronic document management system. This currently allows for electronic processing of hearing requests; automated scheduling of hearings; and electronic generation of Orders and Awards by the judges. With the progression of the electronic document management system, counsel who has filed an attorney fee contract in a claim will be able to view the file online. The State Board has prepared a number of specific forms for parties to use in processing a workers’ compensation claim. These Board forms have been recently revised specifically to work with the new electronic document management system. Claim information must be submitted on the most current Board form. An incorrect form is likely to be returned by the Board for re-submission on the correct form. If the information is not completed sufficiently for processing on a form, it will be returned. With a computer based paperless system, exact precision with filings is required in order for the documents to be processed correctly and efficiently. The State Board has a form for obtaining evidence in possession of the opposing party even before a hearing is requested.
There is also an Alternative Dispute Resolution unit within the State Board. This allows for the mediation of certain legal issues as well as settlement of Workers’ Compensation claims. The ADR, as it is called, handles a tremendous volume of cases each year, and the number keeps growing. One of their goals is to set cases within 30 days. The ADR unit also rules on motions and tries to do so within 30 days. Another of their goals is to provide quick resolution to disputes and assist in providing resolution to claims. Experienced legal counsel can be very effective in maneuvering through the ADR system.
The employee generally has the burden of proof of entitlement to Workers’ Compensation benefits. In order to recover Workers’ Compensation benefits, an employee must prove certain things as follows:
- The employee was an employee of the employer.
- The employer is an employer that is subject to the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Since the employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurer is an essential party to the claim, the identity of the correct insurer must be established. This information is available online.
- The employee’s correct average weekly wage before deductions during the 13 weeks immediately preceding the injury.
- The employee suffered an injury by accident arising out of and in the course and scope of the employee’s employment for the employer.
- The employer had timely notice of the injury, within 30 days of the injury.
- The employee suffered a loss of income as a result of the injury and/or had to incur medical expenses for treatment of the injury.
- The employee may have to be prepared to show evidence establishing that his or her claim was filed within the applicable statute of limitations.
Usually, most of the potential issues in a Workers’ Compensation claim are not in dispute and can be stipulated by counsel for the parties. The parties are required to announce any stipulations to at the call of the case for hearing. It is almost essential that the Employee or the employee’s counsel discuss this with the opposing attorney prior to the date of the hearing.
All medical evidence, including any testing or evaluation of the employee’s injuries resulting from the accident, which is the subject of the hearing, must be exchanged between the parties no later than 10 days prior to the hearing. The employee or the employee’s counsel should prepare the case for the hearing at least two weeks in advance. Preparation entails deciding on the agreed stipulations, the needed witnesses, the selected hearing exhibits and the State Board documents that will be judicially noticed.
You cannot take for granted that a document that should have been filed with the State Board was actually filed with the Board. The employee or the employee’s counsel needs to examine the contents of the Board’s file well in advance of the hearing to confirm what was filed in a particular case.
As the facts of the case develop, experienced legal counsel can decide what the achievable goals are for the employee and can develop a strategy to achieve those goals. What benefits are available to the employee? What defense does the employer have to an employee’s claim? How does the employee go about proving his case? How might the other side prove their case? The attorneys at Benedict & Torpey, P.C. have the experience and ability to move cases along at the fast track pace set by the Workers’ Compensation system. The Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys at Benedict & Torpey, P.C. know how to prepare the employee’s case in an effort to work it out without a hearing. This is what a client should want, and we believe the client deserves this.
If you or anyone you know has been injured on the job, contact us online, or call us at 404-474-3460, to set up a FREE consultation to discuss the options for your claim.