If you are injured on the job, Georgia law requires you notify your employer as soon as possible, but not later than 30 days from the date of accident or the date you learned you have a work-related injury. Unless you can provide a reasonable excuse, failing to provide the notice may bar your claim for benefits. You can notify your employer by telling your immediate supervisor in person or by phone that you were injured. You can also have someone else such as a family member, co-worker or friend tell your employer.
If your employer provides you medical care and disability benefits, if needed, you do not have to file any formal notices or forms with the State Board. On the other hand, if your employer fails or refuses to provide either medical or disability benefits to you, there are time limits within which you must pursue your claim. If you miss such a deadline, your claim will most likely be barred. As a general rule, you are required to file a notice of claim form with the State Board of Workers' Compensation within one year of your date of accident. If you received authorized medical treatment for your injury under workers' comp, you have one year from the date you last received this treatment to file the claim with the State Board. If you received a weekly disability benefit check because you were out of work and the check was improperly suspended, your time to file is increased to two years from the date you last received the disability check.
One additional time limitation period is referred to as the "change of condition" limitation period. If your weekly benefit check for lost time was properly suspended either because you were released to full duty, or returned to work on restriction at your full wage and your condition thereafter worsens to the point you are disabled, you must file a claim for benefits with the State Board not later than two years from the date your benefits were suspended, or your claim will most likely be barred.
For permanent partial disability benefits ("PPD"), you must file a claim within four years of the date you last receive a disability benefit check for being out of work.
Limitation periods or deadlines for filing are among the most complex aspects of workers' comp law. If you have a question concerning these deadlines, it is strongly recommended you contact an experienced attorney for advice.
Q1. How do I start a workers' compensation claim?
To start your claim, all you need to do is notify your employer of your injury. Your employer is then obligated to notify its workers' compensation carrier and provide the money and medical benefits discussed in this book.
Q2. After I was injured, my employer told me my claim for workers' comp was filed. Do I need to do anything else?
When an employer says they have filed a claim, they generally mean they have notified their insurance company. This is not the same as filing a claim with the State Board of Workers' Compensation. You can verify a claim has actually been filed with the State Board by calling the Board.
Q3. What date of accident is used if my injury developed gradually, such as carpal tunnel or a back condition gradually worsening because of the heavy work I do?
Some injuries are due not to a single incident but are due to repetitive trauma to your body, arms or legs. In these cases, the employer/insurer may choose the date you report your condition to the employer, the date you first receive medical care for the injury or the last date you were able to work for the employer as the accident date. The actual date assigned is often arbitrary and you are not bound by the accident date they assign if another date is more appropriate.
Q4. I injured my back on the job over a year ago. I notified my employer but did not ask for medical care and did not take any time off work. Over a year later my back worsened to the point I had to stop work. Is it too late to file for benefits?
No. The law is designed to encourage workers who are injured to keep working as long as possible. If the injury finally disables you from working, the last date you worked can be designated the date of accident and begin the time running on your filing deadline.
Q5. I believe I am entitled to benefits but the insurance company refuses to pay them to me. What can I do?
If the employer/insurer refuses to pay weekly benefits to which you believe you are entitled or pay for medical care which you believe is necessary and related to the injury, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge with the State Board of Workers' Compensation.
A hearing is a trial in which the employee and employer/insurer present testimony from live witnesses and other evidence. There is no jury in workers' compensation hearings and no right to have a jury decide the case. By law, the administrative law judge is both judge and jury.
Q6. I was injured on the job, but my employer refuses to make a report or notify the workers' comp insurer. What can I do to obtain workers' comp coverage?
If the employer refuses to make the report for you, you can contact the workers' comp insurer directly. The workers' comp insurer and its contact information will usually be shown on the "panel of physicians." (See "Medical Benefits Under Workers' Comp" at page 38). If not, you can contact the State Board of Workers' Compensation coverage desk to obtain this information.
Q7. I had a job-related back injury and was out of work receiving benefits for several months. I last received a disability check and returned to my regular job more than two years ago. Recently, while at work I was lifting a heavy box and aggravated my old back injury. Is it too late for disability benefits?
No, it is not too late to pursue benefits. There is a two-year statute of limitations from the date you last received a weekly benefit check to again pursue disability under workers' comp under your original claim. If you re-injure your back while at work in a specific new accident, as you described, you have a new claim for benefits as of the date of your new accident.
Q8. What if I did not have a specific new accident after the two-year limitations period, but was instead moved into a heavier job that gradually worsened my old back injury to the point I became disabled?
If you undergo a change of circumstances in your job duties that lead to a worsening of your pre-existing injury, you may be entitled to pursue a new claim for benefits as of the date you again became disabled or needed renewed medical care. This claim should be treated as a new accident.
Q9. Do I need to report my injury to my employer before seeking medical care for a work-related injury?
In a non-emergency situation, any medical care you receive before your employer has notice of your injury will not be covered under workers' compensation. In emergency situations, you should be covered for the medical care you receive on an emergency basis even if it is before your employer has notice of the injury.
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