You suffered an on-the-job injury and have an extended period of recovery ahead. Very few people can afford to be without an income for any lengthy duration. As you look at options for yourself and, if applicable, your family, your thoughts naturally turn to workers’ compensation. What defines workers’ comp eligibility in Georgia, and will you be fortunate enough to fall under its protective umbrella?
Coverage Is Extensive
Odds are the answer to this question is yes. Georgia law requires any business with three or more workers to have workers’ compensation coverage. This includes part-time employees, and you are covered from your first day on the job. There is no 90-day waiting period when it comes to on-the-job protection. The day you show up for work, the coverage kicks in.
Coverage is Not Universal
The above requirements are going to cover a huge percentage of the Georgia workforce, but there will be exceptions. Consider the following….
Independent contractors are not necessarily covered by the employers they serve. In a lot of circumstances, this is easy enough to understand. No one expects a plumber to be on the workers’ comp coverage of a company just because he makes several visits a year. Likewise, an IT consultant that has several different corporate clients is clearly in business for themselves.
But what if that same IT consultant puts in extensive time for one client, and what if it’s understood that the consultant will basically drop everything when that client calls with a problem? You can make a pretty good argument that, even though they might be getting paid as a contractor (i.e., no taxes are taken out of their check), they answer to that client.
The state of Georgia uses the control test. To use some legalese, the person is covered by workers’ comp if the client has “the right to direct, time, manner, methods and means of execution of work.” By contrast, the contractor is truly independent if the client may only require “results according to the contract.”
Thus, if the IT consultant is simply told “Keep my system running, I don’t care how you do it,” they are not covered by that client’s workers’ comp. If the instructions are more specific, they will have a case for coverage.
Independent contractors that are truly independent aren’t left in the cold. They can still purchase workers’ comp coverage for themselves. Sole proprietors also have flexibility in how they define themselves. The shop owner who works at the store full-time with three employees can either put themselves under the general business coverage or they can buy a separate policy for themselves.
Domestic servants are another group of workers that is exempt from workers’ compensation protection. The babysitter doesn’t get workers’ comp if there’s an accident in the kitchen. The home health aide is not covered if they throw out their back moving an elderly patient from the bedroom to the bathroom. Depending on the circumstances, there may be grounds for a private personal injury lawsuit, but these accidents do not, strictly speaking, fall under the workers’ compensation umbrella.
Farm workers are also left without workers’ compensation protection. This is defined as anyone who works in an agricultural setting.
Falling Short of the Law
The examples above all presume the law is being followed by all businesses and employees who are responsible. Unfortunately, that is not always the case in real life and coverage can be lost. For example:
- Employees can be injured because they were influenced by drugs or alcohol. Under these circumstances, they will not qualify. However, please note that if the accident was your fault (maybe you tried to lift something you shouldn’t have), that will not disqualify you from coverage. The state of Georgia understands that people make mistakes, so long as those mistakes happen in a state of clear-headed sobriety.
- Employees must report the accident within 30 days of its occurrence, or they will not qualify for coverage.
- There are businesses that either can’t afford or simply choose not to purchase workers’ compensation coverage. If you’re going to work at a new job, you can check the state database to verify coverage.
What Eligibility Gets You
If your accident is indeed covered by the Georgia workers’ comp program, there are a wide range of benefits you can tap into.
Lost Wages: You can be reimbursed for two-thirds of your income, up to a maximum of $675 per week. You’ll need pay stubs and/or a tax return to prove your income levels. Sales reps and others who may work on commission can be compensated based on their typical earnings.
Medical Benefits: Of course, this includes your hospital bills. It also includes any co-pays on doctor visits and prescriptions connected to the accident (i.e., painkilling medication). It also includes travel to and from appointments. In most cases this won’t amount to much beyond gas mileage. But if you had a serious injury and your doctor refers you up to the Cleveland Clinic, workers’ comp covers those travel costs.
Vocational Training: What if you worked for a landscaping company and the medical professionals have told you that kind of work is no longer suitable? Workers’ comp will help you with vocational training for a new career. And if you can work at a job that is lower paying than the one you were injured in, workers’ comp offers staggered benefits schedules to help make up the difference.
Death Benefits: If you have a family, they’re also depending on the income that you were earning and is now being taken care of by workers’ compensation. Upon your death, any dependents--which include your spouse, along with any children--will receive the two-thirds of weekly income up to $675 per week.
The Law Office of Arthur E. Snead, LLC exists to help people who have been injured on the job. I’ve been there myself. Before I was a lawyer, I was a commercial fisherman, and I badly injured my hand while on the job. I know what it’s like--dealing with the fear of what the future holds and the aggravation of the paperwork, all the while trying to recover from the physical pain. That’s why I’ll work hard for you and, if any disputes arise, I’ll fight for you. Get with me either here online or at (404) 800-1181 and we’ll set up a complimentary consultation.