Missteps That May Hurt Your Chances of Recovering Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Worker feeling pain on his knees due to accident.

Navigating the Georgia workers’ compensation system can be challenging and frustrating for a worker who is dealing with a workplace injury or occupational illness. If the employee fails to follow the complex rules and deadlines of the workers’ compensation system, the claim may be dismissed.

An Augusta workers’ compensation lawyer from Gregory Smith Law, LLC can help you navigate the Georgia workers’ comp bureaucracy and pursue all the benefits you are entitled to by law.

Below are the common missteps that cause injured workers to miss out on workers’ compensation benefits. The easiest way to avoid a mistake is to let an experienced workers’ comp attorney handle your claim.

The attorneys at Gregory Smith Law have the legal skill and experience to guide your case through the appeals process. Call our GA workers’ compensation lawyers today or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Failing to Report the Injury

You must provide notice of a work-related injury or medical diagnosis to your employer within 30 days of the date of accident or diagnosis. If you fail to provide proper notice, you may forfeit your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Workers’ compensation is insurance coverage that most Georgia employers must maintain to provide benefits to employees injured on the job. Your employer needs to be notified of any workplace injury you develop.

Advise your supervisor and/or human resources office in writing about how you were injured, what the injury entails and that you are seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Save a copy of the notice. Your employer may have a form for you to complete. You should do as your employer directs to get your work-related injury or illness on the record and your workers’ comp claim filed.

Not Seeking Treatment

The primary workers’ compensation benefit is that it pays all of your medical bills for a work-related injury/illness and a portion of your lost wages while you recover. You must have a documented injury or illness that requires medical care to qualify for benefits.

In addition to seeking medical care to document your injury, you need to stick to the treatment plan the doctor prescribes. Failure to attend doctor appointments, take prescribed medications or prescribed rest, or participate in physical rehab may indicate to the insurer or the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) that you are not injured as badly as you claim. If you fail to follow the doctor’s orders or stop attending follow-up appointments as directed, your claim may be closed and your employer may require you to return to work.

It’s important to understand that following any emergency care you require, you must seek treatment from one of the doctors your employer has selected. The employer must provide a panel of physicians with at least six doctors for you to choose from, one of whom must be an orthopedic surgeon.

If you disagree with the treatment suggested by your employer-approved doctor, you may change and start obtaining care from another doctor from your employer’s list. If this provider is unsatisfactory, your employer must approve a second change. However, you may still seek a second opinion on your own, known as an independent medical exam or IME. You can use the results of an IME as evidence to appeal a decision by your assigned doctor, such as that you are ready to return to work. You can ask the Board of Workers Compensation to rule otherwise.

workers’ compensation lawyer can help you find a physician who knows what is required of an IME and what information the BWC would be looking for in an appeal.

Failing To Keep Accurate Records

If everything goes as it should in your workers’ compensation claim, you will start receiving about two-thirds of your regular pay about 21 days after the first day you missed work. If you miss more than 21 consecutive days, you will be paid for the first week you missed. Meanwhile, your doctor bills and other reasonable medical expenses will be paid according to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation fee schedules as long as a physician authorized by your employer treats you.

Some medical providers will seek payments above the workers’ comp fee schedule by billing the injured worker for them. If you are billed for those costs, contact your employer, the workers’ compensation insurer, or an attorney to get the charges corrected.

Reimbursement is also available for such things as mileage, meals, lodging, and other expenses if they are deemed necessary and appropriate in order to ensure you receive quality medical care. You will need to document these treatment-related travel expenses to obtain reimbursement and you should contact your employer to advise them of these expenses before you incur them.

In case there is a dispute, you should keep records of all of your expenses as well as your time away from work. It will be up to you to prove you are eligible for payments if your employer or their insurer disputes them.

Handling Your Claim Alone

The Georgia workers’ compensation program pays the medical bills and provides weekly disability checks to thousands of injured and ill workers every year. Permanently disabled workers may receive assistance, and the families of deceased workers receive benefits, as well. Because of the number of people served by the program, its rules must be complex to allow for a variety of circumstances. The volume and complexity of claims inevitably lead to errors and some injured workers not receiving the benefits they rightfully deserve. In addition, some employers and insurers dispute claims just to save money, especially after costly injuries.

If you are injured and are called upon to deal with a bureaucratic system you do not understand to pursue the workers’ comp benefits you need, it can be an overwhelming situation. You may miss out on the benefits you need. Even if you ultimately prevail, you may go without money for months as your appeal works its way through the system.

Augusta workers’ compensation lawyer Gregory Smith at Gregory Smith Law, LLC has the legal knowledge and experience to handle your claim. Gregory Smith focuses solely on Georgia workers’ compensation claims and has a detailed understanding of the system. He is an Augusta native and a member of the State Bar of Georgia and the Augusta Bar Association, as well as Georgia Injured Workers’ Advocates (GIWA), a professional association of lawyers dedicated to representing injured workers fairly.

If you need help seeking workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia, seek trusted legal guidance. Call Gregory Smith Law, LLC, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.

About the Author

Gregory Smith
Gregory founded Gregory Smith Law, LLC in his hometown of Augusta in 1993. Since that time, he has focused his practice exclusively on representing injured workers and their families after serious on-the-job accidents in Augusta and throughout Georgia. Gregory earned his undergraduate degree in accounting from Augusta College and law degree from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law in Macon. He is a member of the State Bar of Georgia, Augusta Bar Association, and the Georgia Injured Workers’ Advocates, an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of injured and ill workers in the Peach State. When he’s not in the office, Gregory enjoys bicycling, fishing, and spending time with his wife and three children.