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How to Protect Your Legal Rights After a Workplace Injury

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2022 | Personal Injury

Did you get injured on the job in Georgia? You are not alone. In 2021, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation received over 32,000 workplace injury claims worth nearly $733 million.

A workplace accident can leave you unable to work, affecting your finances. That is why the state of Georgia requires all employers to offer worker’s compensation insurance for their employees.

But employers do not always have your best interest at heart after a workplace accident. That is why you need to know your rights when it comes to filing worker’s compensation claims in Georgia.

Are you wondering what to do immediately after getting injured at work? Then keep reading this guide for our personal injury attorneys’ top tips. Plus, we will answer the popular question: if I get injured at work, do I get paid?

What to Do Immediately Following a Workplace Injury

The seconds, minutes, and hours following a workplace accident are the most critical. Even if your injury does not seem severe, you must immediately take the following steps to ensure Georgia’s workers’ rights protect you.

As long as you do follow these steps, your employer’s workers’ comp insurance will cover your:

  • Medical costs
  • Rehabilitation fees (if any)
  • Lost income

In some cases, you may also have the right to sue your employer. We will discuss more on that later. But first, here are the things you should do right after you get injured on the job.

Formally Report Your Injury

In the state of Georgia, you must notify your employer of your injury within 30 days of your injury. We recommend notifying your employer far sooner than that. The quicker you notify your employer, the better your case outcome.

Who exactly should you report your injury to? Your “employer” could be your direct supervisor, the foreman on a construction job, or any other boss to whom your report.

Also, make sure you submit more than just a verbal report of your injury. Send a written report as well. Keep a copy of that written report for your personal records, just in case.

Collect Evidence

The next step is to collect any evidence that could help with your case. For example, you might want to:

  • Write down the names of any witnesses
  • Record the date and time of the injury
  • Document your employer’s response to your formal report

It may also be helpful to write down your own version of the events leading up to your injury. Be careful to write down any details you might forget, but that may be important for making your case.

Finally, note what led to the injury. For example, did someone leave water on the ground, which caused you to slip and fall? Record any machinery or circumstances that led to your accident in your report.

Take a Photo of Your Injury or Injuries

Did your injury leave visible signs? Examples of visible signs of injury include bruises, broken bones, and swelling. You should take photos of your injury even if you do not think you will not need them for your claim.

Did dangerous working conditions lead to your injury? If so, you should also take pictures of the working environment that led to your injury.

Visit the Doctor

If your injury is severe, you may require a trip to the hospital before you can make a report to your employer. For less severe injuries, take the above steps before going to the doctor.

The doctor should provide you with a formal report of his or her findings. Also, you have the right to seek a second opinion if the first doctor’s findings do not align with yours.

As we mentioned earlier, it is critical to visit a doctor even if you think your injury is insignificant. Injuries often lead to long-term symptoms that can keep you away from work.

Imagine that you need to prove that those symptoms happened due to your previous accident so that you can get workers’ comp benefits. In that case, the doctor’s initial report can help you make your case.

File Your Workmans Comp Claim

The final thing to do after a workplace accident is to file your claim. Your employer will provide you with the proper form. Then, your employer should submit those forms to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.

You can also obtain the proper form yourself: Form WC-14. You can retrieve Form WC-14 from this website: www.sbwc.georgia.gov. You must file this form, and your employer must submit the claim within one year of your injury.

After filing, the board will determine your eligibility for benefits. If the board denies your claim, you have the right to request a hearing before a judge. You and your injured-at-work lawyer will then argue your case.

What Not to Do After a Workplace Accident

Now that you understand your rights after getting injured at work, it is time to learn what not to do. Here are the top three things you should avoid doing at all costs after an accident at work.

Do Not Talk to Your Employer’s Insurer

Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company may try to record a statement from you after your injury. They might call you or send an investigator to gather the statement.

Whatever you do, do not give a statement to an insurance company or its representatives. They may tell you they want to help. But, in reality, they can use your verbal statement as a reason to decrease your benefits.

Do Not Wait to Submit a Formal Report

Submitting a formal report to your employer is the first step in filing a workers’ comp claim in Georgia. As we mentioned, you have a deadline of 30 days to make your report and a deadline of one year to file your claim.

Like making statements, filing untimely reports can give insurers a reason to deny your claim. And failing to report your accident for more than 30 days could cause you to forfeit your rights to a claim altogether.

Do Not Avoid Going to the Doctor

Some people avoid going to the doctor after a workplace accident because they can not afford it. However, as long as you are dealing with an on-the-job injury, your workers’ comp benefits will cover the treatment.

Another reason people avoid going to the doctor after an accident at work is that they think the injury is non-severe. As we mentioned earlier, delayed symptoms from the injury can pop up.

Having a doctor’s opinion can help you prove that these symptoms did, in fact, come about due to a workplace accident.

When to Contact a Workplace Accident Lawyer

Not all workers’ compensation claims require legal representation.

One reason why you may want to hire a lawyer is if you want a legal opinion about the written report you submit to your attorney. Sometimes people will also hire a lawyer to help them file Form WC-14.

If your claim gets denied, you have the right to obtain a lawyer to represent you at the court hearing. But you also have the legal right to represent yourself in the state of Georgia.

Why else might you want to hire a workers’ comp attorney? Here are three situations to consider.

If Your Employer Will Not File an Official Claim

Is your employer refusing to file your claim with his or her insurance company? In Georgia, it is your legal right to file a workers’ comp claim. Your employer is acting illegally if he or she:

  • Misreports your injury
  • Fails to report your injury within the proper timeline
  • Threatens to retaliate against you if you file your claim
  • Offer an incentive to you if you agree to not file your claim

If this happens to you, call an attorney ASAP. Your lawyer will help you properly file your claim and make sure your employer is not dragging their feet. That way, you get paid what you need when you need it.

If You Were Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol

Workers’ compensation insurance will not cover a workplace accident if the injured employee is intoxicated on the job. This is why many employers force injured employees to undergo drug tests immediately after the accident.

However, in some cases, you can prove that your injury had nothing to do with you being intoxicated. A workplace injury attorney can help you prove this and win benefits.

If Your Employer Terminates You for Filing Your Claim

If you sue your employer after a workplace accident, he or she has the right to fire you. However, it is illegal in the state of Georgia to fire an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim and requesting benefits.

The only time it is legal to terminate an injured worker is if:

  • You acquire a disability that the employer can not accommodate without financial hardship
  • Your injury makes you unable to perform your job as normal
  • Your employer can not afford to hold your position until your doctor clears you for work

Also, make sure you return to work on the exact date your doctor gives you medical clearance. If you fail to, your employer also has legal grounds to terminate you.

Barring these situations, though, you should call a personal injury attorney if your employer fires you for filing a workers’ comp claim.

When Can You Sue Your Employer If You Get Injured on the Job?

Most people who get injured at work receive compensation for their medical bills and lost income. But they do not usually get paid. That is because you can not typically sue your employer after an accident in Georgia.

However, some workplace accident cases do lead to lawsuits. Here are some instances where you might have grounds to sue your employer.

Gross Negligence

Did your employer’s gross negligence lead to your injury? Georgia law defines gross negligence as acting without common sense or care toward another person’s safety.

For example, imagine there is asbestos growing at your workplace, and your employer knows about it. If your employer fails to address the asbestos and you fall ill as a result, you may have the right to sue.

Intentional Harm

You can also file a lawsuit against your employer if he or she intentionally injures you or makes you sick. Your attorney must first prove that the employer intended to cause you harm.

The stakes are high in this kind of situation. That is because you can not only stand to win compensation for your doctors’ bills and lost income. You can also sue for loss of future wages as well as pain and suffering.

Bad Faith Denial

You can sue on the basis of insurance bad faith if you have a valid claim, but the insurance company denies it. However, that your employer acted in bad faith is extremely difficult to prove.

An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help make your case if this happens to you.

Product Liability

Product liability cases fall under personal injury law. Technically, suing under a product liability claim has nothing to do with workers’ compensation. But if you obtain an injury at work due to a defective product, you can sue.

As with workers’ compensation claims, there is a statute of limitations on product liability cases. You must submit your product liability case within two years of the accident or else forfeit your claim.

Independent Contractors

Finally, independent contractors can almost always sue after obtaining a workplace injury. That is because contractors are not technically employees. Thus, they can not file for workers’ compensation.

If you are an independent contractor and got injured at work, call a personal injury attorney ASAP. You can sue and get paid for any related expenses you incurred due to your accident.

Injured at Work? Call Wells and McElwee

After a workplace injury, it is critical to gather evidence and make a formal report to your employer. You have 30 days to make your report and one year to file a claim for workers’ compensation.

Do you need help filing a claim after a workplace accident? You’ve come to the right place. Call our personal injury attorneys now to schedule your free case evaluation.