If you take a cursory look at the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation website, you might believe that filing a claim for workers' compensation is a relatively pain-free process that involves only the completion of a simple form.
While it is true that an employee must complete and file a WC-14 form with the Board (with copies to the employer and its workers' compensation insurance carrier), this is only the beginning of what can be a very long and often highly contentious process.
Unfortunately, obtaining the workers' compensation benefits one is due can be a difficult endeavor, so much so that the nonprofit organization Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) conducted an investigation into the problems many, including Georgians, have getting the help they need after a work injury. The recent study found that nearly one out of five Georgians injured at work who experienced more than seven days lost time reported "'big problems' getting services they or their primary provider wanted." Among those, more than half of the responses gave the reason as "employer or insurer did not want the care provided" as the reason. The research also concluded that Georgia had one of the lowest return to work rates in the country.
Report Reveals Common Insurance Company Tactics
According to the news report, each year "thousands" of injured workers have difficulty accessing the medical care that they are owed under Georgia workers' compensation law, especially if long-term care is required. One employee was quoted as saying, "The system is set up to frustrate people to where they finally give up." With many workers, the problem is not in getting medical attention in the beginning - especially in a severe injury case that requires emergency care - but instead in continuing to get necessary treatment in the months and years after a permanently disabling injury.
The report also suggests that delay tactics by employers and their insurance companies often have the effect of forcing those who have been seriously hurt on the job into accepting low ball settlement offers just to "be done with it." The story relied in part on a nonprofit institute's study that reportedly found that about 20% of those who were off work for more than seven days experienced difficulty in getting needed care. Even the chairman of the state board allegedly expressed worry about delayed treatment for many Georgia workers.
Help for Those Who Are Getting the Run-Around
The news article also explained that, for those who do not get the workers' compensation benefits to which they are entitled, there is a legal procedure that can help. This process begins with the filing of a claim, but it can also involve a hearing before an administrative law judge and even an appeal to the full board, if necessary. Under Georgia law, an injured worker is entitled to hire an attorney to represent him or her with regard to a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Typically, the attorney is paid a percentage of what the worker ultimately recovers. In cases in which an employer wrongfully denied a claim, however, it may be possible to shift at least a portion of the attorney's fee to the defendant.
Need to Talk to an Atlanta Workers' Compensation Attorney?
Georgia's workers' compensation system is complicated. If you or a loved one has been hurt at work, you need to protect your future health and financial security by getting the medical attention and disability benefits that you are owed. Experienced Atlanta workers' compensation lawyer T. Andrew Miller can help. Call us at 678-894-4758 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. We do not require an upfront attorney fee to get started on your claim.