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Employer Forced to Pay Injured Worker’s Attorneys’ Fees for Wrongfully Denying Benefits

You have been hurt at work, and your employer refuses to start your disability payments or to help you get the medical care that you need. You have no money to hire an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer. What should you do?

You should call an attorney and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. You do not have to pay a lawyer upfront to get your workers’ compensation case started. In fact, under Georgia law, no attorney’s fees can be paid in an on-the-job injury case until the State Board of Workers’ Compensation approves the fee.

Usually, the fee is paid as a percentage of the benefits ultimately awarded to the employee, but in cases in which the employee is forced to hire counsel because the employer has refused to comply with the law without reasonable grounds to do so, attorney’s fees may be “added on” to the award, such that the employer – rather than the employee – pays the fees. A recent case illustrates the point.

Facts of the Case

In a recent workers’ compensation case, the employee was a man who was injured while working as a driver transporting adult patients to and from his employer’s facility. His injuries occurred during an automobile accident in May 2016. At the time of the accident, the employee was stopped at a stop sign while transporting patients in the employer’s company vehicle when the vehicle was rear-ended by another automobile.

The employee filed a claim under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, seeking temporary total disability and medical benefits necessitated by injuries he suffered to his neck and lower back. The employee also requested that a particular chiropractor be designated as his authorized treating physician, that attorney fees and late payment penalties be assessed, and that the matter be referred to the enforcement division of the board, due to the employer’s alleged failure to maintain a policy of workers’ compensation insurance pursuant to law.

Decision by the Board

The trial division of the board found that the employer had three or more regular workers in their employment and were thus subject to the Act, that the employee had suffered injuries arising out of and in the course of his employment, that the employee reported the accident and his injuries as required by law, that the employee had unable to work since the accident, that the employee suffered three disc herniations in his lower back because of the accident, and that the employer had denied his request for medical benefits.

Accordingly, the board ordered the employer to pay temporary total disability benefits to the employee, designated the chiropractor as the authorized treating physician, and directed the employer to pay the employee’s attorney a fee of 25% of the total benefits awarded to the employee in addition to (not deducted from) the workers’ compensation benefits due to the employee. The employer was also directed to pay the employee’s litigation costs.

Have You Suffered an On-the-Job Injury?

Suffering an on-the-job injury is difficult enough, even when an employer complies with the law. Workers whose employers refuse to provide the benefits required by law are victims not just once but twice. Fortunately, Georgia law allows an employee to hire an attorney to help with his or her case so that he or she does not have to fight the battle alone. To schedule an appointment to discuss your Atlanta workers’ compensation case, call the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, at 678-605-9109 today.