Every year, Georgia deals without about 80,000 workers non-fatally injured while on the job. Even as most employers work to meet OSHA and other safety standards, some workplaces still remain unsafe and accidents at work continue to occur. If you’ve been injured on the job, it’s hard to know what GA workers comp laws apply to you and how they work.
Here are four things you need to know to protect your rights when it comes to being injured at work in Georgia.
1. Know Which Workers Are Covered
While you might assume that all workers in Georgia are going to be covered by workers compensation, that’s not necessarily true. If you assume you’re going to be covered by workers’ comp, you could end up in a situation where you’re stuck without a paycheck and without insurance. While there are many work environments which involve physically demanding labor, they’re not all equally protected.
Working for a small employer, for example, or if you’re just one of two regular full-time employees, will likely mean that you’re not going to be covered. The same goes for domestic workers who are employed by the owner of a home/personal residence. This could even extend to childcare workers or nannies who spend their time caring for children and performing domestic duties.
While this is a hard truth to face, some positions don’t merit coverage by Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws.
In fact, many U.S. government employees might be surprised to find out that they’re not covered. If government workers are forced to work during a government shutdown and then end up being injured on the job, they’ll face a double bind. They’ll not only have their pay furloughed, they’ll also be left up the creek without a paddle in the view of Georgia’s workers’ comp.
If you’re an independent contractor of any kind, it’s likely that you’re not going to be covered by workers’ compensation.
2. “Injury” Has a Broad Definition
While you might think that your injury isn’t covered, see if Georgia has a different definition. When used from a legal standpoint, the term “injury” has a pretty broad meaning. It includes sudden accidents but also some injuries which occur gradually over time.
Even some diseases fall under compensation laws when they occur as a result of the work that you do. If you find that you’ve experienced a heart attack, stroke, or any kind of infection because of work, you could be compensated. It’s vital to go to the doctor regularly, because if a condition is considered “pre-existing”, it’s not going to be covered.
However, if a pre-existing condition was clearly exacerbated by employment, it merits compensation.
There are even new categories of injuries that Georgia began recognizing in the last couple of decades. Considered a “catastrophic injury”, these kinds of injuries are long-term problems that Georgia recognizes as meriting compensation.
These include amputations and paralysis that comes from a spinal cord injury. If you fall and end up with a severe brain injury, you’ll get coverage. Any type of serious burn is also covered and considered to be a long term problem.
3. Understand the Role of Time
As alluded to above, there are lot definitions for what qualifies as an injury under workers’ compensation. It doesn’t have to be a sudden accident for someone to be able to get compensation for their accident. Plenty of terrible injuries happen slowly over time and come from years of small discomforts or pain.
Slow injuries that come from a workplace can be characterized as things like arthritis from lifting or hearing loss from loud machinery. If you’re at a desk all day typing without the right preventative equipment, you could end up with carpal tunnel through that repetition. A workplace with lots of dust in the air gives you the conditions for lung problems that lead to chronic issues.
If you’re disabled and require medical care from anything that’s even loosely linked to your workplace conditions, take that problem seriously. It’s a standard requirement for your employer to take precautions against even small injuries. If they’ve failed to clean up toxic dust or ventilate to combat harmful fumes, you have recourse for compensation.
4. You Don’t Have To Be Working
Depending on the type of site that you work at or how things are done at your job, you could be off the clock when you’re injured. Lots of injuries happen during the social or recreational activities that your employer sponsors. If your employer is hoping to encourage you to be more active to gain some kind of benefit, like competing in a charity sports event, then you’re covered.
If you’re at a job training event or you’re at a conference for work, you could also be covered by workers compensation. Even just traveling between various job sites or from one place to another when you’re on call for employment presents a case for getting covered.
The legality around these moments is complicated and you could have a hard time proving things, especially when you’re “on call”. However, if you hire a good attorney and document your injury well, you should be protected. If your employer rejects your claim, seek out legal advice to ensure you get the coverage you need.
Whenever your employer has asked you to complete any task relevant to your employment, you’ll be covered under workers compensation. If you have to run to the store to pick up supplies or equipment, you should be covered.
GA Workers Comp Laws Are Supposed to be Pro-Worker
While it can feel intimidating to jump through all the necessary hoops when it comes to getting the coverage you need, the law is on your side. GA workers comp laws are there to protect workers and ensure that you’re protected when you’re injured on the job.
For some of the most common injuries to be aware of, check out our guide for more info.