A work injury can cause major disruptions to your life—not only your health, but also to your career, finances, and overall well-being. Fortunately, the Georgia workers’ compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of those losses and get you back to work as soon as possible. However, it also limits the amount of money you can receive from your employer. This article explains the types and amounts of benefits that are available through workers’ comp. (To get these benefits, you will need to file a Georgia workers’ compensation claim.)
Georgia pays temporary total disability benefits to employees who are unable to work for more than seven days due to their injuries. These benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage before your injury. However, like other states, Georgia places a cap on weekly benefits. As of July 1, 2017, you cannot receive more than $575 per week. (The cap is updated annually in July; you can find a list of the maximums at the website of the Georgia Board of Workers’ Compensation.) These benefits continue until you reach maximum medical improvement or 400 weeks have passed, whichever is earlier.
For temporary partial disabilities—meaning that you are able to work but are earning less than normal—the benefit is two-thirds of the difference between your average earnings before and after your injury. For example, if you normally earn $600 per week and you are now earning $300 doing light duty work, you can receive two-thirds of $300 (the difference in your wages), which is $200. Temporary partial benefits cap out at $383 per week, as of July 1, 2017. These benefits continue until you reach maximum medical improvement or 350 weeks have passed, whichever happens first.
Once your medical treatment is complete, your doctor will evaluate you for a permanent disability. If you are found to have a permanent and total disability, you will continue to receive weekly payments for life at the temporary total rate. Permanent total disabilities are very severe injuries—such as the loss of both eyes, hands, arms, feet, or legs.
If your doctor finds that you have a permanent partial disability, you may be eligible for additional benefits. Georgia workers’ compensation pays for scheduled and unscheduled losses.
A scheduled loss of use award is available for disabilities of certain body parts, such as the eyes, ears, arms, legs, hands, or feet. The award is paid at two-thirds of your average weekly wages, for a number of weeks determined by a state schedule. For example, the schedule lists a total loss of use of a hand at 160 weeks. If you have only a 50% loss of use of the hand, you would receive 80 weeks of payments.
If the body part you injured does not appear on the schedule, you can receive an unscheduled award. This is for injuries to body parts other than the eyes, ears, or extremities—such as injuries to the head, spine, or organs. The award is based on a disability rating as to the body as a whole, which is worth up to 300 weeks of payment. For example, if your doctor gives you a 50% disability rating due to a back injury, you will receive 150 weeks of payment. These payments are subject to the same maximum as temporary total disability benefits.
Georgia workers’ compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
As you can see, workers’ compensation only pays of a portion of your lost wages. Workers’ comp also does not pay anything the pain and suffering caused by your injury. While this may seem unfair, it is part of the trade-off that is the workers’ comp system. The advantage of workers’ comp is that you can get benefits relatively quickly without needing to file a lawsuit or prove that your employer was at fault for causing your injury. The downside is that you can’t get the full value of your losses. (However, in some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering and other losses. To learn more, see our article on suing outside of the workers’ comp system.)