A work injury can leave you with many medical bills, days, weeks, or more of missed work time, and stress over how to pay for your living costs. Thankfully, you are entitled to benefits through your employer’s workers’ compensation policy. You have a legal right to compensation for your medical costs and lost wages, and there are certain things you can do to help maximize your workers’ compensation settlement.
With workers’ compensation, you do not need to worry about proving fault in the accident that caused your injury. Fault isn’t even questioned. Plus, your employer doesn’t have to worry about getting sued. The problem that injured workers sometimes run into with workers’ compensation is how claims are handled.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and they care most about their bottom line. That means they may offer you weekly wages or a settlement that is much less than you need to get better and recover your costs. It’s good to protect your legal rights from the beginning and make sure you can help get the most out of your claim.
What Are the Main Ways I Can Maximize My Workers’ Compensation Settlement?
Here are eight of the top ways you can work towards the best workers’ compensation settlement possible.
1. Let Your Employer Know You Were Injured
After a work injury, you are legally required to report the injury to your employer immediately (O.C.G.A. Title 34 Appx. Bd. Work. Comp. r. 61). If you wait too long and don’t report the incident within 30 days of the injury, you will lose your chance at compensation.
Tell your supervisor about your injury as soon as you can. Don’t put it off, as the longer you wait (even if you report it within the 30-day period), the lesser chance the insurance company will believe your injuries are serious.
You must report the injury to your employer in writing. Most employers will have forms available for you to easily report the accident, but if they don’t, ask how you can record your injury.
2. Get Medical Treatment as Soon as Possible
You should get your injuries looked at by a doctor as soon as you can after the injury. Don’t wait a few days to see if your injuries improve; see a doctor right away. You will want to seek compensation for all treatment for the work injury—from the moment you are hurt onwards.
Your supervisor might want to have you see a company nurse or doctor or call an ambulance for you, and that’s fine. The bottom line is that you want to get medical treatment right away so the insurance company can’t use the delay as a reason to offer you a lower settlement. They might try to say your injuries weren’t as bad as you said or that they didn’t happen at work.
Employers in Georgia are required to maintain a “Panel of Physicians” of at least six doctors or professional associations of physicians that employees can easily access (Georgia Code section 34-9-201). You can choose a physician from this list for your treatment, and you are able to make one change between physicians without having to request authorization from the State Board of Workers Compensation (SBWC).
You Might Need to Get an Independent Exam
Keep in mind that the workers’ compensation insurance company might request that you get an Independent Medical Examination (IME). This would happen through one of the insurer’s doctors, and it’s for the insurance company’s benefit instead of yours. The main reason for this exam is to provide expert opinions the insurance company might be able to use to control your benefits or reduce your settlement.
Don’t refuse an IME, that that can lead to the insurance company to terminate your benefits. Instead, contact a workers compensation lawyer who can make sure you don’t get taken advantage of regarding the exam.
Also, if you decide to change doctors, be sure to notify the workers’ compensation insurance adjuster before you begin getting treated by the new doctor.
3. File Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
You will also need to officially file a claim for workers compensation. You can do this by downloading the form from the SBWC website. Your employer will likely also provide you with one of these forms.
To maximize your settlement, make sure you file this form as soon as you can and complete it fully before submitting it. This will be your official notification to the insurance company of your injuries.
4. Understand How Disability Ratings Work
Many work injuries result in some type of disability that prevents you from working for a certain amount of time. Workers compensation disabilities fall into four categories:
- Temporary total disabilities that keep you from working for a certain amount of time
- Temporary partial disabilities that prevent you from performing only some of your job duties for a certain period of time
- Permanent partial disabilities that permanently prevent you from being able to perform certain types of work duties
- Permanent total disabilities that prevent you from ever working again—at your job or any other type of job
If your work injuries leave you with a permanent disability, you will be assigned a certain disability rating, ranging from 5% to 100%, by your doctor. This will vary depending on how severe your injury is.
Disabilities are eligible for weekly benefits at two-thirds of your average weekly wage. Permanent disabilities can also leave you eligible for lifetime scheduled weekly benefits or a lump sum settlement. You and your lawyer may need to challenge the disability rating if you feel the insurance company’s benefits are not enough.
5. Don’t Give a Recorded Statement (or Trust the Insurance Company)
Insurance companies are notorious for asking injured workers questions that could be used as a reason to lower their settlement later.
If the insurance company asks you for a recorded statement or tells you they are recording a phone conversation, don’t allow it. Talk to a workers’ compensation first so nothing is used against you and your potential settlement.
6. Keep Careful Records of Everything
You can help maximize your workers’ compensation settlement by keeping track of all the costs of your injuries and other ways the work accident has affected your life. Keep copies of all paperwork, including bills and receipts, and detailed notes about what happens during your workers’ comp claim.
7. Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
It’s unlikely that you’ll have much luck handling your workers’ compensation claim alone. It’s best to schedule a consultation with an experienced workers compensation lawyer. They will know what steps to take to maximize your settlement and fight for your legal rights.
Get a Free Consultation with a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
John Foy & Associates can help you seek the best compensation possible after your work injury. Contact us today for a FREE consultation and case evaluation where we’ll discuss the details of your case and how we can help you.
To schedule your FREE consultation today, call us at (404) 400-4000 or contact us online to get started.