You probably understand that workers’ compensation applies to employees injured on the job. For instance, if you injure yourself on factory equipment, you can file a workers’ compensation claim. A successful claim can cover medical bills and make up for wages lost while you are unable to work.
However, workplace health issues are not limited to catastrophic injuries. Repetitive actions at work (like repetitive shoulder movements, for example) can cause occupational injuries, and exposure to hazards (like dangerous chemicals) can cause occupational diseases. If you believe you have an occupational illness or disease that may entitle you to workers’ compensation, you probably have questions.
What are examples of occupational illnesses and diseases?
Occupational diseases are illnesses or medical conditions that result from a job-related hazard. One example is contact dermatitis (skin disease) resulting from contact with industrial solvents.
Wood dust or chemical fumes can also lead to respiratory conditions like asthma.
If you are a plumber, carpenter or butcher, you may be prone to repetitive-use injuries such as tennis elbow.
What is the process for receiving benefits?
The process is the same for an occupational disease as it is for a work-related accident. The first step is notifying your employer that something is wrong. Next, you should see a doctor to determine the nature and extent of your illness. Your employer will provide a list of qualified medical care providers. In Georgia, you need to start your claim within a year of your injury. In the case of occupational disease, that year begins when you first become aware of your condition. However, you must file the claim within seven years of your last exposure to the material.
What would the benefits include?
Benefits can vary according to your individual situation. Maximize your results by consulting with a workers’ comp lawyer who is familiar with Georgia’s system. You should receive money to cover medical bills and any physical rehabilitation. You should also qualify for wage replacement if you are out of work for more than seven days.
As of July 1, 2019, the maximum weekly workers’ comp benefit rate in Georgia went up to $675/week. So if you were injured AFTER that date, the rate went up to $675/week. And that is tax free. Before that date, the maximum benefit rate was $575/week.
The benefit rate is still calculated based on two-thirds of your average gross wages for the 13 weeks of earnings prior to your injury date.
Serious, permanent conditions may extend the benefit period to as long as 400 weeks.
Again, to ensure that you get all the benefits you need and deserve, talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.