Attorney Explains Georgia Workers’ Compensation System

This video features Rebecca K. Halberg, a Workers' Compensation attorney based in Georgia.

Atlanta Work Injury Lawyer Rebecca Halberg

Video Transcript:

Rebecca Halberg: 

It wasn't designed to be complicated, but it has become very complicated.

Rob Rosenthal: 

If you're injured while on the job, do you know how to get help with your recovery and your medical bills? We're gonna find out today on this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest is Atlanta attorney, Rebecca Halberg. I'll remind you if you'd like to ask Rebecca questions about your situation, it's simple, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up at the top that says, "Ask a Lawyer." It will walk you right through the process, or you can always call the phone number you see on the screen during our conversation. Rebecca, it's good to see you again. Thank you for making some time to answer our questions.

Rebecca Halberg: 

Absolutely. Great to be here.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So you're in Georgia, we're talking about Workers Comp, do Workers Comp rules vary from state to state? And what maybe are some of the things people really need to know about the rules in Georgia?

Rebecca Halberg: 

Absolutely. And workers compensation laws do vary by state, there is a Federal Workers Compensation System that covers Federal employees, but each state has their own set of laws that pertain to people that are injured in their state. And Georgia... So I practice in Georgia and South Carolina and Georgia tends to be pretty employer-friendly compared to South Carolina, and while their concepts are the same, sometimes they're just minor variations in the law.

Rob Rosenthal: 

How does somebody know if they are even... If they have workers compensation, I've never worked at a job, I don't think, where I had it. How does that work?

Rebecca Halberg: 

So in Georgia, if your employer has three or more employees, they should, by law, have workers compensation insurance. And so it's an insurance policy that an employer carries to cover employees that are hurt on the job. And so if you're an employee and you've been hurt on the job, you should absolutely ask your employer if they have workers compensation coverage, and if you can't get clear answers from them, reach out to an attorney who can certainly help you.

Rob Rosenthal: 

What are some of the things that workers compensation typically covers?

Rebecca Halberg: 

Workers Compensation covers three major benefits, the first one, and arguably the most important is medical treatment. So if your claim is accepted by Workers Compensation Insurance, your authorized medical treatment will be paid by the policy. The second most important benefit is something called indemnity or temporary benefits, and those are weekly checks that an injured worker will receive to compensate them for lost time and lost earnings from work.

The final benefit is something called permanent disability, and what that is, is that at the end of treatment when an employee is as good as they're gonna get, the doctor tends to give something called a permanent impairment or a permanent disability rating, and that's a percentage of disability based on loss of use to that injured body part.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Okay. What's the process then, Rebecca? Say someone is injured while on the job, what's the process? What's your advice or how... What order they should do things? And what's most important to do first, and that sort of thing?

Rebecca Halberg: 

With that the most important thing to do is put your employer on notice of your injury. A lot of employees are scared to do it because they like their job and they don't wanna make their boss mad. But if you're hurt, make sure that you tell them, let them know that you're injured and ask them what they want you to do about medical treatment. And I would do that within the first 24 hours if you can.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And what if the injury is severe enough that you're immediately taken to the hospital, is that still the same process applies?

Rebecca Halberg: 

Yeah, absolutely. So if you're... So let's say that you're working in a factory and you suffer God forbid, an amputation or something on the job, and you're immediately taken via ambulance to the emergency room, your employer is already on notice of that injury, by virtue of the fact that you were hurt there and taken immediately to medical treatment. And in Georgia and most other states as well, that initial emergency room treatment and ambulance bill would be covered and paid for by workers compensation as it's considered emergency treatment.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And what about if my employer doesn't offer or maybe offers insufficient coverage, what are my options then?

Rebecca Halberg: 

And so if your employer does not have workers compensation coverage... Actually tried a case like this last week, the employer did not have Workers Compensation Coverage and they should have. And we went ahead and tried the case in front of the State Board of workers compensation. I don't have the decision yet, but ultimately, if my client and I win, the employer will be paying out of pocket for my client's medical treatment and lost time from work.

But what we see more often is employers just give their employees the run around about workers comp insurance they might not give them their adjuster's name, or they might not tell them how to get medical treatment or what to do next. And if that's happening to you and you're an injured worker, you should reach out to an attorney.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So that leads into my next question. Should everybody who has a worker's comp claim reach out to an attorney like yourself to get some guidance? Or at what point should they contact someone like you?

Rebecca Halberg: 

It doesn't hurt to get additional information, so my recommendation to anybody is just to go ahead and reach out to an attorney, most of us give free consultations, and you don't have to pay money up front to talk to us. I guess that I typically, I normally do... If somebody calls and they have questions about workers compensation, I'm happy to talk them through the process, it's normally about a 30 to 45 minute phone call, and I'll tell somebody, if they need an attorney. I'll tell them if they don't need an attorney. Some people choose to hire an attorney even if they don't really need one, just to be careful, but there's certainly no harm in reaching out and just getting some information.

Rob Rosenthal: 

How complicated is the process? And does it get more complicated if the first filing is denied?

Rebecca Halberg: 

It wasn't designed to be complicated, but it has become very complicated. Everything is contained in this one statute, and so there are specific timelines for filing forms and for putting people on notice. And so it's helpful to have a lawyer because they'll understand the specific ins and outs. Where I see people typically not need a lawyer and it's an easier process is when the employer is also helping with the case, it's an employee they like, it's a well-documented injury and it kind of... Everything's moving together and appropriately, that just is not typically the case.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And are things more complicated or less so if say they're a municipal employee or the city or state or maybe a federal employee, does that... How does that factor in?

Rebecca Halberg: 

Federal workers comp has its own separate system. Within the state of Georgia, a lot of the cities and counties and seem a lot with school boards as well, they have so many people that get injured on the job, they're actually pretty good at handling those cases, they know what they're supposed to do. Now that being said, I still think people oftentimes, still need attorneys in those cases. But they have such a high volume, they tend to do the right thing.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Tons of helpful information, Rebecca. Thank you for helping us out and answering our questions today.

Rebecca Halberg: 

Absolutely. Thank you for having me, I appreciate it.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's gonna take care of this episode of Ask the lawyer. My guest has been Atlanta attorney Rebecca Halberg. And I'll remind you again, if you'd like to ask Rebecca questions about your situation, go to askthelawyers.com, pick the button up at the top that says, "Ask a Lawyer." And it's a very simple process right there and doesn't cost you anything to ask your questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal for Ask the Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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