Georgia law requires businesses with three or more employees to provide workers’ compensation insurance. This policy provides medical benefits for employees who suffer a workplace injury.
Georgia requires any business that regularly employs three or more people to have workers’ compensation insurance. “Regular” refers to any person who works for a business on a regular basis, even if it is part-time, regardless of an employee’s average weekly wage.
If a business is incorporated, corporate officers are considered employees. Georgia allows up to five officers to waive coverage on themselves. However, waiving coverage does not mean that they don’t count for the purpose of being a business that employs three or more people.
Businesses with fewer than three employees should still considering buying workers' compensation insurance. It's an affordable policy for small businesses since the workers' compensation rate depends on the number of employees.
Georgia law requires that regular part-time employees are covered by workers’ comp. This would include someone who only works on weekends, for example, as long as the employee works for the business on a regular basis.
Sole proprietors, independent contractors and partners are exempt from workers’ compensation requirements in Georgia. In fact, independent contractors are not eligible for it in most circumstances under Georgia law.
Sole proprietors and partners can still elect to purchase workers' comp, which could be a smart move. If you're injured on the job, your health insurance might deny the claim since it's related to your work. That would leave you paying for expensive medical bills, without any of the wage replacement support that workers' comp also provides.
To save money on workers' comp insurance, it's important to make sure you classify your employees correctly. Employees with desk jobs or other jobs with a low risk of injury cost less to insure. This also helps you avoid misclassification fines.
In some cases, small business owners can choose to buy pay-as-you-go workers' compensation. This type of workers' comp policy has a low upfront premium, and lets you make payments based on your actual payroll instead of estimated payroll. It's useful for businesses that hire seasonal help or have fluctuating numbers of employees.
Finally, a documented safety program can help lower workers' comp costs. A safer workplace means fewer accidents, which helps keep your premium low.
Under the Georgia workers' compensation law, coverage must begin for an employee on their first day of work.
When an employee suffers a work-related injury, workers' compensation insurance pays the cost of medical care provided by an authorized treating physician. That includes emergency treatment, hospitalization, prescriptions, and physical rehabilitation.
Workers' compensation also provides temporary partial disability benefits or temporary total disability benefits if the employee needs to take time off work. The amount is typically two-thirds of their average weekly wage.
In case of a catastrophic injury that leads to permanent partial disability or permanent total disability, such as loss of a body part, the injured employee receives weekly benefits for an amount of time determined by their injury.
In the event of a workplace fatality, workers' comp can help pay for funeral costs and death benefits for survivors.
Policies usually include employer's liability insurance, which can help cover legal expenses if an employee blames their employer for an injury. However, the exclusive remedy provision in most workers' comp policies prohibits an employee from suing their employer if they accept workers' comp benefits.
Explore the State Board of Workers' Compensation FAQs for details.
Once an employer becomes aware that a job injury has occurred, they must immediately file a report with the insurer’s claims office. If the employee must be out of work for seven or more days, the employer must notify the Board of Workers’ Compensation within 21 days.
An employer can choose one of three methods for the insurance company to determine the amount of workers’ compensation benefits:
Panel of physicians. This would consist of at least six non-associated physicians, including an orthopedist. No more than two physicians can be from industrial clinics, and the panel should include one physician who is a minority, where possible.
Conformed panel of physicians. This panel requires a minimum of 10 physicians or professional associations. In addition to the same requirements as the panel of physicians option, this panel must include a general surgeon and chiropractor.
Workers’ compensation managed care organization (MCO). This organization would be certified by the workers’ comp board to coordinate a plan that delivers and manages treatment under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. This organization is also required to include minority providers.
If you fail to carry workers’ comp insurance in Georgia, there could be both civil and criminal penalties. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation regulates workers’ comp, and its enforcement division will investigate any incidents of noncompliance or allegations of fraud. In cases of noncompliance, employers could face:
Liability: If an employer fails to provide the required workers’ comp coverage, the employer is responsible for compensating an employee for any injuries in the same manner as if there had been workers’ compensation insurance in place. The employer could be held responsible for attorney’s fees, civil penalties, and a 10% increase in compensation to the injured worker if the employer does not secure insurance.
Civil penalties: Any person who violates workers’ comp regulations could face a penalty between $100 and $1,000 per violation. False statements made to the board could carry fines of $1,000 to $10,000 per violation. If an employer fails to provide the required insurance coverage, the civil penalty could be $500 to $5,000 per occurrence of a violation.
Criminal penalties: An employer who refuses or willfully neglects to maintain insurance coverage could be found guilty of a misdemeanor. If convicted, the offense is punishable by a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 or imprisonment up to one year, or both.
When a work accident leads to an employee's death, their beneficiaries are eligible to receive workers’ compensation death benefits. Georgia laws are designed to provide benefits to individuals who relied on the deceased worker for financial support. The spouse and children of a deceased employee are presumed to be dependents. There are a few conditions:
Workers’ compensation death benefits in Georgia include weekly income benefits, funeral expenses, and the deceased person’s medical bills. These benefits include:
Death benefits to a surviving spouse with no other dependents would be capped at $150,000 and are paid until age 65 or after 400 weeks of payments, based on whichever yields the larger amount of money. Benefits will end if the widowed spouse remarries or cohabitates with another person in a relationship.
Georgia’s State Board of Workers’ Compensation Settlement Division reviews and approves workers’ compensation settlements that include either lump sums or regular payments.
There are two forms of workers’ compensation settlements in Georgia:
Liability settlements resolve the claim, and the insurance company agrees to pay.
Non-liability settlements end a claim even where there is a dispute about benefit eligibility between stakeholders.
Regardless of whether there is a liability or non-liability settlement, once both parties (the employee and the insurance company) arrive at an agreement, the claim is closed. The employee cannot bring any additional claims for that injury.
Often, the board can approve a settlement based on the following documents:
Lump sum settlements can either be a single payment or a structured settlement, which would mean that the payment is paid out monthly or annually for a specific period of time.
An injured worker is required to file a claim within the workers’ compensation statute of limitations. Georgia law has three separate provisions:
All issues. Generally, the employee has one year from the date of injury to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Change in condition. If the worker receives benefits for temporary, total, or partial disability, the injured person has two years from the date that the benefits ended to file a claim.
Medical bill / mileage reimbursement. Once medical treatment has happened, the injured person has one year to submit the bill to their employer or workers’ compensation insurance company.
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