Georgia's Workers' Compensation Insurance Law

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Who needs workers’ comp insurance in Georgia?

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.

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.

Is workers’ compensation mandatory for part-time 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.

Do you need workers’ compensation if you are self-employed?

A sole proprietor or partner is not required to have workers’ compensation insurance in Georgia, although he or she could elect to have it. Georgia law states that sole proprietors and partners are employers and not employees.

What are the penalties for not having Georgia workers’ comp?

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 percent 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.

 

How much does workers’ compensation insurance cost in Georgia?

The average cost for workers’ compensation in Georgia is determined, in part, by the payroll rate, $1.10 per $100 in wages. However, the rate an employer pays depends on the risk involved in the employee’s occupation. Workers’ comp class codes quantify risks based on the hazards for a particular job. A company would pay more in workers’ comp insurance costs for roofers than for a receptionist or office staff, for example.

 

How does workers’ comp work in Georgia?

Once an employer becomes aware that an injury has occurred, he or she 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 two methods for the insurance company to determine the amount of workers’ compensation to an injured worker:

Traditional panel of physicians. This would consist of at least six nonassociated 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.

Workers’ compensation managed care organization. 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.

Workers’ compensation death benefits in Georgia

When someone dies on the job, his or her 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:

  • A spouse must be legally married to the deceased. If the couple was living separately for 90 days prior to the date of injury or death, the claim could be denied if it is shown that the surviving spouse was not dependent. Common-law spouses might also be ineligible.
  • Dependents include children under 18 years old, both biological and stepchildren, legally adopted children, and children born posthumously to the deceased. Children over 18 who are incapable of making a living because of physical or mental disability and children under 22 years of age who are full-time students are also covered.
  • Any other person who can prove that he or she was dependent on the deceased might be able to make a claim for benefits (for example, an elderly parent).

Workers’ compensation death benefits in Georgia include weekly income benefits, funeral expenses, and the deceased person’s medical bills. These benefits include:

  • Burial expenses up to $7,500
  • Weekly payments to beneficiaries

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.

 

Workers’ comp settlements in Georgia

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:

  • Stipulated settlement agreement, which explains the terms and conditions of your case
  • Claim forms
  • Medical records
  • Information about unpaid child support
  • Lawyer’s fee agreement and other fee 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.

Statutes of limitations for workers’ compensation claims

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 injured person 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 his or her employer or workers’ compensation insurance company.

 

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Workers' compensation insurance: Further reading

See workers' comp laws where you live