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What are your rights to rights to lost income benefits?

If your workplace injury is preventing you from earning an income, then you should be entitled to receive a weekly benefit check. Workers’ compensation covers “lost wages” due to your on-the-job injury.

Your treating doctor should give you work restrictions after your injury. The work restrictions will determine if you are eligible to draw lost income benefits. Your doctor can either give you "light duty restrictions" or completely take you out of work. If you are taken completely out of work for at least 7 days, you should automatically start drawing lost income benefits (although some insurance companies try to ignore the law).

What is the "waiting period"?

Workers' compensation has a 7 day "waiting period" before you can start drawing lost income benefits. If you miss a total of 21 days, then you will also get paid for the 7 day "waiting period" too.

What does my employer have to do if I am given "light duty" restrictions?

If you are given "light duty" restrictions, then your employer can choose to provide you with light duty work within your doctor's restrictions. If your employer is not able to provide you with light duty work, then the workers compensation insurance company will be required to pay you a weekly benefits check. It is always a good idea to document when your employer tells you that they don't have any light duty work available within your restrictions. This will entitle you to start drawing your benefits.

How much are the lost income benefits?

If you are completly taken out of work or your employer does not have light duty work for you, the benefit you are entitled to draw is called Temporary Total Disability (or TTD for short). This is paid to you as a weekly check from the workers' compensation insurance company. The amount of the check is equal to 2/3 of your average weekly wage.

What if I get fired?

Georgia is an "employment at-will" state. That means your employer can fire you for almost any reason. But, if you are on work-restrictions when you get fired, it is likely that your employer will have to start paying you a weekly compensation check. If you are fired becuase of the injury, the employer is required to pay you. It is very unlikely that you will get fired after filing a workers' compensation case. They dont want to start paying you weekly benefits. For that reason, you are somewhat protected from getting fired after filing a workers compensation case. They still could fire you, but it is very rare that they actually will. And, getting fired doesn't prevent you from getting work comp benefits.

Sometimes your employer will fire you for reasons unrelated to your injury. For example if the company is downsizing and there are mass layoffs. If you were on light-duty restrictions, then you may be under an obligation to perform a job search in order to keep getting weekly checks. If this happened to you, then you need to speak with an attorney.

What if I am making less money because of the accident.

Sometimes an injured worker will return to "light duty" work, but they are not making as much money as they did before the accident. In that case, the workers' comp insurance owes you 2/3 of the difference. This is what the law calls "temporary partial disability" benefits. This often happens when you return to work but you are not getting as many hours, or your are being paid a lower hourly rate for light duty.

What happens to your workers compensation lost income benefits if you quit your job?

Sometimes employees will return to "light-duty" work after an injury and they feel like their employer is giving them a hard time. It is possible that your employer is putting pressure on you to quit. The employer and insurance company don't want to fire you, because then you would be entitled to claim lost income benefits.

If you quit working while on light-duty, that will be a reason for the insurance company to deny your weekly benefits. The insurance company will not pay you unless you prove an economic "change of condition for the worse." You would need to hire a lawyer and go to a hearing to get your benefits started. These cases can be difficult and take many months. Basically, when you quit, you make it much more difficult to claim lost income benefits and it is not guaranteed you would succeed.

In most cases, quiting will also signifigantly reduce the amount of the potential settlement you could get from the insurance company. If you are thinking about quiting, you should definitley get a free consultation with a workers' compensation lawyer before you do anything.

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