Category Archives: Income Benefits

What will the taxes be on my workers’ comp benefits or settlement?

As a Atlanta workers comp lawyer, every year during the first few months of a new year, this question comes up from clients.  The simple answer is “none.”  However, per IRS Publication 525, if you’re on Social Security, and it has been reduced by the amount of workers’ compensation benefits you’re being paid, that amount is likely taxable.  So, for the vast majority of injured workers receiving TTD, TPD, or PPD weekly benefits, there will be no tax consequences associated with your workers’ compensation benefits (or workers’ comp settlements).

IRS

If you spent most, or all, of 2015 on workers’ comp, this may be the simplest tax preparation season you’ve ever had!

What are some good ways I can totally screw up my workers’ comp case?

Workers’ compensation benefits may seem untouchable when they begin to flow in for the first few weeks, but it is important to consult with a Atlanta workers compensation lawyer to make certain that as an injured individual, incapable of working, you are taking all steps necessary to keep your checks coming while you recover. In order for the checks to keep coming, make sure to abide by these few necessary suggestions (or, ignore them if you want to totally screw up your case):

  1. Do not go work for another employer while you are receiving checks from your old employer. Even if the new job requires little (or no) physical work, according to the law, taking it while on TTD is unacceptable.
  2. Do not make things difficult for your employer or your authorized medical physician, because this can compromise your benefits. This is not to say that you must agree to every recommendation for medical treatment, including surgery, given by your doctor. However, you must abide by the workers’ compensation laws when consulting with either of them.
  3. Always make sure to apply for your workers’ compensations claim as soon as possible, so that you do not lose your entitlement to benefits. In the state of Georgia, if you do not apply for benefits within a year of your accident, you will lose your right to benefits.  Also, give notice to your employer of the injury within 30 days!

These are not the only ways to lose your right to temporary total disability benefits, hopefully these few tips will give you some idea of how to keep your claim alive while you heal from your injuries!

If my job fires me because I was hurt at work, can I get TTD (temporary total disability)?

While an employer in Georgia can fire you after a workers’ comp claim, my firm has seen it, (or even because of it) without giving rise to a wrongful termination suit under any type of state law, it can mean you get workers’ compensation disability benefits without being required to look for work, as one would normally have to do if fired while working on light duty (if the termination is for cause).

That said, proving you were fired because of your workplace injury can be difficult, as many people have no qualms about making up a reason other than your job injury when asked about a termination in court!  In a case decided in March 2015 called Burns v. State of Georgia DOAS, the court found that when an employer refuses to accommodate light duty restrictions or if that employer refuses to allow someone to return to his/her job after a workplace accident (even if accommodation due to restrictions isn’t required), the injured worker can establish a change of condition and get weekly disability benefits through workers’ comp without the requirement to show a diligent but unsuccessful search for work.

This decision helped to clarify the Padgett v. Waffle House case from 1998 and the Maloney v. Gordon County Farms case from 1995 regarding injured workers who are on restrictions and let go from their employment.

Will the workers’ compensation insurer send me a 1099 or W-2?

Every year about this time, I get questions similar to the above one about whether or not the workers’ compensation insurer will send a claimant tax forms accounting for the weekly TTD (temporary total disability) checks or settlement funds from the previous year.  I’m not a CPA or a tax attorney, but since workers’ comp indemnity benefits aren’t taxable income (after all, they only cover 2/3 your pre-injury wage, up to a cap), my understanding is that you will NOT receive a 1099 or other tax form reflecting workers’ comp payments from the previous tax year.

So, if you’re waiting on something from the insurance adjuster before you file your taxes for last year, my firm advises to stop waiting!  Go ahead and prepare your tax returns and file them.

If you’re going to get hurt at work in Georgia, do it before July 1, 2013

Starting Monday, July 1, 2013, workers’ compensation medical benefits will be drastically reduced for injured workers in Georgia. GA House Bill 154, passed by the Georgia General Assembly a few months ago, will be effective next week. One of its provisions is that medical benefits for injured workers will stop at 400 weeks (like income benefits do), unless the case is deemed “catastrophic”  under O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1(g).

hurt guy.jpg

I have several current clients whom this would have negatively affected were it in place at the time of their injuries.  Often, such clients are having to take expensive medications and will need them indefinitely, but they are able to work (and are doing so), so their cases aren’t “catastrophic” in nature.  Should an injury like theirs occur next month, the injured’s medical needs will not be fully met by the party responsible for the injuries.

Other provisions of the bill will help Georgia’s injured workers, including:

1.  the maximum rate for temporary total disability will increase from $500/week (2nd lowest rate in the nation) to $525/week (still very low).  The maximum rate for temporary partial disability benefits will rise from $334/week to $350/week.

2.  mileage and fees associated with medical travel will be due in 15 days instead of the current 30 days.

3.  interest rates on lump sum advances fall from 7% to 5%.

While the title of this post is written with a humorous bent to it, I very often hear from potential clients that they are working through moderate to severe pain every day, but are afraid to report their pain to an employer, for fear of losing their jobs (or falling out of “good graces” with their bosses).  If this is your current situation, I would highly recommend that you go ahead and report your on-the-job injury–repetitive or acute in nature–as soon as possible, before your potential medical care for such injuries is drastically reduced. Contact my Atlanta workers’ compensation firm.

 

 

How will I live on the reduced income Georgia workers’ compensation provides?

Last week, I was asked to speak at an event in Buckhead called “Living on Purpose and with a Vision.” My topic was “How to Win with Money.” In my Atlanta workers’ compensation law practice, I work with clients to resolve their legal issues, of course, but we also work to resolve financial issues that living on a reduced income can bring.

money.jpgBelow, I will provide the outline for the hour-long speech, as I believe it will provide some helpful points to consider when working to live below (or at least within) your means after an injury at work.  I teach many of these principles in myAtlanta financial coaching practice, too.

1. Plan for your long-term financial future.
– time is your best friend (tax-deferred saving)
– the cost of being short-sided: yanking your money early means you lose nearly half
– never borrow from a company-sponsored retirement plan
— cost of paying back your loan v. gains in the market
— due when you leave

2. Manage your money (instead of the other way around).
– 7 steps to financial freedom
– basic budgeting: on paper, on purpose
– delaying gratification (saving for big purchases and avoiding credit)
– car payments = the bane of the middle class existence
–tax benefits of buying used in GA
– your home is not your piggy bank

3. Lenders (like wild animals) are not your friend.
– credit cards are guaranteed long term bondage
– high interest that enslaves for years and years
– plastic means we spend more
– get the right kind of mortgage and don’t buy ’til you’re debt-free

4. Get a will and have some insurance.
– life insurance if you have dependents
– don’t let the government distribute your stuff when you die
– you don’t need STD (assuming an emergency fund) but do need LTD
– health insurance is critical (new law re: COBRA premiums, HSAs, etc.)
– you don’t need redundant insurance (cancer, accidental death and dismemberment, etc.)

Resources:
Online:
fool.com
daveramsey.com
frugaldad.com

Books:
“You Have More Than You Think” – Motley Fool (David and Tom Gardner)
“The Millionaire Next Door” – Dr Thomas Stanley
“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” – Robert Kiyosaki
“The Total Money Makeover” – Dave Ramsey
“Think and Grow Rich” – Napoleon Hill

Documentary film:
“Maxed Out”

How much can I get in pain and suffering from my workers’ compensation claim in Georgia?

Unfortunately, if you are hurt at work in Atlanta and file a Georgia workers’ compensation claim, you cannot get pain and suffering. Workers’ comp in Georgia pays disability benefits to replace your income, medical benefits to give you access to health care, and any permanent impairment rating your treating doctor gives.

handicap_parking_spot.jpg

Incidentally, there are no punitive damages for workers’ compensation claimants in Georgia, either. In order to best maximize the benefits you can get in Georgia, consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Atlanta for assistance, and we’ll be glad to give you a free consultation.

I’m an undocumented worker without a social security number. Can I get workers’ comp in Georgia?

However you refer to them–Illegal aliens, undocumented workers, illegal immigrants, undocumented immigrants–the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

immmigration_rally.jpgWorkers’ compensation coverage comes via a contract with an insurance provider that includes employees of a qualifying employer. If that employer chooses to hire, or even unknowingly hires, a worker without a Social Security number, permit, visa, etc., and that worker is injured on the job, the employee may file for workers’ comp benefits. His status as an illegal alien will not bar his recovery of disability benefits or medical care related to his on-the-job injury.

That being said, issues can arise if the employer offers light duty work.   The employer can’t use the workers’ comp discovery process to learn the injured worker is an illegal alien, refuse to offer light duty work, and expect to use that as an argument that the worker has refused to attempt light duty such that benefits can be suspended.  However, a light duty job requiring a drivers license may be used as unjustifiably refused light duty.

If you are an undocumented worker and have questions about how your employer is treating you after an on-the-job injury, feel free to contact myAtlanta workers’ compensation law office for a consultation.  Don’t speak English?  Our Atlanta accident attorney office has Spanish translators available to assist as well!

Can I get workers’ compensation benefits from jail?

Sometimes, an injured worker in Atlanta will get convicted of a crime and will have questions about whether or not someone who is receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia can continue to get disability benefits while incarcerated.

prison.jpg

While the injured worker may continue to receive benefits after an arrest while awaiting trial, he will not be able to continue receiving temporary total disability (TTD) or temporary partial disability (TPD) after being convicted of a crime if he is “locked up.” Permanent partial disability (PPD) is also no longer an option if the injured worker is incarcerated.

Once the individual is released, he may be able to get his workers’ compensation benefits reinstated, but the insurance adjuster is not going to reinstate benefits automatically. Better to talk with a competent workers’ comp attorney in Atlanta for a consultation regarding legal options.