Well, yes. And here’s an example…
On October 26, 2010, Martha Ayers was injured on the job. Immediately after the injury, Ms. Ayers officially reported its occurrence. The next day, her employer, Heritage Healthcare of Toccoa, fired her unceremoniously and denied her request for disability benefits. Undeterred, Ms. Ayers went on to file a request for a hearing, requesting income and medical benefits in addition to late payment penalties, assessed attorney’s fees, and litigation expenses.
Surprisingly, Heritage Healthcare of Toccoa didn’t put up a fight. On March 11, 2011, Heritage Healthcare’s third party compensation carrier paid Ms. Ayers in full for twenty weeks of past due benefits, then proceeded to deliver weekly benefits according to her request. On September 27, 2011, Ms. Ayers’ former employer went on to pay a lump sum as compensation for the late penalties owed on the March 11, 2011 payment.
Now, it might seem as though Heritage Healthcare of Toccoa was playing by the rules, but they’d forgotten one not-so-small detail. In addition to paying Ms. Ayers income and medical benefits and any late payment penalties owed, Heritage Healthcare had also tacitly agreed to shell out the money for assessed attorney’s fees and the expenses of litigation–fees that could have been avoided by treating Ms. Ayers with the respect and care she deserved.
On September 29, 2011, the final hearing for Ms. Ayers’ case for assessed attorney’s fees was held. The State Board ruled that Martha Ayers’ claim was valid, and that because Heritage Healthcare of Toccoa hadn’t argued the late payment penalty, they were also responsible for paying all assessed attorney’s fees on those late funds.
So, what lesson can be learned from the Georgia Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold the right to assessed attorney’s fees on past due indemnity benefits, late payments, and future indemnity benefits? When an employee reports a workplace injury, do the right thing…the first time.
At Moebes Law, we’re committed to protecting your rights and your health. If you’ve been injured on the job, contact Atlanta’s leading workers’ compensation lawyers at (404) 354-5432 for a free consultation.