People often ask me if they need a workers’ comp lawyer after a workplace injury, even if they are receiving workers’ comp checks. Excusing my obvious bias, the answer is “yes”. There are several issues that can come up after your workers’ comp case is accepted.
Dealing With the Insurance Adjuster
After an injury at work, you were probably contacted by an insurance adjuster. The insurance adjuster works for the workers’ compensation insurance company. Although the insurance adjustor is not out to get you, it is their job to pay you as little as possible on your case. While it’s better to work with–not against–your insurance claims adjuster to the extent that you can, remember that they are not your friend and they are not on your side. You may think that working with a workers’ comp lawyer will hinder you in this process. Not true. Working with a knowledgeable, well-connected Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney will help.
Panel of Physicians
Often when I talk to injured workers, they tell me never saw a Panel of Physicians. They were told where to go for medical treatment. In Georgia, you have choice over which doctor treats your workplace injury. Your employer has a list of doctors chosen for the purpose of treating injured workers. This is called a Panel of Physicians. Your employer should make sure you know the list exists and they need to make sure that you know that you have a right to pick a doctor from the list. I find that many of my clients have not been told about the list of doctors. If your employer does not follow these rules, Georgia law may give you the right to pick your own doctor.
Workers’ Comp Benefits You May Not Know About
Sometimes the insurance adjuster neglects to let an injured worker know about other workers’ compensation benefits that are available. A workers’ comp lawyer will ensure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to. Here are a few of the more common examples.
Injured workers aren’t told they can get medical mileage reimbursed (or a ride to medical appointments). If the insurance company is paying for the treatment, then you are entitled to be reimbursed for the mileage you drive to get that treatment. This would include doctor’s visits, physical therapy, picking up prescriptions, and more. You would not have these transportation costs if you hadn’t been injured at work.
Injured workers aren’t told they can get a 2nd opinion or “IME” (independent medical examination) under O.C.G.A. 34-9-202e with a doctor they choose, as opposed to one the insurance company mandates.
I’ve even seen an injured worker get issued a PPD (permanent partial disability) rating that was never paid. If you are entitled to a PPD, you have to follow several steps before you can get those benefits. Insurance adjusters are supposed to send you forms and start making payments when it is clear that your injury is covered. Withholding benefits from injured workers is sometimes used as a tactic to get an injured worker to settle for less out of desperation.
Sometimes an adjuster will invent a light-duty job for the injured worker to do, tell him he has to show up and do it (while on a “no work” status with the workers’ comp doctor), and then cut off the weekly TTD (temporary total disability) checks when the injured workers obeys the adjuster’s instructions and shows up to work. Georgia’s light duty return to work rules can be tricky and a workers’ comp lawyer can help navigate this situation.
There are several issues that can come up after your case is accepted, and if you don’t have someone acting as your advocate who is at least as familiar (hopefully more familiar) with Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws as is the insurance adjuster who’s currently dictating your treatment options, you won’t know what your rights and options are.
Ignorant and broke are no way to go through life after an injury at work. Talk to a knowledgeable attorney.
Get help from our Workers’ Comp Lawyers
You may think your insurance adjuster and employer are looking out for you, but at some point you will realize they aren’t. They may be withholding valuable information about your workers’ compensation benefits and payments. If you have a workplace injury in Georgia, I strongly encourage consulting (for free!) with my office to see how we can help be your advocate during your recovery from a workplace accident.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.