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Workers compensationWorkers' Comp in Georgia

Your Georgia Workers' Compensation Guide for 2024

Written by
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
March 20, 2024  ·  7 min read
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While the Peach State can be a great place to live and work, what happens if you get injured or sick on the job and then you can’t work while you recover? Fortunately, Georgia offers workers’ comp benefits to make sure sick and injured workers get a weekly income and don’t have to pay medical expenses on their own.

To have workers’ comp kick in, though, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements and take certain steps. Here’s what you should know about Georgia workers’ compensation.


Who is eligible for workers’ comp in Georgia?

If you get a W-2 from your employer during tax season, you’re likely eligible for workers’ comp in Georgia. You can be a full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary employee, as long as you work regularly for the company. There’s no length of employment requirement in Georgia. You’re covered from your first day on the job.

Who isn’t eligible for workers’ comp?

Contractors, freelancers, gig workers, and anyone who gets a Form 1099 from their employer during tax season isn’t covered by workers’ comp in Georgia.

Georgia workers’ compensation rules also specifically exclude employees in some industries from coverage. Farm laborers, railroad employees, some sports officials, and pilots for the ​​State Forestry Commission are generally excluded under state law. Federal employees also aren’t covered under state rules since they receive coverage through the U.S. Department of Labor.

What if I live in another state?

Commuters, we have good news: Even if you live in another state, if you get hurt or sick in Georgia while working as an employee for a Georgia company, you should still be covered.

This said, if you’re unsure whether you should file your claim in Georgia or in another state, you may want to talk to a workers’ comp lawyer. For example, Georgia’s maximum weekly workers’ comp payment is lower than in neighboring states, so you may be able to get higher payments if you’re eligible in another state.

Do all companies have worker’s comp?

Georgia mandates that all employers with three or more employees have to buy workers’ comp coverage. So if you’re on a team with at least two other people, you’re most likely covered. To check if your employer has a policy in place, you can use this online lookup tool.


Injuries that qualify for workers’ compensation

Georgia law says that to qualify for workers’ comp, your injury needs to have occurred “out of and in the course of employment,” which means it needs to be a result of doing your job.1 Just about any physical injury or illness can qualify for workers’ compensation.

It doesn’t matter whose fault the injury was, as long as someone did not purposely cause the injury. It also doesn’t matter if you didn’t notice symptoms until you left work, as long as your job duties directly caused them. That means injuries that result from falling during your lunch break or getting into a car crash driving home from work wouldn’t qualify, for example,

Clear injuries like slips, falls, sprains, burns, or broken bones all qualify. You can also get benefits for illnesses, like if you’re exposed to harmful chemicals. Injuries that take years to develop — like a back injury from years of lifting heavy boxes — can qualify. You can even get workers’ comp if a workplace incident aggravated a condition you already had.

Injuries that don’t always qualify

Health conditions that could have occurred whether you were working or not — like heart attacks or strokes — explicitly do not qualify unless you can prove with overwhelming evidence that they resulted from your work.2 For example, if you’re a truck driver your job requires you to sit for 14 hours daily, which leads to blood clots that result in a stroke, you may be able to make a case for workers’ comp as long as you can show the direct link between your job duties and your stroke.

Mental health is also very difficult to get benefits. Georgia workers’ comp only covers mental health conditions if they result from or accompany physical injuries. For example, a head injury that leads to seizures can qualify. A condition like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that results from a car crash could also get you benefits.

Learn more about qualifying workers’ comp injuries.

Have questions about Georgia workers' comp? Atticus has answers.

How to apply for workers’ compensation in Georgia

There are a couple of key steps before you can get workers’ comp benefits:

  1. Notify your employer of the injury within 30 days.

  2. Make sure your employer files Form WC-1 with insurance.

First, you have 30 days to tell your employer in person about your workplace incident. You don’t need to give your notice in writing, but we generally recommend it. That way you have documented proof of when you told your employer, in case your claim is denied or you run into issues later on. Here’s how to notify your employer.

Second, your employer should complete and submit Form WC-1 to their insurance company within 21 days of learning about your injury. If they take longer, the deadline to file is one year from the date of your injury. The insurer will send you a completed copy for your records.

The two steps above are all it takes to file for Georgia’s workers’ comp. If your employer refuses to file a claim, you can also file a claim yourself using Form WC-14.

Learn more about how to file yourself in our guide to filing for Georgia workers’ comp.


Types of workers’ comp in Georgia

Workers’ comp covers medical expenses related to your workplace injury and provides weekly payments if you can’t work. Here are the different types of coverage your employer’s workers’ comp policy should contain.

  • Medical coverage: This is what kicks in to cover the cost of getting the care you need. It should cover everything, including doctor’s visits, treatments, prescription medication, surgery, and physical therapy. Just be advised that you need to go through approved doctors. Your employer should have either a panel of six or more doctors you can choose from or a Workers’ Compensation Managed Care Organization you can go through.

  • Indemnity loss coverage: This is how you get compensated for lost income if you can’t work while you’re hurt. How much you receive depends both on the severity of your injury and how long it will last, but many claimants get up to two-thirds of their average weekly wage, with a maximum payment of $800 per week in 2024. These payments typically last until you recover.

  • Permanent partial disability coverage: If you permanently lose the ability to use a part of your body (like your ears, eyes, or fingers), you will get payments worth up to two-thirds of your average weekly wage for months or years. The length of time depends on the injury. If you lose the ability to use your index finger, for example, you’re entitled to up to 40 weeks of pay (about nine months). If you can’t use your arm or leg, benefits can last up to 225 weeks (more than four years).


When do workers’ comp payments start?

There’s a waiting period of seven calendar days, meaning you have to miss a full week before any workers’ comp benefits kick in.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you’ll get a check at the seven-day mark. Most Georgia workers’ compensation cases take 21 days to start paying out. That’s how long your employer’s insurance company has to investigate your claim and file a report, per Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation rules.


How much does workers’ comp pay in Georgia?

Georgia workers’ compensation makes weekly pays up to two-thirds (66 2/3%) of your average weekly wage (AWW) for the past year. So if your average weekly income is $900, then each of your weekly workers’ comp checks would be worth $600.

In 2024, there is also a maximum payment of $800 per week, which affects workers with an AWW of $1,200 or more. If you can still do some work (meaning you receive temporary partial disability benefits), then the maximum payment is $533 per week.

The minimum workers’ comp benefit in 2024 is $50 per week, or equal to your AWW if you earned less than $50 weekly.


How long does workers’ comp last in Georgia?

Benefits usually end once you reach maximum medical improvement, or MMI. That’s the point where you’ve recovered as much as possible from your injury. MMI could be the point when you’re fully healed or the point when your doctor reports that even though you haven’t recovered fully, more medical care won’t lead to a greater recovery.

For most people, the longest you can receive benefits is 400 weeks, or a little over seven and a half years. Your benefits may not last as long if you return to work or agree to a settlement with the insurance company.

How long permanent disability benefits last

While the length of your payments depends on your specific case, we can give you an idea of how long your income benefits could last depending on the part of your body that’s injured.

The table below shows how long your weekly payments could last if your injury leads to a permanent disability. These timelines are set by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Certain “catastrophic” injuries, like vision loss in both eyes, could also qualify you for lifelong benefits.

Body part affected

Length of permanent disability payments

Whole body disability

300 weeks

Arm or leg

225 weeks

Hand

160 weeks

Loss of hearing in both ears

150 weeks

Loss of hearing in one ear

75 weeks

Loss of vision in one eye

150 weeks

Foot

135 weeks

Thumb

60 weeks

Index finger

40 weeks

Middle finger

35 weeks

Ring finger

30 weeks

Little finger

25 weeks

Big toe

30 weeks

Any other toe

20 weeks


Can you work while on workers’ comp in Georgia?

That depends. The main thing to note here is that you shouldn’t perform any job duties that go against your doctor’s orders. Your workers’ comp doctor will tell you if it’s safe for you to return to work and, if it is, what tasks you can or can’t do during recovery. Going against the doctor’s instructions could compromise your claim

Say, for example, that your role before the incident meant regularly lifting 40-pound boxes but your doctor tells you that you shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 15 pounds. That means you won’t be able to continue doing your regular job. If you do, you could lose your workers’ comp benefits.

You can still work if your employer can offer a new or modified role that doesn’t require lifting anything above 15 pounds. You may hear this called light-duty work or modified-duty work. Not all employers will be able to offer light-duty work.

None of this should be new to your employer. Georgia workers’ compensation authorities have laid out guidelines for a return-to-work program that your employer can follow. Those state guidelines break down acceptable transitional work while a worker is healing.

Can you turn down light-duty work?

If your employer can offer you a modified role that fits within your doctor’s recovery plan, you have to accept it. Even if the job is very different from your usual role, turning it down will mean losing your workers’ comp benefits.

What if my employer is forcing me back to work?

If your employer is trying to force you to return to work before you’ve recovered or if they’re asking you to use vacation and paid sick days to cover your time out of work, we suggest talking to a worker’s comp lawyer. They’ll know how to respond to your employer to make sure you get your full benefits. Read more on when a lawyer can help with workers’ comp.


Do you need a workers comp lawyer?

You don’t need a lawyer, but there’s a lot of regulation around how workers’ comp operates in Georgia. It can get overwhelming, especially if your initial claim gets denied, your employer is making things difficult for you, or if your doctor reports that you can do more work than you think you can do.

The right workers’ compensation lawyer can help. And here’s the thing: Your initial consultation is free and you don’t have to pay anything upfront. You only have to pay your lawyer after you win benefits or get a settlement. They get a percentage of the benefits they win you — and state law caps that lawyer fee at 25%. While that fee is nothing to sneeze at, Atticus lawyers secure clients twice as much from a settlement, on average, so you’re still making more than you would have without a lawyer.

Atticus has experienced workers’ comp lawyers in Georgia. Complete our 3-minute workers’ comp questionnaire or call us at the number below to get answers and professional help today.

Get help with your workers' comp claim today.

Frequently asked questions about Georgia workers’ comp

How do I file a workers’ comp claim in Georgia?

First, verbally notify your employer of your injury within 30 days. Then they should complete Form WC-1 to officially file a claim for you. If you run into issues and your employer won’t file a claim, you can also fill out Form WC-14.

How much does workers’ comp pay in Georgia?

Georgia workers’ comp pays up to two-thirds of your pre-injury wages, with a maximum payment of $800 per week and a minimum of $50 per week in 2024. Read more about how much workers’ comp pays in each state.

When does workers' comp start paying in Georgia?

There is a waiting period of seven calendar days before you’re eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits. It could take another 21 days to get paid, though. The insurance company has 21 days to complete an independent investigation of your claim.

How long can I be on workers’ comp pay in Georgia?

For most workers, payments last until you reach maximum medical improvement, up to a maximum of 400 weeks. Your benefits will end sooner if you return to work or agree to a settlement with the insurance company.

Can I work on workers' comp in Georgia?

As long as your doctor approves you to work and you stay within their restrictions, you can do light-duty or modified-duty work. Learn more about working on workers’ comp.

Do I need a workers’ comp lawyer?

While a workers’ comp lawyer isn’t necessary, they can greatly simplify the process. Clients with lawyers also receive higher benefits, on average. Working with a lawyer isn’t the same as suing your employer and there is also no upfront cost. You only pay the lawyer fee if they win you benefits or a settlement. Read more on what a workers’ comp lawyer does.

See what you qualify for

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References

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A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.

Victoria Muñoz

Lead Attorney

Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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