Clarifying the 10 most persistent myths

Workers’ compensation is a vital aspect of the modern workplace, providing financial support and medical benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. Despite its importance, there are numerous misconceptions surrounding workers’ compensation that can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. Farrar, Hennesy & Tanner explain the 10 most common misconceptions about workers’ compensation and provide clarity on each one.

Misconception #1: Workers’ compensation is only for serious injuries.

One of the most prevalent misconceptions about workers’ compensation is that it is only applicable to severe injuries or accidents. In reality, workers’ compensation covers a wide range of injuries and illnesses, including repetitive stress injuries, occupational diseases and psychological conditions caused by work-related factors. Even minor injuries such as sprains, strains and minor cuts may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, provided they occurred in the course of employment.

Misconception #2: You can’t receive workers’ compensation if the injury was your fault.

Another common misconception is that workers’ compensation is only available to employees who were not at fault for their injuries. In most cases, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that regardless of who was responsible for the accident or injury, the injured worker is generally entitled to benefits. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, such as injuries caused by willful misconduct or intoxication on the part of the employee.

Misconception #3: You can’t receive workers’ compensation if you were injured outside of work hours.

Some employees believe that they are only eligible for workers’ compensation if they were injured during their scheduled work hours. While it’s true that workers’ compensation typically covers injuries that occur while an employee is performing work-related duties, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, injuries sustained during work-related events or activities outside of normal working hours, such as company-sponsored outings or training sessions, may still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Misconception #4: Workers’ compensation claims are always litigious.

Many people assume that filing a workers’ compensation claim will inevitably lead to a lengthy and contentious legal battle. While disputes over workers’ compensation claims do occur, the majority of claims are resolved without the need for litigation. Most employers and insurance carriers prefer to settle claims amicably to avoid the time and expense of going to court. Additionally, many states have mediation or arbitration programs in place to help resolve disputes quickly and efficiently.

Misconception #5: You can’t choose your own doctor for workers’ compensation treatment.

This one is only partially true. There are exceptions and your right to choose your doctor can depend upon whether your employer has followed the rules. Georgia does allow employers to have a list of approved medical providers for employees to choose from in the case of an on-the-job injury or illness and seeing a physician outside of that list can jeopardize your claim. But state law also requires employers to post that list of approved doctors and to make sure employees are adequately informed of the list. Any failure to do so can mean the employer forfeits its right to limit your choices. Further, Georgia workers’ compensation law gives your authorized treating physician full control over your medical treatment, including referrals to specialists. For instance, if your approved treating physician recommends an MRI, that doctor can send you to and MRI provider they work with or, if none is specified, you typically can choose your own appropriate specialist. Insurance companies often will insist that you must see referral providers in their networks. This is not the case except in rare cases where medical care is provided by a State Board approved WC/MCO (Workers’ Compensation Managed Care Organization) instead of a traditional panel of physicians.

Misconception #6: You can’t receive workers’ compensation if you were fired or laid off.

Being fired or laid off from your job does not necessarily disqualify you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits if you were injured on the job. As long as the injury occurred during the course of employment and meets the criteria for workers’ compensation eligibility, you may still be entitled to benefits. However, it’s crucial to report any work-related injuries to your employer as soon as possible, regardless of your employment status, to ensure that your claim is properly processed.

Misconception #7: Workers’ compensation only covers medical expenses.

While medical expenses are a significant component of workers’ compensation benefits, they are not the only form of compensation available to injured workers. Workers’ compensation benefits may also include wage replacement payments to compensate for lost income due to disability or inability to work. Additionally, depending on the severity of the injury, injured workers may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services to help them return to work or retrain for a new job.

Misconception #8: You can’t file a workers’ compensation claim if you wait too long.

This is another one that’s partially true and dependent upon a few factors. The general rule is that a claim for workers’ compensation benefits must be filed within one year of the accident date or from the date of the injury or the date they became aware of the injury to file a claim or the right to compensation is forfeited. Many mistakenly believe that the deadline is two years. That’s the case for personal injury cases, but not for workers compensation. Also, the statute of limitations can be extended in cases where an employer has provided weekly income or medical benefits throughout an employee’s treatment. In such cases, an injury the claim may be filed within one year after the date of the last remedial treatment furnished by the employer or within two years after the date of the last payment of weekly benefits. In any case, it’s imperative that you report any work-related injuries to your employer as possible, even if you’re unsure about the extent of your injuries or whether you will need to file a claim.

Misconception #9: Workers’ compensation only applies to full-time employees.

Part-time, temporary and some seasonal employees are also covered by Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws. Note that if an employee is performing a job at a worksite through a temporary employment service, the staffing agency must provide the injured worker with benefits. The business outsourcing to that staffing agency is not considered the injured worker’s employer and is generally not liable. Also, seasonal farm workers are generally not covered unless their farm employer has voluntarily purchased workers’ compensation insurance. Georgia law doesn’t require farm employers to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Otherwise, as long as the injury occurred in the course of employment and meets the criteria for workers’ compensation eligibility, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees are entitled to the same benefits as full-time workers. Note that workers compensation does not cover independent contractors in Georgia.

Misconception #10: Filing a workers’ compensation claim will harm your relationship with your employer.

Some employees are hesitant to file workers’ compensation claims for fear of damaging their relationship with their employer or jeopardizing their job security. However, it’s essential to remember that workers’ compensation is a legally mandated benefit, and employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under workers’ compensation laws. Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to provide benefits to injured workers, and filing a claim should not negatively impact your relationship with your employer.

If you have been injured or suffered an illness on the job, it’s essential to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to protect your rights and pursue the benefits you deserve. Call 912- 384-2287 or request a free case review with Farrar, Hennesy and Tanner today.