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If your business has employees in the state of Georgia, you’ll need to make sure you adhere to Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance laws. Workers’ Compensation provides medical and financial benefits for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses or for their survivors in the case of an employee death.
Georgia requires all employers who regularly employ at least three employees to obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance. In Georgia, an “employee” is generally defined as someone who is in the service of an employer and is not an independent contractor.
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) defines all of the requirements for Workers’ Comp in Georgia, and the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation (SBWC) monitors, enforces, and administers the program. Ensuring your company is in compliance is critical, as there are serious penalties and fines for those who fail to abide by state regulations.
Almost all workers are covered under Workers’ Compensation in Georgia. If you provide work or services for an employer, you will likely be eligible for Workers’ Compensation Insurance.
The following are categories of employees that are eligible for Workers’ Comp coverage:
- Full-time and part-time employees
- Apprenticeships and internships
- Contract employees
- Undocumented workers
- Public service workers like firefighters and law enforcement
The following are categories of employees that are generally excluded from Workers’ Comp coverage:
- Independent contractors
- Domestic workers
- Casual or occasional workers
- Farm laborers
- Parties to a franchise agreement
Under Workers’ Compensation in Georgia, benefits will depend on many factors, including whether or not the injury an employee sustains is classified as “catastrophic” by the WCA. A catastrophic injury includes:
- Severe brain or closed head injury
- Spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of the arm, leg, or trunk
- Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of its use
- Second- or third-degree burns covering more than 25 percent of the body or third-degree burns covering 5 percent or more of the employee’s face or hands
- Total or industrial blindness
- Any other injury that prevents the employee from being able to perform his or her prior work or any other work that he or she is otherwise qualified to perform
Employers in Georgia are required to provide the following benefits to employees who are injured in the course of employment:
- Medical expenses, including doctor bills, hospital bills, physical therapy, prescriptions, and necessary travel expenses to receive treatment.
- Injured employees may also be eligible for medical and vocational rehabilitation.
- Medical benefits are available for up to 400 weeks from the date of the injury. For those injuries that occurred prior to July 1, 2013, or are classified as catastrophic injuries under the WCA, medical benefits are available indefinitely.
Temporary Total Disability Benefits
- If an injured employee is unable to return to work, he or she is eligible to receive Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits while recovering, which provides two-thirds of a worker’s average weekly wage pre-injury.
- TTD benefits are available for up to 400 weeks from the date of the injury. For those injuries that are classified as catastrophic injuries under the WCA, TTD benefits are available as long as the injured employee is medically unable to work.
- For injuries that occurred after July 1, 2019, the maximum TTD benefits are $675 per week, and the minimum TTD benefits are $50 per week or the employee’s average weekly wage if it is less than $50.
Temporary Partial Disability Benefits
- An injured employee may be able to return to work while recovering in a partial or limited capacity. If the employee works fewer hours or receives lower wages during this time, he or she may be eligible for Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits. TPD benefits provide two-thirds of the difference between a worker’s pre- and post-injury average weekly wage.
- TPD benefits are available for up to 350 weeks from the date of the injury.
- For injuries that occurred after July 1, 2019, the maximum TPD benefits are $450 per week.
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
- If an injured employee recovers from an injury but has a permanent partial impairment, he or she may be eligible for Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits, which provides two-thirds of a worker’s average weekly wage pre-injury.
- For injuries that occurred after July 1, 2019, the maximum PPD benefits are $675 per week, and the minimum PPD benefits are $50 per week or the employee’s average weekly wage if it is less than $50.
- The number of weeks that PPD benefits are paid out depends on a number of factors, including a physician’s impairment rating and the body part that was injured.
Permanent Total Disability Benefits
- The WCA does not specifically call out benefits for permanent total disabilities. However, employees with catastrophic injuries are eligible for PTD benefits for as long as they are unable to work.
Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits
- If an employee suffers a catastrophic injury, employers are required to provide reasonable and necessary rehabilitation services to help the employee return to work. These benefits can include such services as medical care coordination, job placement, and vocational training.
- Employers are required to pay up to $7,500 to cover funeral expenses.
- A worker’s surviving dependents may be eligible to receive two-thirds of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage, up to $675 per week and at a minimum of $50 per week or the employee’s average weekly wage if it is less than $50.
Failure to adhere to the Workers’ Compensation laws set out by the WCA can result in significant fines and even imprisonment. In order to avoid any costly penalties, it’s important to consult the WCA or your insurer to ensure you are in compliance. Below are the major ways in which companies can be penalized:
Failure to Purchase Coverage
- Failure to secure adequate Workers’ Compensation Insurance may result in a fine of $500 to $5,000 per violation, and the SBWC may also recover any attorney’s fees or other money spent to levy these penalties.
- If an employer refuses to secure coverage, additional fines of $50 per day may be assessed.
- If an injured employee makes a claim, a non-complying employer may also be required to pay an additional 10 percent of the benefits the injured employee should have received, in addition to any attorney’s fees or costs the employee incurred.
Failure to Provide Proof of Coverage
- Failure to provide proof of coverage requirements to the SBWC may be charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000 or up to one year of imprisonment, or both.
- The SBWC may also levy civil penalties of between $500 and $5,000 per violation, in addition to recovering any attorney’s fees or costs associated with the penalties.
- If an employer refuses to comply with coverage requirements, additional fines of $50 per day may be assessed.
- If an employer purposefully gives false information in order to obtain or deny any benefits or payments under the WCA, they may be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000 or up to one year of imprisonment, or both.
- The SBWC may also levy civil penalties of between $1,000 and $10,000 per violation, in addition to recovering any attorney’s fees or costs associated with the penalties.
Unfiled Injury Reports
- If an employer fails to submit an injury report to the SBWC about a work-related injury that requires medical treatment or requires an employee to miss work for more than 7 days, within 21 days of being notified of the incident, the employer may be charged with a fine of up to $100 per violation.
According to the National Academy of Social Insurance Workers’ Compensation Report (October 2019), the average employer cost for Workers’ Compensation in Georgia was $1.08 per $100 of covered wages. This figure is estimated across all insurers and all industries, so the cost to your particular business may vary.
The claims process in Georgia begins with the employee. If an employee suffers a work-related injury or illness, he or she must immediately report the condition to the employer, either in-person or by written notice within 30 days of the accident or first day of disability. Any delays may result in a denial or reduction of a claim.
Employers must either deny a claim or accept a claim and begin paying benefits within 21 days of being notified of a workplace injury or illness. If a claim is denied, the employee can dispute the denial by filing a claim with the SBWC within one year of the injury. In the case of an employee death, his or her dependents can file a claim with the SBWC within one year of the death.
For more information on Georgia Workers’ Compensation laws and requirements, please visit the following resources: