In regards to employment law and regulations, where do employers and businesses often go wrong, thus leading them into legal trouble?
The most common errors that I see employers and businesses often make, is ignoring employees’ basic rights that they are entitled to, under the workers’ compensation laws of Georgia. For example, employees are entitled to change physicians from a doctor on their employer’s ‘panel of physicians’ to another doctor on the same panel without prior Board approval. I commonly see employers deny this right to employees which routinely involves or leads to an injured worker calling my office. Employers either don’t have a panel posted, or they try to select a physician for the injured worker.
What are corporations’ main concerns regarding the benefits they provide to their workers? What should be done to lessen their concern?
Unfortunately, a fairly recent change in Georgia law capped medical treatment for non- catastrophic workers compensation claims in Georgia at 400 weeks. This has led to extreme delays and unfounded denials for medical treatment for injured workers, which in turn increases medical costs for insurance companies due to aggravation of medical conditions; this could be alleviated if an injured worker was provided with appropriate and timely medical care. By denying and delaying medical treatment, injured workers often are in need of additional surgeries and additional treatment which they would not otherwise need if employer/insurers would comply with the goal of medical treatment of the workers’ compensation system in Georgia, which is to cure injured workers, provide them relief, or restore them to suitable employment.
What regulations do you feel could be altered to fit the compensations law, in order to ensure employees get the best treatment in their workplace?
An area that needs to be changed, involves injured workers who have been terminated for cause while working in light duty positions. When terminated via their authorised physician, it is deemed to be an economic change in condition for the worse, under Georgia workers’ compensation law. Under this scenario, an injured worker must prove that he or she has been diligently attempting to perform his/her job duties under light duty work restrictions and is unable to procure or obtain employment due to these restrictions. This is a commonly litigated issue in Georgia, and, unfortunately, it can take several months to receive a hearing regarding whether the injured worker has met the burden of proving they have been performing a diligent job search. During this time, they have no way of paying their mortgage, car payments and other living expenses because they have no source of income. Further, it has proven to be extremely unlikely they would be offered employment by anyone while under light duty work restrictions. This circumstance creates an unfair burden on employees and provides employer/insurers with a way with great leverage to force injured workers into nominal settlements for otherwise worthy and legitimate workers’ compensation claims.
How has workers’ compensation progressed since you first began practising and how do you make a difference in this field?
Since I began practicing in 2007, workers’ compensation laws have seemed to regress every year to gradually become more favourable to employers/insurers. It’s death by a thousand cuts for injured workers in Georgia. The 400 week medical cap has passed during that time, and law has been settled enabling insurance companies and their representatives to have ex parte communications with injured workers’ authorised treating physicians. Fortunately, injured workers’ attorneys have recognised this gradual eroding of injured workers’ fights in Georgia and are taking a proactive stance toward reversing this trend.
Can private insurers do anything to ensure workers’ compensation is fairy granted?
To ensure workers’ compensation benefits are fairly granted to them, injured workers should immediately report work accidents to their supervisor. Further, it is extremely important that injured workers give all medical providers an accurate history of their injury so that it is documented in all medical records and reports.
Lastly, injured workers, on occasion, have jeopardised their entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits before they are ever involved in an injury at work. For example, if an injured worker misrepresents or omits on his/her job application that they have received medical treatment for a particular body part before, and they later injure that body part on the job, the employer/insurer may deny treatment to that employee if they relied on that statement in making the decision to hire them, knowing that they wouldn’t have put the employee in that particular job if the employer had known about the prior injury. Therefore, the employee needs to be completely honest on all employment applications to ensure receipt of workers’ compensation benefits should they later be injured on the job.
William F. Trey Underwood, III
Law Offices of William F. Underwood, III, P.C.
515 N. Westover Blvd., Suite C.
Albany, GA 31707
After graduation, Trey put that simple but powerful idea into practice. The Dougherty Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office entrusted him with handling the prosecution of felony, misdemeanor, and juvenile cases. His tireless, determined work for the District Attorney provided Trey with valuable trial experience as lead counsel in jury trials.
Recognising that individuals affected by injuries on the job or serious personal injuries need a strong, knowledgeable supporter willing to fight for justice, Trey opened his own firm dedicated to representing these victims in 2010. His knowledge and experience in handling personal injury and workers’ compensation cases led to success, and to justice for the victims: Trey has recovered millions of dollars for his clients since opening his practice.