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Court Reversed Workers’ Compensation Decision Based on Lack of Evidence

On Behalf of | Aug 21, 2017 | Workers' Compensation Case Law |

Employees who are injured on the job may be able to pursue compensation through a Georgia workers’ compensation claim. However, not every application will be accepted, especially when submitted without the assistance of an attorney. In a recent case, an employee in South Carolina was working at Lowe’s when he slipped and injured his back and neck. He was diagnosed with a herniated disc.

The employee underwent surgery but continued to experience pain, and he had difficulty walking and balancing. He then filed a workers’ compensation claim for his medical expenses and for temporary total disability benefits. After filing the claim, the employee slowly improved and was later given an impairment rating of 25% and permitted to return to work with certain restrictions. Lowe’s subsequently requested a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Commission to decide whether the employee should be given permanent disability benefits.

Under that state’s law, if a worker sustains the loss of his or her back of 50% or more, the worker will be presumed to have suffered a total and permanent disability. At the hearing, the employee argued that he should receive permanent total disability benefits because he lost 50% or more of the use of his back. Lowe’s contended that the 25% impairment rating meant that the employee had not suffered 50% impairment and thus was only entitled to permanent partial disability. The Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded him permanent partial disability, based on a 48% impairment to his back. The employee appealed.

On appeal, the state’s supreme court reversed the decision, finding that the evidence showed that the employee’s loss was greater than a 48% impairment. At the previous hearing, all of the doctors who evaluated the employee and assigned him an impairment rating indicated that the employee lost more than 70% of the use of his back. Even though he was originally given an impairment rating of 25%, this was in regard to the employee’s whole body, whereas the relevant question at the hearing concerned the employee’s back. Therefore, the evidence did not support the Commission’s decision, and the court sent the case back for a new hearing.

Disability Benefits in Georgia

In Georgia, there are three general types of disability benefits available under the Workers’ Compensation Act: temporary total disability benefits, temporary partial disability benefits, and permanent partial disability benefits.

Temporary total disability benefits are paid to workers who are unable to work for more than seven days due to a work injury. Temporary partial disability benefits may be paid to workers who are able to work but earn less than normal due to a work injury. Permanent partial disability benefits are available to workers who have a permanent partial impairment. There are also “catastrophic” injury benefits for certain injuries deemed catastrophic, such as total blindness or the amputation of an arm or leg. Each type of benefits allows the worker to receive a different compensation award over a certain period of time.

Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have been injured and believe you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, talk to a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. At the Georgia law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C., we have decades of experience handling workers’ compensation claims. Our attorneys offer quality legal representation and responsive client service. For a free consultation, contact us at 404-920-4708 or fill out our online form.