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Navigating Appeals in Georgia Workers’ Compensation Cases

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2017 | Georgia Workers' Compensation, Workers' Compensation Case Law |

Often, when a Georgia workers’ compensation case is denied, the employee chooses to appeal their case to a higher court. In many cases, there can be multiple rounds of appeals, resulting in ongoing uncertainty. However, ultimately the goal of filing an appeal is to reverse a negative decision, so it is important to carefully present a case and follow the procedural requirements at each step of the way.

Appeals in Workers’ Compensation Cases

In Georgia workers’ compensation cases, the initial determination of whether benefits are appropriate is made by an administrative law judge. Either party can appeal an administrative law judge’s decision to the appellate division of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. The Board will then review the evidence and issue a decision.

If the Board finds the administrative law judge’s findings are supported by a preponderance of competent and credible evidence, the Board will accept the administrative law judge’s findings of fact. The Board generally does not hear additional testimony or receive additional evidence, but it can remand the case to an administrative law judge to take additional testimony or receive additional evidence. However, the Board may reject the administrative law judge’s findings, or it may accept the findings but come to a different legal conclusion. This may result in the approval of a claim that was initially denied.

Under O.C.G.A. 34-9-103, an appeal must be made within 20 days of the issuance of notice of the award. If a party fails to appeal within the time required, the administrative law judge’s decision becomes final. After the appellate division of the Board makes its decision, either party can appeal to a county superior court. The superior court’s decision can then be appealed to a Georgia court of appeals, and finally to the Supreme Court of Georgia. A recent case demonstrates how each appeal has to be carefully considered and filed to avoid any missteps.

Case Rejected on Final Appeal Due to Court’s Late Order

In a recent case, an employee was injured at his job and awarded temporary and total disability benefits for a catastrophic injury. Ten years after the injury, the parties requested a hearing before a workers’ compensation judge to address changes requested by the parties. The employee wanted authorization for additional treatments and attorneys’ fees for the employer’s unreasonable denials of the employee’s requested changes. The employer also requested a change of physician. The court denied the employer’s request and granted both of the employee’s requests. The employer appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Board. The Board affirmed the judge’s decision concerning the physician change and the additional treatments, but it reversed the decision concerning attorneys’ fees.

The employee then appealed that decision to the superior court. The Superior Court of Gwinnett County held a hearing and reversed the decision on August 1, but it did not enter an order doing so until August 31. That decision was appealed, and a Georgia court of appeals explained that the superior court had to enter its order within 20 days of the hearing. Since the superior court failed to do so, its order was void. Therefore, the superior court’s decision was vacated, and the Board’s decision was affirmed.

Contacting a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have been hurt on the job, you may be able to file a Georgia workers’ compensation claim. If you have already received an unfavorable workers’ compensation decision, you may be able to appeal if you act quickly. The Georgia law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. has decades of experience in workers’ compensation claims, and we are able to help you manage the complicated procedural requirements in Georgia workers’ compensation claims. Our attorneys provide clients with quality legal representation and responsive client service. For a free consultation, call us at 404-920-4708 or contact us through our online form.