Not every claimant successfully obtains Georgia workers’ compensation benefits on their first try, but some denials can be reversed on appeal. However, employers and insurance companies can also appeal an award of benefits, as in the situation in a recent workers’ compensation case discussed below. If you have been injured on the job, a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney could be crucial to obtaining the benefits to which you are entitled.
In that case, an employee who was working at a dairy farm injured his knee while delivering milk to a grocery store. He testified that he was carrying a milk crate and stepped off the truck when his knee “popped” and afterward he could not move it. The employee received workers’ compensation benefits which included surgery and physical therapy.
The following year, the employee’s leg gave out when he was standing up at his house and he fell on his side. He immediately experienced pain in his neck and back. The state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded him benefits for his knee as well as his back. The employer appealed, arguing that there was not substantial credible evidence to support the Commission’s decision.
The Commission found that the employer sustained a 50 percent loss of industrial use of his left lower extremity. The employer argued it was not supported by the evidence, because the employee’s doctor found a 10% impairment rating in regards to the employee’s knee, and a vocation counselor testified that the employee could obtain an entry-level job.
The appeals court explained that “industrial loss” is not the same as “functional loss,” which is used in the impairment rating. It explained that industrial loss considers whether there is a loss in the employee’s capacity to earn a living. In this case, the employee could not return to the position he had at the time of his injury, because he was placed on light-duty and could not lift more than forty pounds. In addition, he applied for several positions after he lost his job, but could not find another position. Because his ability to earn the same wage was greatly reduced, the Commission’s finding was supported by the record.
The employer also argued that the Commission’s finding that the employee sustained a compensable back injury as a result of his knee injury was wrong. The employer pointed out that the employee had a degenerative disc disease and back surgery before his knee injury, and argued that the back injury was a preexisting condition. However, the court explained that the Commission believed the employee’s testimony concerning his fall at his home due to his knee injury, and the Commission believed the employee’s doctor’s testimony that his back pain was aggravated by his knee injury as a result of his fall.
Appealing a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Case
The decision of a workers’ compensation administrative law judge can be appealed to the appellate division of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Under O.C.G.A. 34-9-103, the appeal must be made within 20 days of issuance of notice of the workers’ compensation award. The Board’s decision can also be appealed to the county superior court, then to Georgia’s court of appeals, and finally to the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Have You Been Injured on the Job?
If you were hurt on the job, you may be entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits. You also may be able to appeal your claim if you have received an unfavorable decision. At the law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C., we help our clients obtain all the benefits they are entitled to receive under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act and also analyze the circumstances of their injuries to determine whether we can file a third-party claim against another party. To learn more, contact our law firm for a free consultation and case evaluation.