How Do You Prove That Your Work Injury Is Catastrophic?

The goal of workers’ compensation is to provide employees injured during the course of work with medical benefits and wage replacement for the time they’re disabled by the injury. If you’ve been injured on the job, the medical benefits themselves and the amount of indemnity you’ll be eligible to receive will depend on the nature and severity of your injury. More severe injuries with extended recovery times will cause you to lose more in wages, and therefore should allow you to collect disability benefits for a longer period of time. The amount of work you have to miss due to injury will directly influence your potential benefits, so what happens if you’re hurt on the job and can never work again? 

This is where the term “catastrophic injury” comes in. In Georgia, the state workers’ compensation system considers injuries catastrophic if they prevent you from working at your current job or any other one for which you are qualified for the rest of your life. For the most part, indemnity benefits for injured workers in Georgia are limited to 400 weeks. However, if your injury is designated as catastrophic, you can be eligible to collect weekly disability benefits for the rest of your life.  

What Injuries are Defined as Catastrophic? 

As you can likely imagine, a work injury has to be very quantifiably serious to qualify as catastrophic in Georgia. There must also be evidence that the damage caused is permanent and the injured party will never recover. There are several specific types of injury that state law recognizes as catastrophic.  

  1. “Severe spinal cord injury involving paralysis of an arm, leg, or trunk”.  
  2. “Amputation of an arm, hand, foot, or leg involving the effective loss of use of the appendage” 
  3. “Severe brain or closed head injury where there is severe sensory or motor disturbances, as well as disturbances in communication, cerebral functioning or consciousness, or neurological disorders”    
  4. “Second or third degree burns over 25% of the employee’s body or third degree burns to 5 percent or more to the face or hands” 
  5. “Total or Industrial Blindness”  
  6. “Any other injury of a nature and severity that prevents the injured worker from being able to perform his or her prior work and any work available”  

What if My Injury Isn’t One of These?

If your injury falls into any of the first five categories listed, it should be automatically considered catastrophic and your employer and insurance company will typically agree. Category 6 is where many issues arise during worker’s compensation cases. If your injury doesn’t meet any of the first five categories but you and your doctor believe you’ll never be able to work again, the burden of proof is on you and your attorney to prove that you should qualify. 

In all likelihood, your employer and their insurance company will be very eager to contest your assertion. Expert testimony from one or more qualified physicians is likely required to have a chance at winning. It is also important to have the right team of Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys on your side when you’re fighting for indemnity. 

Your employer and their insurance company will bring their own legal teams to fight you tooth and nail for every dollar you deserve. Even when you’re in the right, having the right lawyers on your side can make all the difference in contentious cases like these. Contact The Law Offices of Darwin F. Johnson today to learn more about catastrophic injuries and workers’ compensation in Georgia.