Georgia workers’ compensation insurance
Workers' compensation insurance covers the cost of work-related injuries. It's required for all Georgia businesses that have three or more employees.
Who needs workers’ comp insurance in Georgia?
Each state has different workers’ compensation laws, and in Georgia, workers’ compensation insurance is mandatory for any business that regularly employs three or more people. “Regular” refers to any person who works for a business on a regular basis, even if it is part-time, regardless of an employee’s average weekly wage.
If a business is incorporated, corporate officers are considered employees. Georgia allows up to five officers to waive coverage on themselves. However, waiving coverage does not mean that they don’t count for the purpose of being a business that employs three or more people.
Businesses with fewer than three employees are strongly encouraged to buy workers' compensation insurance. It's an affordable policy for small businesses since the workers' compensation rate depends on the number of employees.
Is workers’ comp required for part-time employees?
Georgia state law requires that regular part-time employees are covered by workers’ comp. This would include someone who only works on weekends, for example, as long as the employee works for the business on a regular basis.
Do self-employed business owners need workers' compensation?
Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and partners are not required to have workers’ compensation insurance in Georgia. In fact, independent contractors are not eligible for it in most circumstances under Georgia state law.
Sole proprietors and partners are strongly encouraged to buy workers' comp insurance even when it's not required. In fact, their clients might require them to carry this coverage.
If you get injured on the job, a workers' comp policy can help pay your medical expenses and provide part of the wages you lose during your temporary disability.
Your personal health insurance provider might deny your claim if your injury is related to your work, which would leave you paying these bills on your own.
How much does workers' compensation coverage cost in Georgia?
Estimated employer rates for workers’ compensation in Georgia are $1.01 per $100 in covered payroll.
Your workers' comp cost is calculated based on a few factors, including:
- Number of employees
- Coverage limits
- Annual payroll
- Claims history
- Industry and risk factors
How does workers’ comp work in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, workers' compensation coverage must begin for an employee on their first day of work.
When an employee suffers a workplace injury, workers' compensation insurance pays the cost of medical care provided by an authorized treating physician. This includes emergency treatment, hospitalization, prescriptions, and physical rehabilitation.
For example, if an IT tech or software developer is diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome due to keyboard overuse, your workers' comp policy would pay for their medical bills, including long-term medication and physical therapy.
Or, if an employee at your IT consulting firm trips in the office stairwell and suffers a concussion, then your workers' comp policy would pay for their ambulance ride and emergency room visit.
Workers' compensation also provides temporary partial disability benefits or temporary total disability benefits if the employee needs to take time off work. The amount is typically two-thirds of their average weekly income.
In case of a catastrophic injury that leads to permanent partial disability or permanent total disability, such as loss of a body part, the injured employee receives weekly benefits for an amount of time determined by their injury.
Policies usually include employer's liability insurance, which can help cover legal expenses if an employee blames their employer for an injury. However, the exclusive remedy provision in most workers' comp policies prohibits an employee from suing their employer if they accept workers' comp benefits.
Explore the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation FAQs for details.
How do workers' comp claims work in Georgia?
Once an employer becomes aware that a job injury has occurred, they must immediately file a report with the insurer’s claims office. If the employee must be out of work for seven or more days, the employer must notify the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation within 21 days.
An employer can choose one of three methods for the insurance company to determine the amount of workers’ compensation benefits:
- Panel of physicians: This would consist of at least six non-associated physicians, including an orthopedist. No more than two physicians can be from industrial clinics, and the panel should include one physician who is a minority, where possible.
- Conformed panel of physicians: This panel requires a minimum of 10 physicians or professional associations. In addition to the same requirements as the panel of physicians option, this panel must include a general surgeon and chiropractor.
- Workers’ compensation managed care organization (MCO): This organization would be certified by the workers’ comp board to coordinate a plan that delivers and manages treatment under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. This organization is also required to include minority providers.
What are the penalties for not having Georgia workers’ comp insurance?
If you fail to carry workers’ comp insurance in Georgia, there could be both civil and criminal penalties. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation regulates workers’ comp, and its enforcement division will investigate any incidents of noncompliance or allegations of fraud. In cases of noncompliance, employers could face:
- Liability: If an employer fails to provide the required workers’ comp coverage, the employer is responsible for compensating an employee for any injuries in the same manner as if there had been workers’ compensation insurance in place. The employer could be held responsible for attorney’s fees, civil penalties, and a 10% increase in compensation to the injured worker if the employer does not secure insurance.
- Civil penalties: Any person who violates workers’ comp regulations could face a penalty between $100 and $1,000 per violation. False statements made to the board could carry fines of $1,000 to $10,000 per violation. If an employer fails to provide the required insurance coverage, the civil penalty could be $500 to $5,000 per occurrence of a violation.
- Criminal penalties: An employer who refuses or willfully neglects to maintain insurance coverage could be found guilty of a misdemeanor. If convicted, the offense is punishable by a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 or imprisonment up to one year, or both.
Workers’ comp settlements in Georgia
Georgia’s State Board of Workers’ Compensation Settlement Division reviews and approves workers’ compensation settlements that include either lump sums or regular payments.
There are two forms of workers’ compensation settlements in Georgia:
Liability settlements resolve the claim, and the insurance company agrees to pay.
Non-liability settlements end a claim even where there is a dispute about benefit eligibility between stakeholders.
Regardless of whether there is a liability or non-liability settlement, once both parties (the employee and the insurance company) arrive at an agreement, the claim is closed. The employee cannot bring any additional claims for that injury.
Often, the board can approve a settlement based on the following documents:
- Stipulated settlement agreement, which explains the terms and conditions of your case
- Claim forms
- Medical records
- Information about unpaid child support
- Lawyer’s fee agreement and other fee documents
Lump sum settlements can either be a single payment or a structured settlement, which would mean that the payment is paid out monthly or annually for a specific period of time.
Statute of limitations for workers’ compensation claims
An injured worker is required to file a claim within the workers’ compensation statute of limitations. Georgia law has three separate provisions:
- All issues: Generally, the employee has one year from the date of injury to file a workers’ compensation claim.
- Change in condition: If the worker receives benefits for temporary, total, or partial disability, the injured person has two years from the date that the benefits ended to file a claim.
- Medical bill / mileage reimbursement: Once medical treatment has happened, the injured person has one year to submit the bill to their employer or workers’ compensation insurance company.