Georgia Workers’ Compensation Blog, February 2016
Nathan E. Woody, CORALES & WOODY, LLC
THE SEVEN DAY WAITING PERIOD
If you have been injured on the job in Georgia, you can potentially access two primary categories of benefits: 1) medical benefits, and 2) disability or partial lost wage benefits. Our blog this month pertains to the second category of benefits, or what clients often refer to simply as “my check”.
Specifically, we are looking to answer the question, “How long do I have to wait for my checks to start after the injury?” Unfortunately, the answer can be a little confusing, so let’s start with the statute:
O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-220
“No compensation shall be allowed for the first seven calendar days of incapacity resulting from an injury, including the date of the injury, except the benefits provided for in Code Section 34-9-200; provided, however, that, if an employee is incapacitated for 21 consecutive days following an injury, compensation shall be paid for such first seven calendar days of incapacity.”
One quick note before we unpack the waiting period, the “benefits provided for in Code Section 34-9-200” refers to medical benefits. Thus, the good news here is that following your injury, there is no wait for medical benefits. That makes sense because a lot injuries need to be treated immediately.
You have to lose wages for more than seven days in order to potentially receive worker comp checks.
Going back in Georgia’s history, the waiting period was 14 days. Thus, by comparison, the modern seven day rule is more worker-friendly. Still, the first take away here is that if you only miss a day or two of work following an injury on the job, you will not be reimbursed for that time under worker’ comp. Of course, your employer could decide to pay you your regular wage as a gratuity, but the WC Insurance carrier (a different checkbook) has no obligation to reimburse that time.
The first seven days of incapacity may be paid later, if you miss more than 21 consecutive days.
Rule 220 goes on to say that the first seven days will be due on the 21st consecutive day of disability. Moreover, the next statute, O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-221 explains in subsection (b) that, “income benefits shall become due on the twenty-first day after the employer has knowledge of the injury or death, on which day all income benefits then due shall be paid”. Thus, if you miss 21 consecutive days, the Insurance Company should drop your first check in the mail on day 21, paying you for all 21 days of incapacity.
The Insurer may choose to deny or “controvert” your case during the 21 day period.
Clients come to us all of the time because this happens. After doing some investigation, Insurance elects not to put a check in the mail, but rather, file a denial or “controvert” on or before the 21st day.
If for any reason, you do not receive disability benefits after losing time for 21 consecutive days, or you simply have more questions about your checks and the seven day waiting period, call us right away.