In a real sense, almost any sort of work-related injury can, particularly at the time of the injury itself, seem “catastrophic” to the worker. After all, there can be a considerable level of pain associated with a dislocated shoulder or a badly sprained ankle. And, since so many Georgia workers live paycheck to paycheck, a worker may also be understandably worried about the short-term loss of income associated with being out of work. Then, of course, there is the worry about medical care.
Not to diminish the seriousness of any injury, but Georgia law designates most work-related injuries as “non-catastrophic,” and in such cases, the injured worker is not entitled to medical benefits or temporary total disability benefits beyond 400 weeks. Those limits, however, do not apply to injuries that are designated as “catastrophic.”
Which Workers’ Compensation Injuries are “Catastrophic?”
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act classifies an injury as “catastrophic” if it includes one (or more) of the following:
- Spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk;
- Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of the appendage;
- Severe brain or closed head injury;
- Second or third degree burns over 25 percent of the body as a whole or third degree burns to 5 percent or more of the face or hands; and
- Total or industrial blindness.
The Vitally Important 6th – “Catch-all” – Category of Catastrophic Injuries
Even if the worker’s injury does not fall within any of the five categories just mentioned, it may still be possible to obtain a “catastrophic injury” designation, if the injury or condition prevents the worker from performing his or her prior work and any work generally available in the national economy for which the worker is qualified.
It is vitally important that the worker be aware of this miscellaneous category since:
- Without a catastrophic injury designation, the worker’s benefits are capped at 400 weeks, and
- The insurance company representing the employer is never, on its own, going to point out its existence to the injured worker. Insurance companies tend to agree voluntarily that an injury is catastrophic only if it falls within the first 5 categories.
With experienced, effective legal counsel, an injured worker may be successful in establishing that his or her injury is catastrophic. For example, it may be possible to show that an injured worker’s low back injury is, nevertheless, catastrophic because the worker – due to lack of education or other skills – is only qualified for jobs that require demanding physical labor and yet, his low back condition prevents him from pursuing such jobs.
Contact a Qualified, Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have suffered a work-related injury that might be deemed “catastrophic,” you owe it to yourself to seek out qualified and experienced legal counsel. The workers’ compensation insurance company has an army of attorneys on its side; you need a professional and aggressive lawyer on yours. It is in the insurance company’s best interest to prevent you from pursuing the catastrophic injury designation.
At the Law Offices of B. Clarke Nash, P.C., you will have strong and aggressive counsel available to you. It isn’t an office full of case managers behind a television face. When you call the office to check on your case, you can discuss the situation with Clarke himself. Clarke once worked for the insurance companies; he knows how they operate and what motivates them. He has office availability throughout the state of Georgia, so contact the Law Offices of B. Clarke Nash, P.C., at (912) 200–5292, to schedule a consultation today.