Unlike the situation in neighboring states, Georgia law places virtually all work-related injuries into one of two categories: “Non-catastrophic” and “catastrophic.” The difference in designation can be crucial, since with regard to a non-catastrophic injury, the injured worker is not entitled to medical benefits or temporary total disability benefits beyond 400 weeks. For catastrophic injuries, those limits do not apply.
Work-Related Injuries That Are Considered “Catastrophic?”
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act [Georgia Code Ann. § 34–9–200.1(g)] provides that the injury is considered “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
- Total or industrial blindness
Obviously, for amputation [§ 34–9–200.1(g)(2)] cases, the amputation of the entire limb or appendage qualifies as catastrophic. Where only a portion of the appendage has been amputated, there is a medical issue to be resolved: Does the amputation result in the effective loss of the appendage?
In cases of partial amputation, the Board ordinarily requires a physician’s statement, preferably the authorized treating physician, establishing that the amputation resulted in the functional loss of that appendage. In addition, the Board requires some sort of photograph or diagram reflecting the location of the amputation. The Board indicates that this diagram can be quite crude, such as the tracing of the affected hand or foot on a piece of paper. Many physicians acknowledge, for example, that the amputation of a thumb results in the effective loss of use of the entire hand, since an “opposable” thumb is crucial to grasping and handling objects.
Employer’s Insurance Companies Usually Treat Partial Amputations as Non-Catastrophic
In a partial amputation case, the employer’s insurance company is much less interested in giving you the benefit of the doubt than it is in saving money. It is rare, therefore, that it will voluntarily designate a partial amputation as catastrophic. If the medical evidence supports a catastrophic designation, you may still need to fight for it. In such cases, an aggressive, knowledgeable Georgia workers’ compensation attorney is crucial to your winning your case.
Contact a Qualified, Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Have you have suffered a work-related injury that might be deemed “catastrophic?” If so, you owe it to yourself to seek out qualified and experienced legal counsel. The employer and its workers’ compensation insurance company have attorneys on their side; you deserve a professional and aggressive lawyer on yours.
At the Law Offices of B. Clarke Nash, you will have caring, strong, and aggressive counsel. Clarke’s office isn’t full of case managers behind a television face. Unlike with some legal offices, when you call Clarke’s office to check on the status of 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. Contact Clarke at (912) 200-5292, or complete the online form to schedule a consultation today.