Notifying a Georgia employer of a back injury

Failure to notify your employer of a workplace accident or injury within a certain timeframe could affect whether workers' compensation benefits will be available.

Back injuries occur in different ways and often prove difficult to treat. Serious pain may linger for years after a workplace accident or a back or neck injury may develop gradually from years of repetitive work duties. Georgia workers' compensation benefits are available to provide a financial safety net following a back injury, but when must you provide notice?

The answer found in Georgia statute is immediately following an accident or as soon as practicable. Failure to provide oral or written notice of an accident within 30 days could affect the availability of benefits. An exception to the 30-day notice requirement exists if the employer knew about the accident or there was a reasonable excuse for the delay.

Notice of a gradually developing injury

When there is a snap or pop and searing pain while lifting a patient at the hospital, it is rather easy to determine the date of the injury. Even if the pain goes away and it seems the injury may be minor, it is important to notify the employer within 30 days. In the future, if the pain comes back or gets worse documentation of the initial injury may be critical to a workers' comp claim.

When does the 30-day period start for gradual onset injuries? It is generally when an employee can no longer work.

This became an issue for a MARTA bus driver. He had taken some time off for complications from diabetes, but after 22 years of driving bus, he developed low back pain when he worked. He told his supervisor about the pain and that he needed to shift his weight and often used his left foot on the brake. The supervisor said switching feet was unsafe and the driver could not drive that way. Soon after the driver stopped working because of pain.

A neurologist found he was disabled due to back or leg pain, but failed to indicate it was work related. Several months later, a different doctor indicated that repetitive vibrations from driving bus were the likely cause of the injury.

The state Board of Workers' Compensation awarded workers' compensation benefits. The superior court, however, reversed finding that the driver failed to give proper notice of the claim. The appellate court seemed to dodge answering exactly whether the notice was timely and sufficient by stating that there was a reasonable excuse for not giving timely notice. This case demonstrates one issue that can come up in a work comp case.

Benefits available while recovering

Workers' compensation benefits are generally equal to two-thirds of the employee's average weekly wage and are payable for up to 400 weeks from the date of the injury. The benefits are not considered taxable income, thus the benefits go a bit further.

Speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney if you suffer an injury in a workplace accident. As the above case demonstrates, failure to comply with procedural rules could affect your workers' compensation claim.

Keywords: workers' compensation, back injury, employer notification