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Worker’s compensation insurance is a program to which an employer may subscribe that provides benefits to employees in the event that an employee is injured during the course of employment.  In order to take advantage of worker’s compensation benefits, however, the employee must follow the program’s rules, including filing the claim within the stated statute of limitations.

Worker’s Compensation

Each state has a worker’s compensation statute that defines its program.  Federal worker’s compensation statutes provide benefits to federal employees.  Some states such as California, require that all employers subscribe to its worker’s compensation program.  While for other states participation is optional.  Worker’s compensation programs are designed to protect workers who are injured in the workplace by ensuring that employees are provided with medical treatment as well as monetary awards.  In addition, worker’s compensation programs provide benefits to the family of workers who die as a result of a workplace accident.  One of the benefits to employers is that when an employer subscribes to worker’s compensation, the worker’s compensation program is the “exclusive remedy” for the employee.  This means that the employee cannot bring a lawsuit against the employer to recover additional compensation.

Statute of Limitations

Even though an injured worker is eligible to receive worker’s compensation benefits the worker must follow the program’s rules in order to receive the benefits.  A critical rule is known as the “statute of limitations.”  A statute of limitations is a rule that defines the deadline by which a claimant must file a claim. If the claimant misses this deadline, then the claim will be denied and that claimant will be “time-barred” from ever pursuing the claim.  This is so even if the claim is otherwise valid.

A worker’s compensation statute of limitations varies from state to state.  In Georgia, generally claims must be filed within one year of the accident.  This is significantly shorter than the 2 year statute of limitations in Georgia for personal injury claims that are filed in court.  Florida’s worker’s compensation statute of limitations is 2 years, while in Pennsylvania a claim must be filed within 3 years after the injury. For each state, however, there are exceptions to the statute that may extend the deadline.  Furthermore, worker’s compensation statutes each have nuances that indicate when the statute begins to run and when it can be tolled.

Georgia’s Worker’s Compensation Statute of Limitations

According to an Atlanta worker’s compensation attorney, under Georgia worker’s compensation rules, a claim must be filed within 1 year of the date of the accident.  However, the limitations period is tolled, meaning it is suspended, if the employer makes weekly benefit payments on behalf of the claimant or has provided remedial medical treatment to the claimant.  If this is the case, then the worker’s compensation claim must be filed within one year after the date of the last treatment, or within 2 years of the last weekly benefit payment.  In addition, if the claim is for death benefits, then it must be filed within 1 year of the worker’s death.

Key to ensuring that a claim is filed within the statute of limitations period is that when filed, the claim must be filed correctly.  Under Georgia’s worker’s compensation statute filing a claim means filing a WC-14 Notice of Claim.  Accordingly, if a worker purports to file a claim by any other means, including verbally advising the employer or insurer that he or she was injured, the statute of limitations will continue to run until it expires or a WC-14 is actually filed.

Workers must take care when pursuing worker’s compensation benefits.  Some of the rules are confusing and if not fully understood or followed, may result in a denial of benefits.  Given the importance of worker’s compensation benefits to injured workers, is it fair that a legitimate claim could be denied for a “technicality” such as not filing on time?

Staff (65 Posts)