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What is a Catastrophic Injury Under Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law?

Catastrophic InjuryGeorgia workers’ compensation law defines a catastrophic injury as one that includes one of the following:

(1)  spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk;

(2) Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of the appendage;

(3)  Severe brain or closed head injury;

(4)  Second or third degree burns over 25% of the body as a whole or third degree burns to 5% or more of the face or hands;

(5)  Total or industrial blindness.

(6)  In addition, a claim is catastrophic if it meets the following definition:  any other injury of a nature and severity that prevents the employee from being able to perform his or her prior work and any work available in the national economy for which such employee is otherwise qualified.

If your injury is deemed catastrophic the 400 week cap on weekly wage benefits does not apply.  This means that, in theory, you could collect weekly wage benefits for the rest of your life.

Large Settlement Value in Catastrophic Cases

Medical and rehabilitation costs in catastrophic cases will usually be much higher than in a regular case. In some cases, we have been able to obtain an court order from the State Board to force the insurance company to modify a client’s bathrooms, bedrooms and floorplan to accommodate for a wheelchair or other assistive device.

Because the costs to the insurance company can be massive, we usually get significant pushback from the insurance adjuster or insurance defense lawyer when we start the process to have our client’s injury declared catastrophic.  We will need to collect and present medical evidence, vocational evidence and other documentation to prove our case.

Because there are no limits on the insurance company’s exposure for lost wage benefits or medical care, the settlement value of catastrophic cases can be very high.  However, we have to be careful before agreeing to settlement because an injured worker with a catastrophic injury probably won’t be going back to work soon, if ever.  Usually settlements in these cases involve Medicare set asides and coordination with a Social Security disability attorney (Jonathan Ginsberg of our firm is an experienced disability attorney who can help).


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