Established in 1920 by the Georgia legislature, the State Board of Workers' Compensation serves over a quarter of a million employers in Georgia and over 3.8 million workers. The State Board is funded by assessments from insurance companies and self-insured employers. An employee that is injured on the job and is covered by the law may be eligible for replacement of a portion of lost wages, medical payments, vocational rehabilitation services and other benefits.
Prior to the passage of the Workers' Compensation Act, an employee who was injured on the job could not expect benefits from the employer. Men, women, and children were often subjected to harsh and oppressive working conditions with little or no recourse for work-related injuries. Courts often denied recovery to employees by holding that employees assumed risks in taking the job, were negligent, or were barred from recovery by the negligence of a fellow employee. Filing a suit in court was also unsatisfactory because trials were expensive and often lengthy. This posed a problem to an employee who needed money immediately to pay for medical expenses and replace lost wages. A successful suit could also force a small company out of business.
Today, the workers' compensation law provides for specific benefits to be paid to employees for injuries arising out of and in the course of employment, without regard to negligence or fault, and at the same time, provides the employer with limited liability. In Georgia, employers obtain worker's compensation coverage through private insurers or programs of self-insurance. The rights granted an employee under the law preclude any other legal remedies against an employer by an employee due to a work-related injury.
The law is applicable to all employers, including public corporations and nonprofit organizations that have at least three full-time or part-time employees.
There are several categories of workers who are specifically exempted from the workers' compensation law: federal government employees, railroad employees, farmers and farm laborers, and domestic servants, to name a few.
If facts concerning a claim are contested or liability is questioned, either the employee or the employer/insurer may request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge to resolve the issues. If either party is dissatisfied with the decision, a party may request a review by the Appellate Division. Further appeals may be taken through the court system; however, the courts can review only disputed questions of law, while Administrative Law Judges and the Appellate Division determine both factual and legal issues.
Although the Subsequent Injury Trust Fund is a separate state agency, the Board and the Fund work closely together. The Fund reimburses the employer/insurer for a portion of workers' compensation benefits paid in cases where a preexisting permanent impairment combines with a subsequent injury to produce a greater disability than would have resulted from the subsequent injury alone. The workers' compensation program is entirely funded by assessments from insurance companies and self-insured employers.