Georgia workers’ compensation laws mandate employers with three or more employees must carry workers’ comp insurance to pay for employees’ medical treatment and lost wages when they experience a work-related injury or occupational illness. On average, Georgia employers pay between $1.08 per $100 of payroll for workers’ compensation insurance.
Who Needs Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Georgia?
The requirements for workers’ compensation insurance vary by state. Georgia law requires employers who hire three or more people, including regular part-time workers, to provide workers’ compensation insurance to cover work-related injuries and illnesses. An employee includes every person, including minors, working full-time or part-time under a contract of hire, written or implied.
Who Doesn’t Need Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Georgia?
When businesses incorporate, the corporation or limited liability company is considered the employer, and the officers are employees. Up to five officers may waive coverage, and they must sign a Notice of Election or Rejection of Workers’ Compensation Coverage (WC-10 form) and file it with their carrier. Meanwhile, sole proprietors and partners are considered employers, not employees. However, they can elect to be covered as an employee by advising their insurance carrier in writing.
Additional Georgia Workers’ Compensation Requirements
Principal contractors must obtain a certificate of workers’ compensation coverage from their subcontractors to avoid liability for injuries suffered by a subcontractor’s employees. Individuals who sublet any part of their contract work to a subcontractor may be liable for covering a subcontractor’s employees if the subcontractor has not obtained workers’ compensation insurance.
Employers must select one of two options to provide medical care for an injured employee:
- Traditional Panel of Physicians (WC-P1): A panel of at least six nonassociated and reasonably accessible physicians selected by the employer; this should include an orthopedic physician and no more than two physicians from industrial clinics.
- Workers’ Compensation Managed Care Organization (WC/MCO) (WC-P3): The employer may contract with a WC/MCO certified by the State Board that provides for the delivery and management of treatment to injured employees under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act; the managed care organization must include minority providers.
If an employer fails to comply with these medical care rules, it may result in an assessment of penalties and attorney’s fees against the business. Employers are not responsible for costs associated with care if they offer an approved list of physicians and an employee chooses to go with another medical provider. Additionally, most health insurance policies do not pay for medical treatment associated with a work-related injury.
How Much Does Workers’ Compensation Insurance Cost in Georgia?
Georgia workers’ compensation insurance costs are determined by many factors, including payroll, work risk, and loss history. The average Georgia employer pays between $1.08 per $100 of payroll, according to a report from the National Academy of Social Insurers.
An employer’s basic premium is based on the business’ classification code, the insurance carrier’s rate for the classification, and the employer’s annual payroll. The Office of the Insurance Commissioner sets rates in Georgia for specific types of employment and bases premiums on each $100 of payroll. Once an employee’s work is classified, it’s assigned a rate. This rate is multiplied by total payroll and an experience modifier.
The basic formula for determining workers’ comp premiums is:
Payroll (per $100) x classification rate x experience modifier rate = Premium
The employer’s EMR, or e-mod, is a numeric representation of the company’s claim experience. Generally, employers with less severe accidents than other similar businesses pay lower premiums. Workers’ comp costs by state vary widely due to different classification codes.
In the News
In addition to running the state’s assigned risk market, the NCCI also sets Georgia’s class codes and rates. Recently, the organization updated its rules to let employers who have paused operations because of the coronavirus pandemic exclude the payroll of the employees they continue to pay from their workers’ comp premiums. Contact your insurance carrier to see how to reclassify these employees.
Sample Georgia Workers’ Compensation Rates by Class Code
Industry Class Code
5183 Plumbing Contractors
7219 Towing Company
8742 Sales Professional
8810 Clerical - Office
8829 Nursing Homes
8831 Animal Shelters
9063 Fitness Center
Georgia Workers’ Comp Cost Example
A business’ class code is based on the risk of each individual business. The riskier the job, the higher an employer’s workers’ comp premium is. Say, for example, a plumber (class code 5183) has a rate of $2.78 per $100 of payroll at a certain insurance carrier. A plumber is a reasonably safe line of work compared to a mason (class code 5022) at $11.27 per $100 of payroll.
Construction businesses typically face a higher risk of injury, so employees in these industries generate higher premiums compared to other jobs such as office workers. However, two masonries may still have different rates because of their claim history.
Georgia Workers’ Comp Audit Requirements
Most insurance carriers require a premium audit at the end of a workers’ compensation policy period because a business’ payroll and staff can change over time. Some insurers may also audit a business if it closes or drops its coverage before the end of the policy. Employers who hire new staff during the policy term may end up owing additional premiums after an audit.
Georgia business owners can prepare for a premium audit by gathering relevant documents, including:
- Payroll journal
- Tax reports (both state and federal)
- Employee records, including subcontractors and independent contractors
- Overtime payroll records
- Job contracts and invoices
- Employee time cards and job descriptions
- Contract labor agreements
- Bank records
You can prepare for an audit by keeping complete and accurate records throughout the year so that they are available for review. If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly during an audit, you will need to reach out to your insurance carrier.
How to Save on Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Georgia employers may save money on their workers’ compensation coverage by implementing a drug-free workplace program. Employers certified by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation are awarded a 7.5% reduction of their workers’ comp premiums.
To qualify, an employer must follow these guidelines:
- Develop a written statement of its drug-free workplace and drug testing policies
- Use a testing facility that meets certain criteria
- Provide an employee assistance program
- Provide a semi-annual education program on substance abuse
- Conduct supervisor training
Additionally, Georgia employers with a drug-free workplace program are required to conduct drug testing of applicants who receive conditional offers of employment. A notice of drug testing should be included in all job announcements or advertisements for any position requiring drug testing.
Where Can I Obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Georgia?
Employers who need workers’ compensation insurance can purchase coverage from more than 400 private carriers authorized to sell policies in Georgia. Businesses may also choose to self-insure if approved.
Flexible payment options for workers’ comp
Agribusinesses that want a specialized workers’ comp program
Price auditing rates to make sure you get the lowest
Instant coverage for new workers
Broad workers’ comp protection when combined with a BOP
Georgia business owners seeking flexible payment options for workers’ compensation insurance can find what they’re looking for with The Hartford. The Hartford offers a pay-as-you-go option, which means lower upfront costs for your business. You can see an improved cash flow by breaking your premium into payments based on payroll rather than paying a bill based on an estimate at the start of your policy.
First Pioneer Insurance
First Pioneer Insurance is a full-service agency that partners with several different agricultural associations to offer an exclusive workers’ compensation insurance program, making it a good fit for farmers and agribusiness operations. Available to agricultural growers and producers of various types and sizes, First Pioneer’s program includes coverage for H-2A temporary agricultural workers. Other benefits include yearly dividend opportunities, free loss control services, and 24/7 claims access.
Pie Insurance is an up-and-coming online insurance carrier that provides workers’ comp directly to small businesses. The carrier allows business owners to check their current Georgia workers’ compensation insurance rate to see if they’re overpaying for coverage. You could save up to 30% on your workers’ compensation insurance, and getting a quote takes as few as 3 minutes. Pie Insurance provides free resources like a Workers’ Comp 101 section and workplace safety tips.
biBERK, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, strives to make buying workers’ compensation insurance easy for business owners. Georgia business owners who need instant coverage for workers, both new and old, should consider biBERK for workers’ comp. biBERK’s coverage may cost more than other insurers, but it comes with the backing of a strong carrier that can handle claims with ease.
CoverWallet stands out for business owners who want broad workers’ compensation protection, with the added bonus of an affordable business owner’s policy (BOP). CoverWallet is an online broker working with top-rated providers to package Georgia workers’ compensation insurance with a BOP in its Pro Plan for as little as $49 to $99 per month, depending on your industry and risks. CoverWallet can also deliver quotes from multiple carriers in minutes after you complete its easy online application.
Assigned Risk Pool
Some employers may have difficulty obtaining coverage from a private carrier, including new businesses with a lack of experience, in high-risk industries, or with a poor claim history. For cases like these, Georgia has an assigned risk market administered by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).
Can Georgia Business Owners Self-insure?
To become a self-insured employer, Georgia workers’ compensation laws mandate you file an application with the state board. As part of the process, you must include three years of audited financial statements and a nonrefundable $500 application fee made payable to the Georgia Self-Insurers Guaranty Trust Fund.
Additionally, businesses must meet these guidelines to apply for self-insurance in Georgia:
- 150 employees or more
- $1.5 million annual payroll
- Minimum of $250,000 workers’ compensation insurance premium
- A viable safety program
- Claims administration by a licensed claims company or a qualified employee of the self-insured company
- A full financial audit performed by an independent certified public accountant (CPA) firm for the most recent year to assess the applicant’s solvency and stability
Once your application is approved by the Board and the Trust Fund, you will have to supply a surety bond or letter of credit. The amount of security required is determined after a thorough review of your application and financial statements.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Georgia Cover?
Regulated by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation, Georgia state law requires employers with three or more employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover work-related injuries and illnesses. The Georgia workers’ comp system has a no-fault guarantee, which means employees who demonstrate their work tasks resulted in injury are entitled to medical care and partial wages. Without workers’ comp insurance, employers would be responsible for these costs.
Georgia workers’ compensation law provides coverage for employees in these areas of loss:
- Medical benefits: Employers are responsible for paying medical expenses related to treatment and rehabilitation for up to 400 weeks after an employee’s injury.
- Temporary partial disability benefits: When an employee returns to work in a lower-paying role as a result of an on-the-job accident, they receive lost wages equal to two-thirds of the difference between their average weekly wage before and after the injury for up to 350 weeks. There is a seven-day waiting period for benefits to start.
- Temporary total disability benefits: An employee who misses more than seven days of work and is completely disabled because of an injury, or whose employer is unable to provide them with adequate light-duty work, can receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage up to 400 weeks (if the injury occurred on or after July 1, 1992). There is a seven-day waiting period for benefits to start.
- Permanent partial disability benefits: Benefits vary by injury, but employees receive benefits for a permanent disability from a workplace injury, payable based on a percentage given by their authorized treating physician.
- Death benefits: Funeral expenses are included, and eligible dependents may receive two-thirds of a deceased employee’s average weekly wage with a lifetime maximum of $270,000, with maximum weekly payments of $675—lasting for 400 weeks or until a surviving spouse turns 65. The benefits end if their spouse remarries or moves in with a new partner.
In Georgia, workplace injuries are classified as noncatastrophic or catastrophic, such as amputations, severe head injuries, burns, and blindness. If an employee experiences a catastrophic injury, they are entitled to receive replacement wages for as long as they are unable to return to work as well as medical and vocational rehabilitation benefits to help with recovery. Injuries sustained while engaging in unallocated duties, such as during lunch and breaks, are not covered.
For employers, Georgia workers’ compensation insurance covers financial liability for workplace injuries and illnesses as well as legal representation if an employee files a lawsuit. An injured worker may receive benefits regardless of who was at fault in an accident or injury. Under certain circumstances, employers may be entitled to reimbursement from the Subsequent Injury Trust Fund.
If an employee’s injury was caused by the negligence of a third party who does not work for your company, your employee might be able to sue that party. If they receive a dollar award, you may have the right to recover some or all of the cost expended from their workers’ compensation claim. This is known as a subrogation lien. The lien is only recoverable after your employee has been fully compensated for their loss.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Coverage Example
Ben works as a fruit picker on a farm. While on a ladder, he loses his balance and falls to the ground, breaking his leg. He will be unable to work for the six to eight weeks it takes to heal his leg. All of Ben’s medical bills for his broken leg are paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance.
He waits the seven-day waiting period for his temporary disability payments to kick in. Because he is out of work for more than three weeks, the disability payments will go to the first day of injury retroactively.
What Are the Penalties for Not Having Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Georgia?
Failure to carry the required workers’ compensation coverage in Georgia can result in criminal charges. If an employee is injured when their employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, the employer can be held liable for the employee’s medical expenses and wage replacement benefits. Additionally, the state board may assess attorney’s fees, civil penalties, and a 10% increase in compensation to the employee.
Workers’ compensation penalties in Georgia include:
- Failure to follow the rules or regulations of the state board: A civil penalty of at least $100, or more than $1,000 per violation.
- Knowingly making false or misleading statements: A civil penalty of at least $1,000, or more than $10,000 per violation.
- Violating an employer’s duty to provide coverage: A civil penalty of at least $500, or more than $5,000 per occurrence.
- Willfully neglecting or refusing to secure workers’ comp coverage: A misdemeanor and conviction, a fine of at least $1,000, or more than $10,000; or imprisonment up to 12 months—or both.
The Enforcement Division investigates incidents of noncompliance and allegations of workers’ comp fraud in Georgia. To report fraud, contact the Enforcement Division at 404-657-7285.
How Do I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Georgia?
Filing a Georgia workers’ compensation claim starts with informing the employer of the incident that caused the injury. Employees can call the state board to obtain Form WC-14 to start the claim.
Employers should have a posting of a Traditional Panel of Physicians consisting of at least six doctors or the name of a Workers’ Compensation Managed Care Organization that is certified by the Workers’ Compensation Board. If the employee is using a panel, he can use any doctor listed or change among the list without prior employer approval.
During the course of the claim, the employee may receive paperwork that must be completed by the doctors to remain eligible for continued benefits. It’s important to file these forms timely to avoid delays in benefits or denial of coverage.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Deadlines
To ensure adequate coverage from the start, Georgia employers should obtain workers’ compensation insurance before they hire any employees. If you have three or more employees, Georgia workers’ comp laws state coverage must begin for an employee on their first day of work.
Here are some key workers’ compensation insurance deadlines for employers and employees in Georgia to know:
- Employees have 30 days to provide oral and written notice of an injury to their employer, and they must file a Notice of Claim (WC-14 form); waiting longer to report the injury may result in lost benefits.
- Once notified of an injury, employers must submit an Employer’s First Report of Injury (WC-1 form) to their insurer immediately.
- You or your insurer need to file the WC-1 form with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation and send a copy to the employee and all counsel of record within 21 days of your knowledge of disability, injury, or death for injuries resulting in seven or more days of lost time.
- A Wage Statement (WC-6 form) should be filed with your insurer within five days after your knowledge of any accident that has caused an employee to be disabled for more than seven scheduled workdays; this form must be filed if weekly benefits are less than the maximum.
- If an employee remains on a light-duty status for 52 consecutive weeks, or a maximum of 78 aggregate weeks, their weekly income benefits can be reduced from the temporary total disability rate to the temporary partial disability rate.
- If an employer provides a light-duty job for an injured employee to return to work, the employee has a 15-working-day grace period to attempt the job. They cannot lose their benefits during this grace period if they are unable to perform the job.
- If an employee’s workers’ comp claim is denied, they have one year from the date of injury to file an appeal with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Your insurance carrier might require you to submit information or follow certain deadlines to comply with your specific workers’ compensation policy. A gap in coverage can result in your insurance carrier denying a claim, or you might face a penalty for failing to provide legally required benefits.
Georgia Workers’ Comp Resources
- Contact Information
- State Board of Workers’ Compensation
270 Peachtree Street., NW
Atlanta, GA 30303-1299
- State Board of Workers’ Compensation
- Key Forms
- Useful Links
Workers’ compensation insurance is a requirement for all businesses with three or more employees, both full-time and part-time, in Georgia. It can be costly, but workers’ comp protects your business from liability by covering expenses for expensive workplace injuries or illnesses. Keep your workers’ comp costs low by taking preventive measures to ensure a safe work environment.
The Hartford can help Georgia employers find affordable workers’ compensation insurance. Its application process takes just minutes to complete, and it offers discounts for buying multiple commercial policies.