Loss Of A Finger In A Georgia Workers’ Compensation Claim
When you are working with a saw, a knife, or even a hammer, you can lose a finger in the blink of an eye. We have represented many clients over the years who have experienced either full or partial finger amputations, and it can be one of the most difficult injuries to deal with, for many reasons. First, the loss of a finger is an injury that will permanently rob you of some of your function; your ability to hold things, lift things, and even throw a football. But just as importantly, the loss of a finger is something that you will have to see every day for the rest of your life. Every time you go to open a door or shake someone’s hand you will see that your finger is gone forever. These injuries are also frustrating because the compensation that you will receive for a finger amputation under the Georgia workers’ compensation system can be disappointing if you don’t push back against the system.
The possible benefits that you can receive for a finger amputation injury in Georgia fall under three categories: 1) the medical treatment you need; 2) weekly checks for the time you cannot work; and 3) income to compensate you for the “permanent disability” you will be left with as a result of the injury. Unfortunately, the benefits you receive for each of these categories often ends up being less than you would think. This article will first discuss why some of the benefits you receive for a finger amputation can seem underwhelming and then discuss strategies to increase those benefits.
As with all workers’ compensation injuries, the main benefit you receive when you lose a finger is medical care. However, the level and depth of that medical care will vary from doctor to doctor. There are some doctors who will simply try to make sure that your wound is healed and send you on your way. Similarly, weekly income benefits can sometimes be hard to obtain for someone who has lost a finger. This is because in order to qualify for weekly income benefits, your authorized doctor must first take you out of work. Unfortunately, we have seen many instances when a doctor has said that an injured worker can return to work “light duty” within hours of suffering a finger amputation. In that situation your employer has the right to offer you a light job and if you don’t return to the job you will be left without any income.
In addition, your entitlement to compensation for “permanent disability,” is based on a chart that assigns each finger a “value.” Before you can receive this compensation your doctor must confirm what percentage of your finger you have lost. You will then be paid income benefits for a certain number of weeks depending on which finger is affected and the rating given by the doctor. For instance, if you completely lose a thumb, you will be entitled to 60 weeks of income benefits. However, if the doctor says you have only lost 50% of your thumb, you will receive 30 weeks of income benefits to compensate you for your permanent loss.
It is easy to be discouraged by the limited nature of these benefits. However, there are additional benefits that anyone who has lost a finger can and should push for. First medical treatment for a finger amputation can consist of more than simply being stitched up at the hospital. Your doctor can order prostheses, pain management care, and psych care. Second, just because one surgeon happened to treat you on the day of your accident does not mean that you have to stick with that doctor for the rest of your case. If the doctor who initially treats you tries to send you back to work almost immediately, you have the right to change doctors. Also, even if you have been released to “light duty,” you can still make a claim for weekly income benefits if your employer does not actually have suitable light-duty work to offer you. Third, the doctor you choose can actually have an impact on what permanent disability rating you receive. Thus, changing to a better doctor can you help you to get a better rating, and more compensation.
If you have suffered a finger amputation while working in Georgia, reach out to the O’Connell Law Firm today at 404-410-0034 to discuss your case.