What is a Catastrophic Injury Under Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law?
Under Section 34-9-200.1(g) of the Georgia workers’ compensation law, a catastrophic injury is one involving one of the following types of injuries:
(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 that appendage;
(3) Severe brain or closed head injury as evidenced by:
(A) Severe sensory or motor disturbances;
(B) Severe communication disturbances;
(C) Severe complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function
(D) Severe disturbances of consciousness;
(E) Severe episodic neurological disorders; or
(F) Other conditions at least as severe in nature as any condition provided in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of this paragraph;
(4) Second or third degree burns over 25 percent of the body as a whole or third degree burns to 5 percent or more of the face or hands;
(5) Total or industrial blindness; or
(6)(A) 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 substantial numbers within the national economy for which such employee is otherwise qualified; provided, however, if the injury has not already been accepted as a catastrophic injury by the employer and the authorized treating physician has released the employee to return to work with restrictions, there shall be a rebuttable presumption, during a period not to exceed 130 weeks from the date of injury, that the injury is not a catastrophic injury. During such period, in determining whether an injury is catastrophic, the board shall give consideration to all relevant factors including, but not limited to, the number of hours for which an employee has been released. A decision granting or denying disability income benefits under Title II or supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act shall be admissible in evidence and the board shall give the evidence the consideration and deference due under the circumstances regarding the issue of whether the injury is a catastrophic injury; provided, however, that no presumption shall be created by any decision granting or denying disability income benefits under Title II or supplemental security income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
Catastrophic designation can be made by agreement between your lawyer and the lawyer for the employer/insurer, or by a State Board Judge after a hearing on this issue.
Note that a catastrophic designation is not a permanent determination – it can be removed if a treating physician returns the claimant to work, or if the State Board judge rules against the claimant in a hearing on that issue (often after viewing surveillance video from an insurance company private investigator showing the claimant performing activities inconsistent with his disability).