Workers in Georgia who become injured on the job have a right to file a workers' compensation claim to get the medical care they need and cope with the financial impact of a workplace injury. But a lot of workers are reluctant to bring a claim against their employer. They may like their employer or fear retaliation. However, the laws provide protections for injured employees, and also protect employers. So if you have any question as to whether to bring a claim, the best thing to do is talk to a workers' compensation attorney in Gwinnett County at Brauns Law to go over your case.
Do I have a workers’ compensation claim?
Workers' compensation is an insurance program that your employer participates in as required by Georgia law. Workers' compensation lets workers get the income benefits and medical care they need after an injury and protects employers from lawsuits. You will bring your claim against your employer's insurance carrier, not the employer itself in most cases.
While you generally are not able to sue your employer under workers' compensation laws, there are certain cases where you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer, though this is rare.
However, in some cases a party other than you, your employer, or a co-worker is at fault for an injury at work. For example, if you are driving within the scope of your employment, and another driver causes an accident, then that third-party driver could be liable. You can file a third-party claim in addition to filing for workers' compensation benefits.
David Brauns will help you handle these third-party claims in addition to your workers' compensation claim, and explain how one affects the other.
Types of Accidents & Injuries That May Qualify for Workers' Compensation
Some common types of accidents in which people can be injured at work include the following:
- Trips and falls
- Construction-related injuries
- Chemical exposures
- Collapse and crush incidents
- Negligent hiring of contractors or sub-contractors
These are just a few examples. Below are some other types of accidents and injuries that warrant workers’ compensation benefits, discussed in greater detail.
Georgia employers have a responsibility to his employees to provide a safe workplace. As such, they must follow the rules set forth by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has a short summary of employer responsibilities which includes:
- Make sure employees have safe tools and properly maintained equipment to use.
- Provide safety training and operational procedures relevant to the employee's role.
- Develop a written hazard communication program and hazard training for employees exposed to hazardous chemicals.
- Conform to OSHA standards to ensure a safe workplace, including safety equipment and environmental conditions.
The OSHA standards include regulations for nearly every major industry and general rules all employers must follow. When employers violate these rules, it can lead to workplace accidents and injuries.
For example, a standard that employers commonly violate is Standard 1910.9 which requires the employer to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and training compliant with OSHA standards for that profession.
Workers’ compensation does not require proving fault to get benefits, so you may not need to establish the employer’s negligence or failure to abide by these standards. Still, being able to connect your injury to your workplace or job duties is critical to getting benefits.
You may qualify for workers' compensation if you suffer an injury in an accident while traveling in the course of your job duties.
Even if you are not working as a professional driver, if you were traveling to perform a duty related to your job, workers’ compensation may cover your accident. If another driver caused the accident, you might have to file a third-party claim against the negligent driver.
Note that workers' compensation will not cover transportation accidents that occur while you are driving to and from your workplace. You must be traveling as a part of your job duties. An exception may be if you are driving to work in a company vehicle or if your employer has no fixed office and you must drive directly to clients.
Employers must promote a safe environment for employees by maintaining a workplace free from violence, discrimination, bullying, and harassment. Federal policies on workplace violence state:
"Injuries resulting from personal disputes are typically judged compensable, no matter how unusual. But an employee's injury is covered under workers' compensation only if the dispute leading to the injury is related to the employment. In other words, the employee must have been acting within the scope of his or her job when the injury occurred for the injury to be compensable."
However, O.C.G.A. §34-9-1(4) states a workplace injury, "shall not include injury caused by the willful act of a third person directed against an employee for reasons personal to such employee."
If you are seeking workers' compensation for an act of violence against you while working, you will need to prove your personal actions did not cause the assault.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Many jobs require repetitive motions such as reaching for objects, lifting items, and manipulating machinery. A repetitive motion injury (RMI) results from an action performed over and over again during the employee's duties. These actions may not be strenuous in nature, but still may cause damage over the long-term.
An example of an RMI would be a worker who has to reach to pull a lever above her head every 90 seconds. This repetitive motion can cause damage over time. The employee may suffer injuries to her rotator cuff and become unable to lift or rotate the affected arm, for example.
Most REIs are avoidable with adjustments to workspace design such as ergonomic keyboards and chairs for computer workers. Another solution is to rotate job duties among employees, so one person is not always performing a repetitive motion task. Frequent breaks from the repetitive motion can also help alleviate the long-term damage.
These cases can be tricky, as employers or insurers may argue that the RMI is not work-related. Work with Brauns Law to prove otherwise through thorough evidence collection and careful case building..
Types of Georgia Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Whatever the case, a work injury can lead to serious consequences for the worker and his or her family. An injured worker might face immediate medical expenses, lost wages due to time off work, extended therapies and treatment, and, in more serious cases, temporary or permanent disabilities.
Fortunately, Georgia's workers' compensation laws provide benefits to help workers get the medical care they need and replace a portion of their lost wages.
- Lifetime medical benefits – These pay for medical care the worker requires that is related to the work-related injury. Workers may even qualify for transportation costs to receive their treatment.
- Income benefits – Depending on the circumstances, any disability, and how long the injured employee must miss work, workers may qualify for temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, permanent partial disability, or permanent total disability.
What do I do next if I think I have a workers' compensation claim?
O.C.G.A. §34-9-80(2015) requires that an injured employee give notice of an accident to his/her employer. There are further provisions requiring written notice within 30 days of the accident if notice has not otherwise been given. If notice is not given within 30 days of the accident, with rare exceptions, you may not be able to recover workers’ compensation at all.
So time is of the essence. Notify your employer of your injury as soon as possible, and seek legal counsel with attorney David Brauns in Gwinnett County.
Brauns Law can help you understand all of the benefits to which you may be entitled and take action to recover them. Call us at 404-998-5252 to set up your free consultation and get started with your case.