Georgia Workers’ Compensation
Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Georgia has a complex Workers’ Compensation framework in place that does three things for the employee:
- It pays lost wages at a reduced rate for the period of time the injury keeps the employee out of work.
- It pays for all medical care related to the injury at work
- The claim can be settled out for a lump cash sum if there is a permanent impairment or loss of a body part and in situations where the company is looking at a long series of medical bills.
The system provides that you can be compensated, even if the injury was due to your own carelessness, but in exchange for doing away with the requirement that the employee proves liability, there is no way to recover pain and suffering.
When am I Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Every company employee is protected by Workers’ Compensation if they are hurt while doing their job.
Two of the common defenses raised by companies are that the injured person was an independent contractor and that the injury was outside the course and scope of employment.
Am I an Independent Contractor or an Employee?
Just because your boss told you that you were an independent contractor, does not mean that you were and if you have a serious injury, you should call us to evaluate your status. The law says that if the boss tells you what to do, when to do it and how to do it, you are probably an employee and not an independent contractor.
This can be true even if you get a 1099 and signed an independent contractor agreement. Many businesses try to make employees contractors to avoid payroll tax and Workers’ Compensation liability.
The injury was Outside the Scope of Employment
When you get injured at work, the analysis is easy; you are covered. Its gets harder when you are injured while driving or transitioning to work.
- Walking to the front door from the office parking lot? Likely covered by workers comp.
- Driving to lunch with a co-worker? Not covered
- Picking up your bosses drycleaning? Covered
- Driving to your house while on a cell call with a client? Big fight that we should win.
How Much Will I Get Paid When I am Out on Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Georgia?
Your company must pay 2/3rds of your average weekly wage with a maximum of $500.00 per week. The max rate does change every few years, so be sure to check with a lawyer.
Can I Get Pain and Suffering for My Workers’ Compensation Injury?
No. Workers’ Compensation is set up to pay wages and medical bills and to account for long term permanent injuries. It is very different from a car accident type of case.
How Much to Georgia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Charge to Handle My Case?
Workers’ Compensation lawyers do not charge you by the hour. By law, they charge a contingency fee, recovering no more than 25% of the amount they recover for you.
Can I Go to the Emergency Room?
If you have an injury on the job in an emergency situation, your employee will always pay for the visit so do not be afraid to go to the emergency room.
Can My Job Tell Me What Doctor to See?
Usually, yes. Each employer has a list or “panel” of doctors that are chosen and approved by the employer. If you get stuck with a hyper-conservative doctor, your Workers’ Compensation lawyer can file a motion with the Court (the Work Comp Board) to seek a change of physician.
Will I Get Paid for All of the Days of Work I Miss?
If you miss less than seven consecutive days of work, the employer does not have to pay your wages under the system.
Do I Have to Take the Drug Test After and On the Job Injury?
If you want Workers’ Compensation benefits, yes. If you test positive for illegal drugs, they probably will not pay you benefits.
What if I Get Injured on the Job in Georgia and Then They Fire Me?
They still have to keep paying the Workers’ Compensation benefits if you are still injured.
How Long Do I Have to File My Workers’ Compensation Claim?
You must file your WC-14 within one year from the date of the accident or date of last medical care under comp in most situations. Be sure to call a lawyer to explain your specific facts as this is not legal advice.
In catastrophic Georgia injury and paralysis cases, you will need an experienced trial lawyer to hire the necessary experts to prosecute your claim. Do not settle for a mill firm where you never speak with the actual attorney. If you are not getting return phone calls and have no idea what is happening with your case, it is time to seek out new counsel. We will work with you personally to make sure that every possible benefit is available when you are injured at work in Georgia.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Appellate Case Law Analysis
Even in the safest workplaces, employees are exposed to some risk of injury. In light of this ever-present possibility of injury and the relative ubiquity of workplace accident litigation, statutory workers’ compensation schemes have been enacted in every state to adequately compensate employees for injuries incurred in the course of employment. Although designed in theory to make recovery for workplace injuries efficient, many injured employees often find the recovery obtainable through workers’ compensation to be limited and the process associated with getting such recovery to be cumbersome. Accordingly, injured workers will often, if possible, seek to impose liability on an entity other than an employer in order to avoid having their recovery limited to that available through compulsory workers’ compensation channels. This balance is on display in a recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Schaff v. Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corporation.
The plaintiff in Schaff was injured while working on a utility pole in Henry County, Georgia. The pole was installed, owned, and maintained by the defendant, Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corporation. Although the plaintiff was working at the time of his injury, Shoals was not his employer. Rather, the plaintiff worked as a field auditor for Charter Communications, which pursuant to a joint-use agreement ran cable connections on Shoal’s utility poles. Before climbing the utility pole, the plaintiff visually inspected the pole and ladder to be sure they were in safe condition. He then attached a safety harness and proceeded to scale the pole. However, after the plaintiff reached the top, a guy wire from the pole snapped and hit him, which caused the plaintiff to fall from the ladder. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff fractured his back and suffered a concussion. The plaintiff then brought suit against Shoals, asserting claims of negligence, negligence per se, and loss of consortium. Following discovery, however, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. In granting the motion for summary judgment, the trial court held that the plaintiff failed to establish necessary elements of both his negligence and negligence per se claims and that since the loss of consortium claim was derivative of the negligence claim, it too must also fail.
On appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s determination. In order to succeed on a claim of negligence, a plaintiff must establish four essential elements: duty, breach, causation (direct and proximate), and harm. See, e.g., Lawson v. Entech Enterprises, Inc., 294 Ga. App. 305, 307 (1) (669 SE2d 211) (2008). In its decision, the Georgia Court of Appeals focused on the first of these elements. Utility companies, including the defendant in this action, are “charged with the duty of exercising ordinary care in the construction and maintenance of its wires, poles, transformers, and equipment.” McGarity v. Hart Elec. Membership Corp., 307 Ga. App. 739, 745 (2) (706 SE2d 676) (2011).
However, the piece of equipment that caused the injury in this case, the guy wire, was not owned by the Shoals. Instead, the guy wire was owned, installed, and inspected by the plaintiff’s employer, Charter Communications. Since the defendant didn’t owe the plaintiff a duty of care with respect to the instrumentality that caused the injury, it followed that a claim of negligence could not succeed as a matter of law.
The court then turned to the plaintiff’s negligence per se claim. Negligence per se is outlined in O.C.G.A. § 51-1-6, which states, “when the law requires a person to perform an act for the benefit of another or to refrain from doing an act which may injure another, although no cause of action is given in express terms, the injured party may recover for the breach of such legal duty if he suffers damage thereby.” Accordingly, implicit to succeeding on a negligence per se claim is the requirement that a plaintiff demonstrates that a specific statute, ordinance, or regulation had been violated by the defendant. In his complaint, the plaintiff asserted that Shoals “[violated] its own agreement, industry, and reasonable inspection, supervision, and maintenance standards” but did not specify any particular statute, ordinance, or regulation. Given this lack of specificity, the Court of Appeals determined that the plaintiff’s negligence per se claim must also fail as a matter of law.
Because the defendant, in this case, did not own or install the faulty guy wire that led to the plaintiff’s injuries, one could reasonably wonder why the plaintiff bothered to asserting these claims? The guy wire was actually owned and installed by the plaintiff’s employer so a negligence suit against the employer directly would in all likelihood be barred by workers’ compensation law provisions that prohibit a worker from bringing negligence suits against his or her employer. Although some may find workers’ compensation payments to be suitable remuneration for their injuries, full recovery for many will depend on asserting claims that are not precluded by the workers’ compensation scheme.
Given the complexities that can arise when attempting to skirt the limitations of workers’ compensation or even navigating the workers’ compensation scheme itself, injured workers should always consider obtaining competent legal advice before taking action to recover for their injuries. The Atlanta negligence attorneys at Christopher Simon Attorney at Law have considerable experience with Georgia workplace accident litigation and are prepared to answer the questions you may have. Contact us if you would like a free case consultation.
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