Workplace Injuries in Georgia
Few of us here in Georgia go to work each day thinking we’re going to suffer a work injury or serious illness due to our job. Getting hurt on the job can result in painful, often complicated medical procedures, a long road to recovery, big medical bills, and a loss of income. Of course, severe injuries such as these affect your quality of life and can create emotional upheaval for you and your family. And sometimes workplace injuries may even result in death.
Workplace injuries are all too common. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nationally there were approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2016. That means nationwide, 2.9 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees out of 100 in private industry had a non-fatal incident.
In Georgia, there were 82,300 incident rates of occupational injuries and illnesses in private industry in 2016. If we look at all industries including private, state and local government, there were approximately 99,300 non-fatal incidents in Georgia in 2016. That’s 2.9 recordable cases per 100 full time employees, which is in line with workplace injuries nationally.
Every year, some people are killed from workplace injuries. In 2016, there were a total of 5,190 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States. In Georgia, there were 171. It’s rarely possible to be fully compensated for suffering inflicted by injuries in the workplace, but workers’ compensation laws and sometimes other laws such as those covering personal injury, product defects, and wrongful death provide ways to compensate a person who has been hurt or a family who depended on someone who has been killed. Let’s take a closer look.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage in Georgia
Georgia’s workers’ compensation law (Chapter 9 of the Georgia Code Title 34) requires that employers with at least three employees obtain workers’ compensation insurance. This includes regular and part-time employees. If you’re unsure whether your employer has workers’ compensation insurance, you can do a quick employer insurance search on the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation website. Be aware that some employees are not covered under workers’ compensation. These include
- Federal government employees
- Railroad employees
- Farmers and
- Farm laborers
- Domestic servants
- Independent contractors (who of course are not employees)
In Georgia, you’re covered under your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance from your first day on the job. For workers’ compensation to cover your claim, it must have arisen out of your employment or occurred in the course of your employment.
Workers’ compensation may compensate you for lost wages, medical expenses, vocational rehabilitation services, and more. In cases where an employee dies from a work-related injury, his dependents can also be compensated under workers’ compensation insurance. Be wary of any attempt by your employer to get you to use your own medical insurance to cover expenses; you are not required to do so where workers’ compensation insurance exists.
What to Do if You are Injured
Report the incident to your employer immediately. You (or your attorney) must do so within 30 days. You (or your attorney) must also file a claim with Georgia’s State Board of Workers’ Compensation within one year from the date of injury, or you may lose all rights to compensation, subject to a couple exceptions. Georgia’s State Board of Workers’ Compensation demands that your employer meet a number of critical deadlines once you make a report, or they may face penalties. For example, once your employer learns of your injury, they should file a first report of injury (WC-1) with the Board if any you lost more than seven days of work. This process can be difficult to navigate, which is why many injured people seek a lawyer’s help.
Your employer should quickly send your claim to their insurance carrier, so you can start receiving compensation for your injuries. If for any reason your employer does not submit your claim to their insurance company immediately, that’s another clue that you should consider calling a good workers’ compensation attorney..
Civil Lawsuits for Workplace Injuries
Generally, if you are injured at work, your only recourse against your employer is through a workers’ compensation claim. However, there are some exceptions.
- If your technical “employer” is be a different legal entity—for instance, a different company, corporation, or LLC—than the entity who is at fault, you may be able to file a case against the company, corporation, or LLC that was at fault.
- If a third party caused your injury, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against them. An example might be another driver rear-ending your vehilce while you are driving for work.
- If your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, you can sue the employer directly.
- If your employer intentionally injured you, you may be able to bring a case outside the workers’ compensation system.
- If you were injured by a defective product or a toxic substance, you may be able to sue the manufacturer.
The crucial legal difference between receiving benefits under workers’ compensation insurance and suing for damages is this: you don’t have to show fault or negligence when you make a claim under workers’ compensation insurance. It’s enough that you can prove that you were hurt doing your job. In contrast, if you take someone to court for the injury or illness you’ve suffered (whether you sue your employer or another party), you’re seeking redress outside the state’s workers’ compensation system. This requires that you prove your case. You should also be aware that workers’ compensation insurance does not cover pain and suffering, which you could possibly collect in a civil lawsuit. However, if you file a civil lawsuit, your compensation will be decreased by the percentage amount you are found to have contributed to the incident that caused the injury.
Look Out for Your Own Best Interests if You Have Suffered a Workplace Injury
Whatever you decide, be aware that there are statutes of limitations. Normally, you must bring a personal injury law suit within two years of the date of your injury. And we have already seen that filing for workers’ compensation is a morass of deadlines. This is a complex area, so you may want to consult with an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation or personal injury attorney immediately following your injury. They can provide you with a clearer picture of your options.