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The question of whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee is a critical one in many Atlanta workers’ compensation cases. truckdriver1

While employees are entitled to the protection of workers’ compensation benefits in case of a job-related injury, independent contractors are not. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous employers wrongly classify employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying for the insurance. This can leave injured employees in an extremely tough spot, and it could result in severe fines and penalties for the employer. Still, some continue to do it because they are hoping to get away with it.

In the case of Max Trucking LLC v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Corp., a dispute arose between an employer and an insurance company regarding the classification of nearly two dozen truck drivers based in Michigan. The insurance company insisted the workers were employees and increased the company’s premium. Continue reading →

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A poultry processing plant in Delaware is facing allegations that it violated safety protocol, failed to properly report worker injuries and took adverse employment action against workers who did report injuries. poultry

The company is appealing the findings by inspectors with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), but the agency has demanded in the meantime the company address the most serious violations immediately.

Among the top issues cited by in OSHA’s five-page “Hazard Alert”:

  • Workers who are injured on-the-job are sent to a First Aid station for treatment by one of three emergency medical technicians who are not licensed in that state. Also, those EMTs are overseen by an administrator who has no medical training.
  • The EMTs do not speak Spanish or Creole, as many employees do, and therefore require a translator to treat medical issues – a violation of health privacy laws.
  • The physician who signs off on the company’s medical directives does not review its medical logs and has no formal contact with the company.
  • The First Aid station, which is supposed to be for treatment of acute injuries, is being used for employees with long-term, repetitive motion musculoskeletal injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. This, OSHA states, has allowed the company to avoid reporting those injuries to state and federal authorities, as required. More than half of the 206 workers seen by EMTs in a given time were for musculoskeletal injuries.

Continue reading →

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A military veteran is slated to receive $15.2 million in damages for injuries he sustained when his foot was crushed by a forklift at an event center in Illinois. forkliftdrivers

The 33-year-old from Wisconsin, who previously served two tours in Iraq and served as a staff sergeant in the National Guard, lost his heel and had to endure seven surgeries after the work accident. The injury occurred while crews were working to tear down the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

An investigation by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration revealed the company responsible for setting up the show did not make certain the forklift driver who struck plaintiff was trained and certified, nor did the company hire a spotter. Both of these things – which are required by law – would have prevented this accident. Continue reading →

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The slaying of a local reporter and cameraman on live television in Roanoke, Virginia has raised numerous questions about workplace violence and the ways in which companies strive to keep workers safe. gunonblackandwhite

According to authorities, the 24-year-old reporter and her 27-year-old photographer were gunned down by a former coworker whose employment had been terminated almost two years earlier. The local official they were interviewing was also shot, but is expected to recover. The gunman fled the scene, later crashed his vehicle and then took his own life, police say.

Although the shooting shocked the nation – and those closest to the victims – it seems the gunman had been stewing about his “treatment” by co-workers and supervisors leading up to this termination. He had even filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, but that was ultimately dismissed. His firing was contentious, and police had to be called to escort him out of the building.

Station managers believed that with him no longer employed, he was no longer a potential threat. This turned out not to be true.

Workplace violence is one of the leading causes of death and injury to workers in the U.S. – especially women. Continue reading →

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When a work-related injury prevents you from being able to work, you may be qualified for workers’ compensation. wheelchair4

However, deciding how much you receive and for how long is a complex process. There are many different types of “disability” under Georgia workers’ compensation law. Those include:

  • Temporary Total Disability
  • Temporary Partial Disability
  • Permanent Partial Disability
  • Permanent Total Disability
  • Death Benefits

Each has a different proof burden that must be met, though there is often discretion granted to doctors, the state commission and the courts in deciding which category best describes your circumstances. Continue reading →

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Permanent partial disability in workers’ compensation cases are among the most common type of work injury claims. They are essentially a lump sum or structured settlement award for an on-the-job injury resulting in a disability that is partial, but permanent.concretetruck1

This figure can include money for medial and therapy bills, medications, costs for transportation to-and-from physician appointments and partial wage loss reimbursement. It is a determination – made by doctors and the industrial commission/courts – after an injured worker has attained “maximum medical improvement.” This is the point at which medical consensus is the worker is medically stable and isn’t going to improve with further treatment. It doesn’t mean treatments are complete, just that this is probably the best the worker is going to get.

So for example, a person who suffers a back injury may ultimately be assigned a permanent partial disability rating of 20 percent. That means his capacity to work is reduced by 20 percent, and he is thus entitled to compensation for coverage of all related medical bills and costs, plus a lump sum or structured payment that covers the wage loss difference of 20 percent.

Insurance companies usually dispute permanent partial disability findings, so it can often be an arduous process that involves independent medical examinations, meetings with specialists, administrative hearings and appeals. Continue reading →

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Sometimes, the question of whether an injury arose in the course and scope of employment is simple because of where it happened or how it happened. laserbeam

Other times, the issue is more complicated. Perhaps it didn’t happen at the job site or during normal working hours or while worker was engaged in an activity that is supposed to be considered “fun.”

In these situations, where workers participate and are injured during work-related activities outside of their normal, everyday duties, it can be more challenging to secure workers’ compensation benefits. Continue reading →

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A woman whose husband was killed on-the-job in Atlanta while working for the city is seeking to challenge Georgia’s sovereign immunity and worker’s compensation exclusive remedy provisions.accident1

When her husband was killed, he was riding in the cab of a city-owned garbage truck, driven by his co-worker. Problem was, his co-worker was drunk. So drunk, in fact, his blood-alcohol level was three times over the 0.08 limit. (In commercial vehicles, the legal limit is 0.02, although the city has a zero tolerance policy.) Officials later found a bottle of vodka in the grass. Decedent had no alcohol in his system.

Her husband was thrown from the vehicle and died on impact. She too was a city employee. Her supervisors were the first to inform her of his passing.

Continue reading →

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A plaintiff in a Georgia third-party liability lawsuit against an equipment manufacturer following a work-related injury is arguing against a defense request to add his employer as a non-party defendant. gavel21

In the case of Walker v. Tensor Machinery, defense asserts employer’s negligence was a factor in worker’s injury. Even though employer cannot be legally sued by plaintiff due to exclusive remedy provisions that bar workers from suing employers for occupational injuries, defense wants to add the company as a non-party defendant to potentially shift liability. This is called apportionment of damages. If a non-party defendant is found to be partially liable, plaintiff can’t collect that portion of damages, but the named party won’t be responsible for paying it.

Plaintiffs, meanwhile, argue that the immunity the employer obtains from exclusive remedy means there is no duty and therefore there is no tort and thus the employer can’t be found at-fault. Continue reading →

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If a worker in Georgia is injured on the job and cannot work for more than seven days, he or she is likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. tirednesssetsin

But there are several different kinds of benefits, which depend not only on the severity of injury, but the impact that injury has on the worker’s earning capacity.

Those type of benefits include:

  • Temporary Total Disability benefits
  • Permanent Total Disability Benefits
  • Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
  • Death and Dependency Benefits

Except for those injuries determined to be catastrophic (i.e., severe paralysis, severe burns, blindness, hearing loss, head injuries or amputations), benefits can only be paid for up to 400 weeks (or almost eight years).

In cases where permanent total disability is alleged, claimant will need to secure help from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer because not only is there much at stake, it’s a difficult threshold to meet. These will typically be “catastrophic injuries,” as defined by state law.

However, different courts have weighed the issue differently.

For example, in the recent Ohio Supreme Court case State ex rel. Tradesmen Int’l v. Indus. Comm’n, a man was granted an award of permanent total disability compensation for a combination of conditions. He had a sprain to his low back. He suffered chronic pain syndrome and depression. He also had a sprain in his shoulder and wrist and disc protrusion in his spine.

All of this, the court found, could be traced to a 2003 work injury that was compensable.

He was originally awarded benefits at that time.

However, he applied for permanent total disability compensation in 2011. In his petition, he submitted a report from his treating physician in which it was stated claimant was restricted to very little movement throughout the day. He couldn’t lift more than 10 pounds. He also had to avoid any repetitive stooping, twisting, bending, pushing, lifting or pulling. Further, he would need frequent periods of rest to lie down and relieve back pain. The doctor noted the “significant difficulty” claimant would have in maintaining any kind of regular schedule.

Two other doctors also submitted medical reports indicating claimant could not work, given his extensive physical restrictions.

A hearing officer agreed, concluding he was unable to work and granted him permanent total disability.

The man’s former employer challenged that finding, alleging the court abused its discretion in ordering permanent compensation. Company alleged the primary care doctor had never said claimant’s disability was only the result of work-related injury.

However, the court of appeals concluded that while the doctor did state claimant could perform sedentary work, he also outlined a set of restrictions that were so narrow they all but effectively precluded all possible employment. The commission noted it wasn’t just whether the doctor concluded he could not work, but whether that conclusion is consistent with the physical restrictions from the doctor.

In this case, the restrictions were so limiting as to render him incapable of working.

Employer then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which affirmed, with the additional finding that benefits should be retroactive to the date of his primary care doctor’s initial report – in 2011.

For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.

Additional Resources:

State ex rel. Tradesmen Int’l v. Indus. Comm’n, June 24, 2015, Ohio Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Gill v. Brescome Barton, Inc. – Work-Related Knee Injuries, June 15, 2015, Atlanta Work Injury Lawyer Blog