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In personal injury litigation, when a lawsuit is settled, that’s it. There is no going back to ask the same defendant for more money – even if your injuries are worse or lasted longer than you expected.gavel21

But it’s different with workers’ compensation claims, which can be re-opened when an employee disability has increased or recurred.

Often the first thing we need to explore is whether the case was settled via a stipulation and award or a compromise and release. If it was a stipulation and award, claims can often be reopened. However, with a compromise and release, employers are usually released from any future claims for the same incident. The only exception, usually, is if the settlement was somehow procured by fraud. Continue reading →

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In every job, there is a certain amount of stress involved. But what if your job-related stress impedes your ability to work?box1

In some cases, psychological injury stemming from job-related stress can be compensable under workers’ compensation statutes.

That’s what we saw recently the case of Hart v. Federal Express Corp., recently before the Connecticut Supreme Court.  Continue reading →

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Claims for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits may survive the non-work-related death of a worker, according to a recent affirmation by the Idaho Supreme Court. funeral

Although this is an out-of-state case, other high courts – including the one in Georgia – may look to this ruling for guidance under similar circumstances.

Permanent partial disability benefits are one of the most common type of workers’ compensation claims, comprising half of all workers’ compensation claims nationwide. PPD is when some form of permanent impairment resulted from the work injury, leaving the worker unable to perform at his or her full capacity. It’s different from total disability, which is when the worker is unable to perform any work due to the on-the-job injury.  Continue reading →

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Many employers require workers to immediately report on-the-job injuries – no matter how small – as part of their company policy. Some take that provision too far and it borders on retaliation when workers do report the injury.sadsillouhette

But O.C.G.A. 34-9-81.1 does require that employees report the accident immediately – but no later than 30 days after the accident – to the employer, employer’s representative, foreman or immediate supervisor. The statute specifically states that failure to do so could result in the loss of benefits.

There may be some allowances for instances in which a worker didn’t immediately realize he or she was injured or did not reasonably know the cause of the injury. But in general, as soon as you know you have suffered a work injury, you must report it.  Continue reading →

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It is not unheard of in Georgia workers’ compensation cases for employers to retaliate against employees who file claims for injury benefits. It is, however, illegal.hardhat

Your Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney can provide you with insight on how best to protect yourself and how to preserve evidence in preparation for a possible future retaliation claim.

Georgia is an at-will state, which means in the absence of a written employment contract, a company can fire a worker at any time, so long as it isn’t for an illegal reason. One reason that would be illegal: As retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Continue reading →

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Efforts to further weaken protections for injured workers were thwarted recently in Oklahoma, where the state workers’ compensation commission and the Oklahoma Supreme Court in separate decisions declared the alternative compensation model unconstitutional.gavel1

This could signal a major turning point for a troubling trend that had been gaining steam in states across the country. Workers’ compensation is supposed to provide no-fault benefits to employees injured on-the-job, and in exchange, workers forfeit their right to sue. Most of these programs are state-run and provide medical coverage, rehabilitation services, reimbursement for lost wages and death benefits. It’s known as the “grand bargain.”

But in the last decade, these worker protections have been eroded bit by bit, state by state. One of the most significant changes in a number of states has been giving employers the right to “opt out” of the state-run workers’ compensation system, so long as they offer their own insurance plan. The catch for workers is that employers have enormous control over the doctors who review each case and which workers will receive benefits. Definitions of “disability” and “work injury” are also written by the insurer, resulting in fewer workers having access to benefits.  Continue reading →

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Employees who are injured on-the-job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These include a portion of lost wages, plus coverage of all reasonable and related medical bills.worker3

As a general rule, employees can’t collect damages for pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment or loss of consortium, and they can’t sue their employer on top of receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, they can pursue third-party litigation against others whose negligence caused or contributed to the severity of their injuries.

In third-party liability claims, workers are entitled to collect these other non-economic damages – and maybe even punitive damages, depending on the circumstances. Continue reading →

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It’s estimated that in 2014, there were nearly 120,000 robberies involving firearms in the U.S. Many of those are perpetrated on businesses. guncloseup

That accounts for a percentage of the violence people experience in the workplace. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports workplace violence accounts for 15 percent of all non-fatal crimes against persons over the age of 16.

A person who endures such an ordeal will be affected not just physically, but emotionally as well. But the question of whether mental and emotional injuries can be compensated through workers’ compensation is a complex one. The answer will likely depend on the extent to which the trauma affects the person’s daily life. Continue reading →

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When it comes to accountability from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for work safety hazards, employers aren’t going to be able to rely heavily on the narrow exception courts have carved for “rogue supervisors.” assortedtools

That was the ruling recently handed down by 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, in which the court affirmed a review by the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission. The earlier ruling held that an employer based in Claxton, GA broke industry safety standards when it allowed employees to work without fall arrest systems. The company was also accused of failing to prevent a worker from unsafely using a stepladder.

In Quinlan v. U.S. Department of Labor, the company argued it wasn’t responsible for paying government fines for these actions because it was a supervisor who was engaging in misconduct – not the company. In making this argument, it relied on the 2013 case of ComTran Group Inc. v. U.S. Department of LaborContinue reading →

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A new study shows that work-related injuries increase the risk of job loss.sad4

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston sifted through six months of data among nursing home industry workers, comparing those who had reported job injuries and those who had not.

What they found was, workers who had been injured were twice as likely to be fired within six months. Of course, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for filing injury benefit claims for on-the-job injuries. Unfortunately, it still does happen. Continue reading →