Recently in Atlanta work accident Category

April 4, 2014

Fighting for Ongoing Medical Coverage for Work-Related Injury

A worker who suffers an on-the-job injury may feel the physical and emotional effects of that incident for many years to come.
But even when a worker successfully secures the initial benefits, obtaining coverage for subsequent treatments can be tough, unless your Atlanta workers' compensation lawyer can help you prove that the ongoing medical issues are directly related to your earlier work injury.

It will be important in these cases to have ample medical documentation and witness statements connecting your current medical problems to the previous work injury. The case of Delacastro v. State ex rel., Wyo. Workers' Safety & Comp. Div., reviewed recently by the Wyoming Supreme Court, shows what can happen when you aren't prepared.

Continue reading "Fighting for Ongoing Medical Coverage for Work-Related Injury" »

March 8, 2014

Georgia Work Injuries & Amputation Risks

PBS reporter Miles O'Brien has confirmed that he was forced to undergo a work-related amputation while on assignment overseas after a large suitcase fell on his arm and caused severe pressure buildup in his forearm. fender2.jpg

The risk of a work-related amputation in Atlanta is higher than you might think, particularly given if the recent citations issued by the Region 4 Occupational Safety & Health Administration are any indication.

In the first case, OSHA cited an auto manufacturer and the temporary staffing agency with which it works in Thomson, Ga. (just outside of Augusta) for a total of 22 health and safety violations - including numerous amputation hazards. According to the report, the companies failed to protect workers from various chemical and burn exposures. Additionally, a number of machines did not have the proper guards on them, which posed a risk of laceration and possibly amputation. Three of these citations were for repeat violations. In all, the companies are facing nearly $210,000 in fines.

Continue reading "Georgia Work Injuries & Amputation Risks " »

November 30, 2013

Georgia Workers' Compensation & a Look at Top Work Accident Causes for 2012

When a workplace injury or death occurs, the incident must be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Based on this data, statistics are compiled on workplace injuries as well as on workers' compensation claims in order to get an overall picture of how safe (or unsafe) workplaces are for employees.

Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers know statistics just released for last year show the 2012 rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses that necessitated days away from work decreased slightly as compared to the prior year. In 2012, 112 workers out of every 10,000 full-time workers suffered an injury or an illness on the job that caused him or her to miss work. This was down from 117 per 10,000 workers in 2011. hospital-1385736-m.jpg

The decrease was good news; however, the data also shows that the slight reduction in days-away-from work injuries was not necessarily a sign that workplaces were getting safer overall. In certain industries, the rate of days-away-from work injuries actually increased. Not only that, but the median days away from work that an injured worker actually took in 2012 increased as compared with 2011.

Continue reading "Georgia Workers' Compensation & a Look at Top Work Accident Causes for 2012" »

November 20, 2013

Dangerous Working Conditions for Temps in Georgia

Since the start of the recession in 2008, companies have been increasingly relying on the services of temporary employees, often in warehouses, factories and construction sites.
Nearly 3 million workers are employed by temp agencies, which are placing these workers in positions that put them at greater risk of an on-the-job injury, as compared to permanent employees.

A recent investigation by news journalism non-profit ProPublica found that temps were about 50 percent more likely than non-temps to be hurt on the job in Florida and California. In Minnesota, they were 72 percent more likely to be injured, 66 percent more likely in Oregon and 36 percent more likely in Massachusetts.

Continue reading "Dangerous Working Conditions for Temps in Georgia" »

August 28, 2013

Atlanta Construction Accidents Involving Female Workers Target of Safety Campaign

The construction industry is predominantly male-oriented, with women comprising just 9 percent of positions as of 2010.
Still, it's worth noting that this marks a significant rise, with the number of U.S. female construction workers climbing by nearly 82 percent between 1985 and 2007. While the industry has made strides in this regard, our Georgia workers' compensation lawyers know that the one area that has remained woefully lacking for these workers is safety and health considerations.

Due to the often highly physical nature of the work, things like proper-fitting equipment and adequate sanitation facilities are critical to ensuring a safe working environment. However, for female construction workers, these areas specifically are often sorely neglected, leaving them at higher risk for injury and illness.

Continue reading "Atlanta Construction Accidents Involving Female Workers Target of Safety Campaign" »

July 24, 2013

New App in Preventing Atlanta Work Accidents

Falls can be some of the most devastating work accidents in any field. Unfortunately, they continue to be a persistent hazard found in all kinds of occupations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these kinds of accidents can happen when a worker is merely walking or climbing a ladder -- in a department store or high up on a construction site.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in 2009, there were close to 610 workers killed on the job and another 213,000 seriously injured as a result of fall accidents to the same or lower level.

Our Atlanta work accident attorneys understand that the highest frequency of fall-related deaths was experienced by those working in the construction industry. On the other hand, the highest number of nonfatal injuries resulting from falls come from those in the health services and the wholesale and retail industries. But the risks don't stop there -- as virtually all workers in all industries are at some risk for these kinds of accidents.

Now, there is a new app, available for iPhone and Andriod, that's going to help to eliminate these risks. This new app comes with a multimodal indicator and a graphic-oriented guide for choosing the right ladder for the job while helping to inspect it for hazards, position it for the safest use, and ensuring the proper safety accessories are in place.

One of the best ways to prevent these kinds of accidents is to know and understand the common causes. Make sure to inspect your entire work area to help ensure all hazards are minimized.

Top Causes of Fall Accidents:

-Slippery Floors.

-Cluttered Walkways.

-Unstable Walking/Working Areas.

-Unprotected Edges.

-Holes in the Floor.

-Wall Openings.

-Unsafely Used Ladders.

-Improperly Used Fall Protection.

Thankfully, officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are working hard to prevent these kinds of risks on the job. They've even launched a complete Fall Prevention Campaign.

The campaign aim is to raise awareness among workers and employers about the hazards of falls from ladders, scaffolds and roofs. The educational resources page gives workers and employers information about falls and how to prevent them.

And without prevention, the costs are going to continue to skyrocket. Currently, officials estimate that the costs affiliated with these accidents total roughly $70 million annually. Included in these costs are both medical costs and workers' compensation.

Preventative measures are some of the most important to plan for when executing a job. You want to make sure that the plan is to complete a job safely. Make sure you include safety costs when estimating job costs. Never overlook these factors. Once these estimations are submitted and approved, make sure you get the equipment required and make sure that everyone is properly trained in using it. It's a team effort, and everyone needs to be on board. These safe and strategic moves could wind up saving lives.

Continue reading "New App in Preventing Atlanta Work Accidents" »

June 26, 2013

Georgia Back-Over Construction Injuries Problematic in Summer

Every year in this country, approximately 800 construction workers die as a result of on-the-job accidents. Many more are severely injured.
Our Atlanta work accident attorneys know that being struck by vehicles, heavy equipment and other objects is the No. 1 cause of injuries and the No. 2 cause of death for construction workers, resulting in approximately 150 deaths in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Back-over incidents are when a vehicle that is backing up strikes a worker who is standing, walking, kneeling or sitting behind the vehicle.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2011, some 70 workers were killed in back-over incidents. Every single one of these deaths were 100 percent preventable, though errors occurred at different points in the incident.

Some of the recent examples include:

  • In June of 2010, a worker was standing in front of a loading dock. The worker was facing the building as a tractor-trailer was backing up into that same dock. The trailer driver backed into the worker and crushed him between the dock and the back of the trailer.

  • Almost exactly one year earlier, a construction worker wearing a reflective safety vest was inside a highway work zone when he was fatally struck by the rear passenger-side wheels of a dump truck that was backing up. The truck was equipped with an audible alarm and operating safety lights.

It's not a coincidence that these incidents happened in the summer. The warmer months are when many construction projects kick into high gear, even in the southern states.

As the economy has picked up the pace, we expect to see more construction projects - and more workers on the job - which can lead to more back-over accidents if job supervisors and drivers aren't cautious.

There are many reasons why a back-over might occur. In some cases, drivers may not be able to see the employee - even with a reflective vest - if he or she is positioned in the driver's blind spot. The exact location of that blind spot can vary depending on the type of vehicle.

Large construction vehicles should be equipped with audio alarms and safety lights, which can alert workers to possible danger. However, too often those safety features aren't functional. In other cases, workers might not be able to hear those alarms because of the high volume of other surrounding noises at the work site.

It's also been known to happen where a worker is riding on the back of the vehicle and falls off, leaving him or her vulnerable to a back-over. Other times, drivers unfortunately make an assumption that no one is behind them and fail to simply take a look in the direction of travel to make sure.

Due to the sheer size of construction-grade vehicles, workers who are struck often suffer severe injuries, if not death.

Because of the potential for grave injuries, job supervisors must have the foresight to take preventative action.

One of the first solutions is to require all drivers on a job site to employ a spotter any time they are backing up a vehicle.

Additionally, vehicles can be affixed with display monitors inside that could help them see what is behind them. Some vehicles also come equipped with sonar detection devices, so that drivers are alerted to objects behind them.

Planning can also help. On certain work sites, employers may have the option of establishing internal traffic control protocol, indicating where drivers can operate and stressing the need for speed reduction when backing up.

Training too is important. Workers on foot may not immediately recognize when they are in a driver's blind spot. Training workers on vehicle blind spots and how to avoid them can help prevent many of these incidents.

Continue reading "Georgia Back-Over Construction Injuries Problematic in Summer" »

April 20, 2013

More Teens with Jobs This Summer Means More Risk of Injury

Our Atlanta work accident lawyers know that teens have had a difficult time finding jobs in recent years due to a tough economy and a weak employment market. According to a recent article on NBC News, however, things may be different this year. 276813_newspaper_job_section.jpg

The NBC News article indicates that the economic momentum over the last several months has been positive and that managers who hire summer hourly workers are reporting that they plan to add an average of 30 hourly workers this summer instead of the 27 workers added last year. When surveying seasonal hiring managers, 68 percent also reported an intent to hire workers this summer. This is great news for teens who have been hit the hardest in recent years by the economic downturn.

The bad news, however, is that when there are more teenagers going to work, there is a greater chance of young people being injured on the job. Employers need to manage the risks associated with bringing on new employees, especially teen employees, and young workers need to be aware of the dangers they face, which could derail a career and future before it even has a chance to really begin.

Young Workers at Risk of Injury
Young workers are at great risk of injury while performing their summer jobs for several reasons. One issue is that these workers tend to take on lower paying and physical jobs in industries such as landscaping and fast food. Both of these industries have a high rate of injury. In fast food, many things can go wrong from slipping and falling in a restaurant to being robbed to getting hurt when cooking and cleaning up in the kitchen. In landscaping, problems can include injury due to machines as well as due to repetitive stress, lifting injuries and falls.

Aside from the fact that teens tend to work in dangerous industries, they also tend to be in low paying jobs where employers may not always have the best track record of following safety rules. Data has shown that low-wage workers in general are at greater risk of getting hurt on the job than workers in higher paying positions, especially higher paying white-collar jobs.

Finally, teens and young workers tend to have limited work experience. If not properly trained and supervised, teens could make a mistake that causes injury. For example, a teen needs to be trained on using commercial dishwashers and/or supervised when using any type of cooking or dishwashing equipment in a restaurant setting.

Employers who chose to hire young workers ultimately have the responsibility of mitigating these and other risks that teenagers face. Employers need to be aware of restrictions on young workers related to the types of jobs they can do and the hours worked. They need to provide proper training and supervision and create a safe work environment. If an employer fails in these obligations, the chances of a worker becoming hurt significantly increases.

Continue reading "More Teens with Jobs This Summer Means More Risk of Injury" »

April 5, 2013

Stone Cutter Injuries and Landscaping Accidents a Spring Risk in Atlanta

With summer approaching, many people will be hiring landscapers to do stonework. Stone cutters and splitters who do this type of work may find themselves busier during the summer rush as a result. OSHA has an important Safety and Health Information Bulletin for those who work in the stone cutting and splitting industry and as the busy season approaches, every worker and employer should pay attention to OSHA's advice. 1411463_stones_texture.jpg

Our Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers know that stone cutters use many dangerous machines in the course of performing their jobs. Unfortunately, the physical nature of the work, coupled with the tools utilized, creates a situation where many stone cutters are hurt. By following the OSHA guidelines on safety, however, hopefully injuries can be prevented during the summer landscaping season.

The Work Injury Dangers for Stone Cutters
Stone cutters, stone masons, stone slippers and rock cutters all use certain types of tools and machinery when performing their jobs. For example, portable or fixed hydraulic rams are typically used to split stones. When using hydraulic rams, amputation or other injuries are a real possibility. Stone cutting machines that have unguarded cutting blades are also likely to cause serious harm when not used properly or when safety measures are lacking.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that more that 180 injuries resulted from using shears in 2010. Shears are a very similar tool to those used by stone cutters. Of those injured with shears, 100 amputated a body part. The injuries, therefore, are serious and can have a lasting impact on your life in many cases.

Staying Safe
While the work done by stone cutters carries some inherent risk, this doesn't mean that workplaces cannot be made safer by taking the right precautionary steps. OSHA's Safety and Health Bulletin suggests:

  • Ensuring that there is a good machine guarding system in place. A machine guarding system might involve making use of two-handed starting devices; installing barrier guards on the machine, and incorporating electronic safety devices.
  • Keeping the unit cleaned and maintained. A regular inspection should be performed to ensure that the machine is in good working order. Problems should be fixed when they arise so workers do not have to use a dangerous or broken machine.
  • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers. Employers should provide workers with PPE that protects them from known-hazards. The use of safety shields or face shields, for example, is recommended.
  • Doing a risk-check before starting work. Essentially, this means making sure that the machine and safety procedures are in place. Checking the machine guarding, reading/reviewing the manufacturers' warnings and instructions; inspecting the machine and making sure workers are where they need to be are all important things to double check.

Employers also need to provide adequate training and supervision to their employees who are performing stone cutting work. Although individual workers can and should try to protect themselves and make sure their job is performed as safely as possible, ultimately it is the employers who establish working conditions and who are responsible for helping workers to avoid injury.

Continue reading "Stone Cutter Injuries and Landscaping Accidents a Spring Risk in Atlanta" »

March 21, 2013

Work Safety Must Remain a Top Priority as Hiring Picks Up

On March 12, 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that hiring in certain sectors started to pick up in January, although the overall hiring rate remained fairly stagnant. The BLS also reported that number of job openings in January was up in many sectors, indicating that more qualified workers may soon be finding positions if they haven't already. 1046511_graph_bar_3d_srb.jpg

Our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys know that new workers coming onto a worksite may be at risk of being injured because they are unfamiliar with procedures and customs at their new workplace. This is especially true of the long-term unemployed who may have been out of the workforce for a lengthy period of time, with skills getting rusty, as they awaited improvement in the economy and a new job. As employers begin to bring in new hires, it is thus essential for worker safety to remain a top priority.

Work Safety Needs to Remain a Top Focus
According to the March 12, 2013 press release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • There were 3.7 million available job openings on the last business day of the month of January. This reflects little change from the end of December.
  • The hires rate of 3.1 percent and the separations rate of 3 percent also did not show any significant changes from the end of December to the end of January.
  • The number of job openings available in January rose in certain sectors including the professional and business services sector.
  • The number of job openings in January decreased in the areas of health care and social assistance.
  • The number of job openings, not seasonally adjusted, in January increased over the course of the year in non-farm jobs, in private jobs and in government jobs.
  • There were increases in available work opportunities and jobs in the retail sector; in other services and in the federal government. There was a decrease in jobs in the fields of mining and logging.

As this data shows, some workplaces are not expanding while others are increasing their hiring and creating a situation where new employees assume duties.

Workplace Safety Should be a Top Focus
In workplaces where the number of jobs are declining, workplace safety must be maintained even in the face of a smaller workforce. This means making sure that workers aren't overworked and that people aren't assigned to do tasks that they don't have proper training for.

As hiring grows, workplaces bringing on new workers also face their own challenges in staying focused on safety. Even with the administrative costs associated with growth, employers still must be sure that safety programs remain in place and that the work environment complies with all OSHA guidelines. All new hires also need to be properly trained and adequately supervised when first hired to make sure that they are not at risk of getting hurt or causing harm to others as a result of their inexperience.

By making sure to stay focused on safety, companies will be poised to deal with any economic news that comes their way, including an increase in business growth that boosts their employee numbers. Keeping workers safe should always be he top priority under any situation.

Continue reading "Work Safety Must Remain a Top Priority as Hiring Picks Up" »

March 13, 2013

Atlanta Work Zone Crashes Can Prove Fatal; Slow Down, Pay Attention

With spring around the corner, and multiple major construction projects already underway on Georgia highways, it's an opportune time to remind motorists to slow down in work zones. constructionworkers.jpg

Our Atlanta work accident lawyers know that 85 percent of all work zone deaths across the country are caused by the general public. Since Georgia began to tally the number of Department of Transportation fatalities back in 1973, there have been 57 workers killed in work zones. There have been countless injuries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that from 2003 through 2007, some 640 road construction workers across the country lost their lives, with nearly half of those occurring when a worker was hit by a motor vehicle. Another 40,000 people are believed to have suffered serious injuries as a result of work zone crashes (that includes both workers and drivers).

When you factor in both the public and workers, Georgia loses an average of 60 people each year in work zone crashes. Making the public aware of these sobering statistics - and what more they can be doing to keep these workers safe - is going to be key as we move ahead into the busier summer season.

Right now, the state DOT has six major road construction projects in the Metro Atlanta area, and two more going on statewide.

There is the road resurfacing project on I-25 that stretches from Cobb to DeKalb Counties. There is also the Johnson Ferry/Abernathy Road Widening Project in Atlanta, the Northside Drive project in Cobb/Fulton, the Old Alabama Road Project in Fulton, a number of State Route 20 improvements in both Fulton and Cherokee and updates to the State Route 316 Interchange.

Drivers should avail themselves of information on possible delays or detours by visiting the DOT's active projects page. This way, if you know you are going to be pressing your luck with time, you won't be tempted to speed through a work zone, as you'll already have an alternate route planned. (Speeding in a Georgia work zone, by the way, may result in fines of up to $2,000 or a maximum of one year in jail or both.)

Also note that Georgia is one of many states with a "Move Over Law." This law requires any driver approaching a working emergency vehicle on the side of the road to move over one lane if possible, or otherwise slow to below the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop if necessary. While it's not necessary to move over a lane when you see construction workers on the job, if traffic conditions would allow you to do so safely, it wouldn't hurt.

Other tips the Georgia DOT asks that you keep in mind as you approach a highway work zone:

  • Slow down. Excessive speed is the No. 1 most common cause of work zone crashes.

  • Make sure you have read all the signs. They are in place for your safety. If you are traveling too fast to read them, you probably need to slow down.

  • Pace yourself. If you are tailgating other drivers or construction vehicles, you're putting all involved at higher risk for a crash.

  • Road crew flaggers should be treated as if they are traffic signals. Their signs are not suggestions - the law requires you obey them.

  • Pay attention. Put your phone done. Especially when you are traveling through a highway work zone, you can't afford to miss a moment.

Continue reading "Atlanta Work Zone Crashes Can Prove Fatal; Slow Down, Pay Attention" »

March 5, 2013

Norfolk Southern Railway to Pay $1.1M For Violations of FRSA

The Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has been ordered to fork over more than $1 million to three former employees who were fired after they reported workplace injuries. rails.jpg

Our Atlanta work injury lawyers know that the railway firm is one of the largest in in the country, covering a large swath of the East Coast and stretching into the Midwest. Headquartered in Virginia, it employes some 30,000 union workers.

Workers employed by rail companies are protected from retaliation for reporting workplace injuries or safety violations under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109. Part of the law has to do with reporting fraud, abuse and waste. Under Section (b) 1-3, rail companies are not allowed to fire, demote, reprimand, suspend or in any other way discriminate against a worker who:

  • In good faith reports a dangerous safety or security issue;

  • Refuses to work in hazardous safety conditions or when there is an unaddressed security issue;

  • Refuses to authorize the use of any safety-related equipment, structures or track if those materials are deemed unsafe.

In this case, the rail company reportedly violated this law not once - but three times to three different workers in two different states.

In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports that this firm has had an extensive history of doing this, and that the result has been "a chilling effect in the railroad industry."

And yet, these brave workers still stood for what was right and chose to come forward.

The first of these was a crane operator in Indiana. He was reportedly operating a crane while helping to build a bridge when flecks of metal and rust entered his eye. He reportedly had to undergo a procedure to have the material removed. When he reported this to his employer, he was taken out of service for a short time before he was fired, with the company reportedly finding that the worker had "made false statements" about his injuries. But when OSHA conducted its investigation, inspectors determined that if the worker had not reported his injury, he would never have been fired.

As such, OSHA determined he was owed roughly $440,000 in damages, including $100,000 for compensatory damages, $175,000 in punitive damages, about $156,000 in benefits and back wages and $6,000 in penalties that he incurred when he had to cash in savings bond prior to their maturity date after he'd been fired. The company has also been ordered to give him his job back, along with the sick and vacation days he would have earned up to this point.

The second and third cases stemmed from the same incident. One was a welder and a welder's helper, based out of Pennsylvania. Both had been nearly four decades with the company without any problems. Then one day while they were riding in a company truck, another vehicle ran a red light, slamming into another vehicle which then slammed into the company truck. At first, the workers reported only minor pain and stiffness and soreness. They initially declined to receive any medical treatment. But then pain for both intensified and they both ended up getting treatment in a local hospital. When this was reported to superiors, they were placed on leave. An internal investigation found them guilty of giving false reports about their injuries, which the firm indicated was akin to misconduct. They were subsequently fired.

OSHA, however, found that the pair were fired for reporting their injuries. The agency was ordered to pay the two approximately $685,000 in damages, with $300,000 of that in punitive damages.

The company has also been ordered to post employee whistleblower protection rights at each work site and train workers on their rights under FRSA.

Continue reading "Norfolk Southern Railway to Pay $1.1M For Violations of FRSA" »

February 25, 2013

Court: New Work Injury Means New Workers' Compensation Filing

In the case of Evergreen Packaging Inc. v. Prather, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld an employee's right to workers' compensation benefits, even when the root of the injury was a pre-existing condition. back.jpg

Our Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers know that the key in this case was that the work performed had changed from the norm and thus aggravated an old injury. So even though the original injury was old (and in fact, a separate claim had been paid out on it several years earlier), the fact that the worker was re-injured on the job was enough to secure additional benefits.

Court documents in this case reveal that the employee first started working at the milk and juice carton manufacturer back in the mid-1970s. Then in 2002, while working in the warehouse loading trucks, he hurt his back while operating a forklift. This prevented him from working for sometime. He was granted temporary total disability benefits for a little over a month, and his employer also covered his medical expenses.

(Injuries from forklifts, by the way, account for an estimated 85 fatalities annually, as well as nearly 35,000 serious injuries and 62,000 non-serious injuries, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.)

So after this incident, the employee continued his work, though he soon applied for and received a new position as a plate maker. This position required the worker to bend all the way to floor and then lift boxes weighing between 30 to 50 pounds up over his head and into certain bins.

The two positions were quite different, both in responsibilities and in physical demand. While he said his back continued to bother him from the initial injury, it got progressively worse as he continued in his new role.

Still, he only missed a total of a week's worth of work during that time.

But in his final two years with the company, the firm purchased a new piece of equipment that reportedly required him to bend down farther than he had before. This aggravated his back condition greatly. At times, he said, his entire backside all the way down to his feet was going numb.

In 2010, he sought medical help from a chiropractor. After four treatments, the doctor recommended he stop working and diagnosed him with degenerative disc disease that was due to an old injury that had been exacerbated by additional injuries. A second doctor recommended the same. A subsequent MRI, when compared to a similar image five years earlier, showed a significant increase in stenosis and disc extrusion. There was also an additional tear in the tissue that wasn't there previously.

The worker was awarded disability benefits right away, but the company appealed, saying that he shouldn't be compensated twice for the same injury. A change in condition, they argued, wouldn't entitle the worker to a new "date of injury," which would mean his statute of limitations to collect benefits would have already run out.

However, both the State Board of Workers' Compensation as well as the Georgia Appellate Court sided with the worker. While a change in condition relative to the initial injury would have likely resulted in denial of benefits to the worker, the fact that he had incurred aggravation to an old injury as a result of his work meant that he was again eligible for benefits.

Continue reading "Court: New Work Injury Means New Workers' Compensation Filing" »

January 10, 2013

Your Status as an Employee Can Impact Workers' Compensation Benefits

Under Georgia laws, employees are covered under a benefits system called workers' compensation that entitles them to have their medical bills paid after a work injury. Employees are also provided with temporary or permanent benefits for total or partial disability as well as various other types of compensation.

The key word here, however, is that EMPLOYEES are covered. Those who perform work but who are not classified as employees aren't entitled to workers' compensation benefits and after a work injury are either on their own in paying for the costs or are left to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against one or more parties, which requires a showing of negligence that is not required in workers' comp cases. 601967_employee_entrance_1.jpg

Because the employee designation is so important, our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys urge every employee and every employer to understand exactly when someone is classified as an employee.

Understanding Your Classification
In many cases, whether someone is an employee or not is a relatively straightforward question. If someone is hired to work full time, given a salary or a regular hourly wage and has no designated end date in site for the work term, that person is pretty obviously an employee.

However, there are plenty of situations where things become much more complicated. For example:

  • One issue is the holiday season that is slowly drawing to a close. Employers tend to bring in temporary help during the holidays, such as hiring more people for the big shopping season.

  • Seasonal employees also raise more complicated questions. For example, if a business hires snowplow workers in the winter but doesn't need them in the summer, these employees have a designated work period but not an indefinite gig.

The Rules for Independent Contractors
If you are hired and aren't certain whether you are an employee or not, it is helpful to understand some of the basic rules that have been developed. In general:

  • Temporary employees, seasonal employees and part time employees are all covered under workers' compensation.

  • Independent contractors are NOT covered under workers' compensation.

An independent contractor is someone who performs work for a company but who maintains their autonomy. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets forth some guidelines for when someone is considered an independent contractor, as opposed to an employee. These guidelines look at:

  • Whether the company has the right to control the behavior of the worker or whether the company just issues an assignment and the worker has autonomy to do the assignment when and how he wants.

  • Whether the company has control over how the worker is paid or whether the worker sets his own rates, pays his own expenses, etc.

  • What type of relationship the employer and worker has, including whether there are written contracts and whether the work performed by the worker is a key aspect of the business.

These and other issues can be considered in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor for workers' compensation purposes. Being incorrectly classified can result in a worker being deprived of workers' compensation benefits and can be detrimental to the rights of the worker. Those who believe they have been incorrectly classified, therefore, need to get legal help to determine if they really are entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

Continue reading "Your Status as an Employee Can Impact Workers' Compensation Benefits" »

December 19, 2012

Truck Drivers at Risk of Work Injury in Georgia

Throughout the United States, truck drivers are the primary movers of goods and raw materials. Some of these truck drivers are independent contractors, working for themselves and with the freedom to take transport jobs from any company Others, however, are employed by trucking companies, retailers, shipping companies or countless other employers who have their own professional drivers on staff.

Regardless of who a trucker works for, he is at risk of suffering certain injuries while performing his job. However, a trucker's employment status matters after he has suffered a workplace injury because those who are employed by a trucking company may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. 426156_old_truck.jpg

Our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys want truckers to understand their legal rights after a work injury. We also want to caution truck drivers about some of the most common causes of workplace injury so they can take proper precautions to stay safe.

Truck Drivers and Workplace Injuries
Truck drivers are at risk for a variety of different injuries including:

  • Injuries when loading and unloading their truck

  • Injuries caused by violent crime while driving their truck

  • Injuries due to falling merchandise during the transport

  • Injuries when performing truck inspections or addressing basic maintenance issues.

  • Slip and fall injuries while on the truck or at the loading facility

While all of these are possible ways in which a trucker can get hurt at work, one of the most common sources of injuries for truckers is traffic accidents. After all, a truck driver spends the vast majority of his career driving his vehicle, thus increasing the chances he'll be involved in some type of traffic crash.

Traffic Accidents and Truck Drivers
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks statistics on traffic accidents and fatalities. Statistics released this month for the 2011 calendar year held some bad news for truck drivers -- the number of fatalities increased significantly. In fact, the number of fatalities among occupants of large trucks was up almost 20 percent in 2011.

This increase in trucking accidents is alarming as it means that truck drivers may be in more danger of a fatal traffic accident than in the past. The NHTSA is working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to try to identify reasons for the significant increase in fatalities.

When a truck driver is killed in a traffic accident, his surviving family members may be eligible for workers' compensation death benefits. In addition, a trucker who is the victim of a crash may also be able to make a workers' comp claim for medical bills and lost wages. The ability of the trucker or surviving family members to make a workers' compensation claim is going to depend upon whether the crash is considered to be work related and on whether he is classified as a covered employee.

Negligence is not a determining factor in workers' comp cases, so a trucker could potentially still make a workers' comp claim in some cases even if there was no negligence on the part of the employer or if the truck driver's own conduct contributed to the crash.

Continue reading "Truck Drivers at Risk of Work Injury in Georgia" »