Articles Posted in Georgia Workers’ Compensation

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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

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The state of Georgia requires companies with more than three workers to carry workers’ compensation coverage.
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Most states have similar requirements, though they do vary.

In Georgia, when a company fails to obtain workers’ compensation coverage, injured employees are in real need of legal representation. While most workers hurt on the job are barred from filing a lawsuit against their employer per exclusive remedy provisions of workers’ compensation law, companies that don’t have this type of insurance aren’t shielded in the same way. That means workers can pursue litigation. However, unlike in a workers’ compensation case, they will have to prove the company was negligent and caused their injury. That means there is a higher proof burden.
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It’s not uncommon for employers to switch workers’ compensation insurance carriers periodically. However, this action caused a headache for the courts when it came to a worker who suffered two compensable work-related injuries while working for the same employer, but covered by two different insurance carriers.
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The case, Gill v. Brescome Barton, Inc., wound its way recently all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

According to court records, worker suffered a compensable, work-related injury to his left knee back in 1997. At the time of that injury, his employer was insured for workers’ compensation benefits by Company 1.
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The U.S. Department of Labor reports nearly 2 million people are victims of workplace violence annually. Workplace violence is defined as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening, disruptive behavior that occurs on-the-job.
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Most of the time, workers injured in these cases are eligible to collect workers’ compensation or, if the attack proves fatal, their families can collect workers’ compensation death benefits. However, it’s not enough that the attack occurs on-site. It must somehow be job-related.

In some cases, depending on the circumstances, there may also be justification for a personal injury lawsuit. Generally, workers are barred from bringing such action against an employer – even if employer negligence was a factor.
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As with any civil proceeding, workers’ compensation claims are subject to a specified statute of limitations, which is determined by the state.
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A statute of limitations is a time period during which claims must be filed to be considered valid. The idea is courts want to limit the possibility of becoming backlogged with years-old cases for which evidence may have eroded or be non-existent. So for example in Georgia, the general rule is claims for workers’ compensation benefits have to be filed within one year of the accident date, or else the right to compensation is barred. This is different from the time limit for other types of personal injury claims, which is two years. That’s why injured workers must act quickly to secure benefits.

However, the statute of limitations can be “tolled” or postponed in certain cases. Those include situations in which income or medical benefits have been paid voluntarily by an employer to or on behalf of the injured worker. Claims involving a death have to be filed within one year of the date of death. There are also exceptions made when workers were not aware injuries were work-related.
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While workers who have been injured on-the-job need not prove their employers were negligent, they do need to show their injuries arose out of and in the course of their employment. lungs2.jpg

In some instances, this is straightforward. A carpenter who falls from a ladder on a job site and twists his ankle should receive compensation. Where matters can get complex is when there is dispute about whether injuries or illnesses were in fact caused by work, or if not, whether they were exacerbated to any great degree by a work accident.

A perfect case-in-point on this is Vandre v. State ex rel. Dep’t of Workforce Servs., a matter that was recently weighed by the Wyoming Supreme Court.
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Lawmakers from two separate Georgia state committees recently met to discuss a proposal that would slash the amount of time injured workers have to pursue a claim with the state board of workers’ compensation.
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Currently, workers have up to five years to file a work injury claim with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. House Bill 536 would significantly cut that by more than half, down to 2 years.

The intent, say Republican backers, is to shorten the amount of time an employee can leave an employer and then file a workers’ compensation claim. Proponents of the measure say companies are burdening unfairly because insurance premiums are set higher in this state to cover for the extended risk of a claim. They argue that’s money that could be going to hire more workers or give additional raises.
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Justices of the New Hampshire Supreme Court recently ruled the state workers’ compensation appeals board erred when it found not compensable the work injuries of a man who suffered severe injury during a truck accident that occurred while he was driving from a job site to the main shop.
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Specifically, the board in Appeal of Brandon Kelly ruled the worker, who fell asleep at the wheel of that truck, had to show his weariness was work-induced. The worker, who suffered a leg amputation as a result of the crash, had allegedly failed to prove this, the board found.

But the state supreme court ruled this was not a prerequisite to receiving workers’ compensation, and there was no question the injury arose out of and in the course of worker’s employment. Thus, his employment was a substantial contributing factor in the injury, and he deserved to be compensated.
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Falls are one of the top causes of injury in the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 43 percent of falls over the last decade have involved a ladder. Among construction workers in particular, ladders are involved in 80 percent of all falls that land them in the emergency room.
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Workers who suffer injury as a result of a ladder fall should pursue workers’ compensation to cover the cost of medical expenses, as well as lost wages for the amount of time they are unable to work.

This was the case in Hildebrant v. State ex rel., Dep’t of Workforce Servs., where an HVAC technician suffered a bad fall while working on a college campus construction project. The worker fell about 20 feet off the ladder, and was taken to a local hospital by ambulance. He complained of pain in his lower back, right shoulder and right leg.

After receiving emergency care, he was discharged but received ongoing care from a physician. The doctor indicated that a small compression fracture in the man’s back appeared to be chronic, but he couldn’t rule out the possibility that it was caused by the fall. He also had some bone bruising, torn tendons and other issues, but no acute traumatic changes to the lumbar spine. Although he noted patient had ongoing pain, he did not see anything that warranted surgical intervention.
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The intent of workers’ compensation law is to ensure costs resulting from industrial accidents and conditions are borne largely by industry. By ensuring workers receive definite and speedy payments for medical expenses and lost wages incurred for on-the-job injuries and illnesses, they forfeit the right to pursue further litigation.
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This is true across the country, and it’s referred to as “exclusive remedy.” It means workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy through which workers can be compensated for occupational ailments or injuries. Companies are otherwise immune from civil litigation on these matters.

But, as with all areas of law, there are exceptions. There is the third-party litigation that can be brought against parties who are not considered employers. Beyond that, there is the realm of “intentional tort” by employers.

This has been very narrowly interpreted by most courts. In some states, it’s all but impossible to bring such a claim. The definition generally holds anything less than outright, specific intention on the employer’s part is insufficient to permit exception to the exclusivity rule. This typically is not going to extend to situations in which employer acts with indifference or even creates an exceptionally or unlawfully hazardous work environment. It instead means the actual intent to cause harm to the worker.
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