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For those whose profession requires that they occasionally work on the side of Georgia highways, it will come as no surprise to hear that the shoulder of a road is a dangerous place to be. In fact, it is estimated that upwards of 400 deaths per year are caused by accidents occurring on road shoulders across the country.

Construction SiteOver the past several years, every state has enacted its own version of a “Move Over Law,” which requires motorists to slow down or give room to emergency vehicles and workers on the road’s shoulder. While each state’s law is slightly different, most laws require motorists to accommodate police, firefighters, emergency responders, tow-truck drivers, accident clean-up crews, and other state transportation workers.

Georgia’s move over law was enacted in 2003 and requires drivers to move over when emergency vehicles are present. If it would be illegal or impossible to change lanes, the driver must slow down to a “reasonable and proper speed,” given the current road conditions.

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Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued a written opinion in a workers’ compensation case brought by a man who was injured while he was grocery shopping on his personal time. The injured employee claimed that he was a “continuous employee” because his job required that he stay in a hotel away from his home. Ultimately, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision that the injured worker was not a continuous employee.

Wet Floor SignThe Facts of the Case

The injured worker was employed by a plumbing company based in Augusta, Georgia. Since the employee did not have a residence in Augusta, the employer provided the employee with a hotel room. While the employee only worked Monday through Friday, the employer allowed the employee to stay in the room over the weekend because the employee was having car trouble and found it financially burdensome to travel back home over the weekends.

One Sunday, the employee was grocery shopping when he tripped and fell, injuring his ankle. The employee was not working that day, and he was not on call. The employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation, claiming that he was a continuous employee.

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Earlier this month, one state’s supreme court issued a written opinion in a workers’ compensation case involving a man who was seriously injured while working at a national hardware store chain. The employer argued that since a doctor had determined that the employee could return to work, although the worker’s back was found to have a 75% impairment rating, permanent benefits should be denied. The court ultimately rejected the defendant’s argument and found that the injured employee should have been eligible for permanent workers’ compensation benefits.

X-RayThe Facts of the Case

In September 2010, the employee slipped and fell while he was helping a customer load merchandise into their vehicle. As a result of the fall, the employee seriously injured his back. Specifically, he suffered from a herniated disc and spinal-cord compression. He had surgery performed to fuse two of his discs together. However, even after the surgery, he suffered from neck and back pain and had difficulty with balance.

The injured worker was seen by several doctors, each of whom had different opinions about his level of impairment. However, all of the medical opinions suggested that the level of impairment to the worker’s spine was over 50%. Some opinions placed the level of impairment at around 90%. However, one of the doctors opined that the employee could return to work with significant restrictions.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued a written opinion in a workers’ compensation case brought by a man who was injured on the job while descending from a cell phone tower. The court was tasked with determining whether the employee was prevented from obtaining workers’ compensation benefits because his injury allegedly was caused when he disregarded a known safety rule. Ultimately, the court determined that “willful misconduct” can, but does not necessarily, prevent workers’ compensation eligibility, and it remanded the case for further fact-finding.

Power LinesThe Facts of the Case

The worker in the case was an employee of a telecom company. The worker’s job required that he climb cell phone towers. It was company policy for workers to climb down the towers when their job was complete. However, the worker decided to use a controlled descent instead, against company policy and his co-worker’s advice.

During the controlled descent, the plaintiff fell and was seriously injured. He filed for workers’ compensation benefits for the period of time while he was recovering. However, the employer contested the worker’s eligibility, and an administrative law judge determined that his “willful misconduct” prevented him from obtaining benefits.

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The Georgia workers’ compensation program is designed to allow for injured workers to obtain temporary benefits while they recover from their injuries. However, in some cases, an injured worker’s employer contests that the injury either occurred at work, was related to the employee’s employment, or fit under the definition of a “compensable” injury. In these cases, an injured worker’s application for workers’ compensation can be significantly delayed and may even be denied.

StairwellA skilled workers’ compensation attorney can assist any injured worker in the preparation of their claim in hopes of reducing resistance from an employer. Additionally, a workers’ compensation attorney is prepared to litigate on behalf of their client, and appeal an adverse result if necessary.

Employer Denies Employee’s Workers’ Compensation Claim Based on Slip-and-Fall Accident

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a workers’ compensation case brought by an employee whose claim was initially denied by his employer and then by an administrative law judge.

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Earlier this month, a New Jersey man was killed when he was struck by a piece of construction equipment while on a New York job-site. According to one local news report covering the tragic accident, at around 4:20 in the afternoon a load fell off a crane at the construction site and struck the worker. Immediately after the accident, the worker was alert, but shortly after that he started experiencing pain and having difficulty breathing. Within the hour, he was dead.

CraneThe construction company that employed the worker has told reporters that it will fully cooperate with any government investigation into what caused the fatal construction accident. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation. The representative from OSHA told reporters that the investigation may take as long as six months to complete.

Georgia Construction Accidents

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous in Georgia. Whether it be the heavy equipment, the towering heights, or the long hours resulting in worker fatigue, construction workers face many risks every day. According to the most recent numbers, Georgians suffer approximately 4,500 workplace accidents each year. Of these, a significant portion occur in the construction industry.

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The Georgia workers’ compensation program is designed to provide temporary benefits to injured workers while they recover from an on-the-job injury. In theory, the program works well for both employees – who do not have to about proving who was at fault for their injury – and employers – who are able to limit their own costs by purchasing a workers’ compensation insurance policy.

BleachersMost Georgia employers who have three or more employees are required to obtain a workers’ compensation policy. However, some employers are able to self-insure if they obtain prior approval. Many school districts across the state have chosen to self-insure rather than obtain coverage from an outside insurance company. Self-insured employers are essentially able to handle workers’ compensation claims as they see fit. A recent news article discusses the benefits and drawbacks to this self-insurance system for Georgia school district employees who are injured on the job.

Weekly Benefits Versus Lump-Sum Disbursement

The article details the account of a 50-year-old employee of DeKalb School District who was injured when a student pushed her down a set of bleachers almost two decades ago. After her accident, the woman suffered a serious injury to her spine and has since required a spinal implant. She still suffers constant back pain and only has the use of her left leg.

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Last year, a 20-year-old woman was killed in an Alabama manufacturing plant when she attempted to fix a machine that had stopped working. According to news reports at the time, the woman was working on a large crane with three other employees. When the crane stopped working properly, the woman called maintenance but received no response.

FactoryThe woman and three other co-workers tried to get the machine working again. The woman entered the cage that contained the machine, and while she was inside the cage, the machine started running again. She sustained critical injuries and was taken to the hospital, where she died the next morning.

The plant where the accident occurred manufactures car parts for Kia and Hyundai. According to a recent news source, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted a six-month investigation into the accident, concluding that the accident could have been prevented had the appropriate precautions been taken by the employer.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia House of Representatives just passed Georgia House Bill 152, which would presume workers’ compensation coverage for firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer. According to an industry news source discussing the Georgia bill and other similar bills in other states, the House Bill will now move on to the Georgia Senate. A similar bill passed both houses last year before Georgia Governor Nathaniel Deal vetoed it over concerns that the research supporting the link between cancer and firefighters’ exposure to harmful chemicals was too speculative.

FiremanThis article is the most recent evidence of the movement across the nation for states to increase firefighters’ workers’ compensation benefits to include certain types of cancer. Supporters of GA Bill 152 and other similar bills point to the host of synthetic materials that are used in the construction of modern-day homes, which when burned, release harmful chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses.

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Earlier this month, a tragic accident took the life of a veteran sheriff’s deputy in Augusta, Georgia. According to one local news report covering the accident, the sheriff’s deputy was responding to an alarm that was sent out from a local sperm bank for a nitrogen leak. Evidently, the deputy arrived on the scene before the fire department or hazmat team and entered the location.

SteamBy the time the hazmat team arrived about 30 minutes later, rescuers discovered the deputy’s body lying on the floor. A female employee of the sperm bank was also unconscious. Rescuers removed the two and transported them to the hospital, but sadly the sheriff’s deputy was pronounced dead a short time later. The cause of death was listed as inhaling an unknown chemical substance. Two other deputies were also taken to the hospital, and they are expected to recover.

Following the tragic news of the accident, Georgia’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration opened an investigation into the chemical leak. The investigation is ongoing, and no results have yet been made public.

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