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Strict Application of Georgia’s Sole-Remedy Provision Leaves Injured Employee Without Any Recourse

Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a workers’ compensation case that required the court to interpret the sole-remedy provision contained in the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. In the case, Saxon v. Starr Indemnity and Liability Company, the court held that although the plaintiff’s employer was required to carry workers’ compensation insurance but failed to do so, a workers’ compensation claim was still the plaintiff’s sole remedy. Thus, the court dismissed his personal injury claim against the employer.

Ice Cream TruckThe Facts of the Case

Saxon’s employer was in the ice cream and freezer business. On the day in question, Saxon was riding as a passenger in a delivery truck when the driver, a co-worker, rear-ended another vehicle. Saxon’s co-worker was cited for following too closely.

Saxon’s employer was required under Georgia law to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. However, for whatever reason, his employer had failed to obtain this coverage. Perhaps thinking a workers’ compensation claim would be fruitless because his employer lacked coverage, Saxon did not file a workers’ compensation claim but instead filed a personal injury claim against his employer, seeking compensation for his injuries.

Before the case reached trial, the employer’s insurance company argued that the case should be dismissed because under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act, a claim for workers’ compensation benefits is an injured employee’s sole remedy. Saxon responded that if this were the case, he would be without any remedy because his employer lacked coverage, and he asked the court to allow his claim in the interest of fairness and sound public policy. The trial court agreed with the employer’s insurance company and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff appealed.

The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of Saxon’s case. The court did not agree with Saxon that he was left without a remedy. The court explained that employers that are required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance but fail to do so become liable for the full amount of the claim. Furthermore, if the employer is insolvent as a company, the obligation to pay out the benefits will then fall personally on the agent of the employer who was responsible for obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. Thus, Saxon had a remedy but failed to take advantage of it.

The Importance of a Knowledgeable Workers’ Compensation Attorney

In the case discussed above, had the injured worker filed a workers’ compensation claim, he would have likely received the benefits he was seeking. However, unfortunately, he did not file the claim, likely thinking that it would be denied due to the employer’s lack of coverage. If Saxon had initially obtained a dedicated Georgia workers’ compensation attorney to assist him with the preparation of his claim, this mistake would likely have been avoided.

Have You Been Injured on the Job?

If you or a loved one has recently suffered a workplace injury, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Even if your employer tells you that the claim will not be successful or that they do not have coverage, you should seek out a dedicated Georgia workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your case. The skilled attorneys at J. Franklin Burns, P.C., have the knowledge and dedication necessary to help you file your claim. We are also prepared to appeal an adverse decision, should that be necessary. Call 404-303-7770 today to set up your free consultation with an attorney.

More Blog Entries:

Pipeline Construction Accident Claims Two Workers’ Lives, Dec. 19, 2016, Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

Transportation for Farmworkers Woefully Inadequate and Too Often Underinsured, Jan. 4, 2017, Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog