If an employee is injured on the job in Georgia, the employee is generally entitled to medical, rehabilitation, and financial benefits to help the employee return to work. However, an “injury” compensable under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act has to meet certain requirements. A compensable injury is limited to an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment. It may include an aggravation of a preexisting condition that arises out of and in the course of employment.
Generally, a compensable injury does not include diseases. Most workers’ compensation claims involve occupational injuries rather than occupational diseases. However, a disease is compensable when it “results naturally and unavoidably from the accident.” O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1. Distinguishing a disease from an injury is not always clear. If an employee develops a disease from a sudden and unexpected exposure to an injurious risk at work, the injury will typically be an occupational injury. However, if a claimant’s disease arises from an expected, gradual exposure to a risk, the disability will generally be considered an occupational disease. For example, an employee who develops an injury after being exposed to a risk gradually over a long period of time would generally have an occupational disease claim.
If employment contributes to an injury, it is normally considered an accident and is compensable. An accident generally means an event that was not expected or designed. Injuries resulting from haste and inattentiveness are also generally covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act.