Articles Posted in On-the-job Car Accidents

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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.

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Owners of large farms often rely on the contracted labor of migrant workers to help them fulfill their staffing needs around the busy harvest time. However, since these farms so rarely need this volume of labor, farm owners usually lack the infrastructure necessary to provide transportation for these workers. As a result, farm owners will often contract under-the-table transportation companies to get workers from their homes to the farm.

Tossing Hay BalesAccording to a recent Georgia news source, the system that many farm owners use to get temporary workers to their farms is dangerous and too often underinsured. The article discusses a November 2015 accident in which six farm workers were killed and another seven injured when the bus they were riding in struck a concrete bridge support, ripping the roof off the bus. The company that operated the bus had not registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, meaning that it was not legally permitted to transport workers. Furthermore, the driver of the bus did not even have a commercial driver’s license.

To make matters worse, the company’s workers’ compensation policy did not cover the bus ride. As a result, since the transportation company carried just one-fifth of the required insurance on the bus, the families of the deceased were left with a much smaller total sum of money than necessary to cover their expenses and losses.

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In personal injury litigation, when a lawsuit is settled, that’s it. There is no going back to ask the same defendant for more money – even if your injuries are worse or lasted longer than you expected.gavel21

But it’s different with workers’ compensation claims, which can be re-opened when an employee disability has increased or recurred.

Often the first thing we need to explore is whether the case was settled via a stipulation and award or a compromise and release. If it was a stipulation and award, claims can often be reopened. However, with a compromise and release, employers are usually released from any future claims for the same incident. The only exception, usually, is if the settlement was somehow procured by fraud. Continue reading →

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A woman whose husband was killed on-the-job in Atlanta while working for the city is seeking to challenge Georgia’s sovereign immunity and worker’s compensation exclusive remedy provisions.accident1

When her husband was killed, he was riding in the cab of a city-owned garbage truck, driven by his co-worker. Problem was, his co-worker was drunk. So drunk, in fact, his blood-alcohol level was three times over the 0.08 limit. (In commercial vehicles, the legal limit is 0.02, although the city has a zero tolerance policy.) Officials later found a bottle of vodka in the grass. Decedent had no alcohol in his system.

Her husband was thrown from the vehicle and died on impact. She too was a city employee. Her supervisors were the first to inform her of his passing.

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Many people drive to and from work, but some are required to drive in the course and scope of employment.

Generally, those who drive during the work day for work purposes may be covered by workers’ compensation in the event of a serious crash. Meanwhile, those who are simply “coming and going” – i.e., commuting to and from work – are usually not covered.

The recent case of Seabright Ins. Co. v. Lopez highlights arguments that can arise between an employer/insurer and an injured employee/surviving family members in workers’ compensation claims following an auto accident.

According to court records, employee had worked for the oil and gas processing company eight years at the time of the accident. While he lived with his wife in one Texas city, he almost never actually worked in that city. He was assigned to work at various remote locations, and during these jobs, he usually made his own living arrangement, typically staying at a local motel. He was paid hourly, plus given a stipend for food and lodging when he stayed out-of-town. He was also given a company vehicle to get to and from different job locations, but he wasn’t paid for his travel time to and from job sites.
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When it comes to workers’ compensation law, states have varying applications with regard to disputed issues. In general, though, what must be proven is the injury or illness was caused or compounded by work-related duties or functions, and that the individual seeking to collect has legal standing to do so.

A recent case before the South Carolina Court of Appeals posed some interesting issues with regard to these elements, but the claimant still prevailed.

In Thomas v. 5 Star Transportation, claimant was the widow of a worker who died in a traffic accident while driving a tour bus for his employer. But the case was complicated by two central facts:

  • The worker had suffered a brain aneurysm around the time of his death, though it could not definitively be proven it happened before the crash.
  • The woman who sought spousal benefits was not in fact married to decedent, as his divorce to his previous was not final at the time of their wedding – a fact she didn’t learn until after he died.

Yet, claimant was able to succeed in securing workers’ compensation death benefits, but it didn’t come without a vigorous fight by the employer.
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State supreme court justices in Kentucky reversed three lower courts in finding worker injured in a vehicle accident while crossing the street to access a fast-food restaurant adjacent to her office was not entitled to collect workers’ compensation for her injuries.
The court determined the worker was not acting in the course and scope of employment because she undertook the route in “in order to seek personal comfort.” In so doing, the court found, she exposed herself to a hazard that was not only totally removed form the typical day-to-day coming-and-going activity, but it was also illegal per state law (she was jaywalking) and thus impliedly barred by the company.

The ruling in US Bank Home Mortgage v. Schrecker underscores once again how difficult it can be to secure workers’ compensation payments when a worker leaves the traditional office setting. Work-related car accidents may be compensable, but one must prove he or she was acting in the course or scope of employment.
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Workers are constantly forced to multitask, particularly when it comes to juggling their personal and professional lives. Unfortunately, trying to be efficient cost one home health care nurse in Ohio the right to collect workers’ compensation benefits, following a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court in Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Ass’n of Mid-Ohio. carcrash2.jpg

The court ruled against the “dual intent” doctrine, which would have allowed a worker running a personal errand while on his or her way to the next assignment to collect benefits for a crash that occurred at that time.

Although the decision doesn’t directly affect workers in Georgia, we can rest-assured courts will review this case when similar questions arise.
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It’s been well-established in Georgia, as well as many other states, that if a worker is traveling to or leaving from work, and is injured in a motor vehicle accident, workers compensation benefits may not be collected.
However, our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers know there are always exceptions, which is why injured workers should never assume the outcome of their claim is a foregone conclusion.

In the case of Williams v. Petromark Drilling, LLC, the worker was injured in a car accident while on his way home from work. However, he was ultimately awarded workers’ compensation benefits after a great deal of back-and-forth, because, as the Kansas Supreme Court determined, the trip occurred while the claimant was “in the course and scope of his employment.”
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It’s been nearly five years since a Salt Lake City construction worker was nearly killed after being struck by a sport utility vehicle as he worked alongside the road in a designated work zone, managing traffic.
Our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers understand the teen behind the wheel was reportedly being shown a photograph by another teen in the passenger seat.

The construction worker doesn’t remember any of it, but he suffered 11 broken bones and severe brain injuries. Recovery has been slow, with a pelvis shattered in four places, three broken ribs and a broken heel, among other injuries. He’s had to undergo knee surgery and five shoulder operations. And his brain, while making miraculous strides, still can’t always grasp the correct words. Simple tasks like tying his shoes and buttoning his shirt have become impossible, as have playing baseball, basketball or riding ATVs with his friends, as he once loved to do.

Some days, he’s angry. Other days, he finds himself deeply depressed. But he’s dedicated to prevention and speaking to teenagers in high schools about the dangers of distracted driving, particularly in construction zones.

In 2011, there were nearly 75 roadside construction workers fatally injured by vehicles nationwide.

Georgia ranks fourth in the nation for pervasiveness of roadside construction fatalities and injuries. It accounts for 5 percent of all the country’s roadside construction fatalities and 4 percent of roadside construction injuries.

Between 2003 and 2007, some 640 workers were killed while working at roadside construction deaths, accounting for about 8 percent of all construction fatalities during that time frame. Almost half of these incidents involved a worker being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment.

The Centers for Disease Control say that about 60 percent of those cases involve being struck by construction equipment.

You might think these cases would be fairly straightforward in terms of injury law. But in fact, there are many benefits to having an attorney who is familiar with work injuries in particular.

Although the case out of Utah shows how driver negligence is clearly a prime issue that injury lawyers will examine, another potential angle might be investigating whether the construction signs near the work zone were negligently-placed.

For example, sometimes there is construction equipment actually in the roadway. In other cases, the road is uneven, damaged or torn-up, and the construction signs don’t accurately reflect that or aren’t placed in the proper location.

In cases like these, the responsibility would fall on the company or contractor responsible for managing traffic control. Additionally, the Department of Transportation may also bear some of the liability, as it is the duty of the state DOT to inspect the construction site and sign placement. If the inspection wasn’t properly carried out, this could be grounds for liability.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roadside construction incidents were most likely to occur in April through October – accounting for nearly 65 percent of the total. Mostly, this has to do with the fact that this is when the bulk of the construction takes place.
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