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The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act is meant to provide compensation to individuals who are injured on the job. The benefits provided through the Act are meant to help injured individuals return to work, but, if an individual dies as a result of the accident, the benefits are also provided to help the individual’s dependents ease the burden of their financial loss. In the event of an employee’s death due to a work injury on or after July 1, 2016, dependents are entitled to two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage or a maximum of $575 per week. Qualifying dependents are the employee’s spouse, children, and dependent stepchildren.

Director's ClapperA death is generally compensable if the injury triggered, activated, or aggravated a disease or dormant condition that contributed to the employee’s death. The employee has the burden of proving that the death resulted from an accident arising out of and in the course of the employee’s employment. In general, an employee’s dependents are entitled to reasonable expenses for the employee’s last sickness, burial expenses, and weekly dependency benefits.

Stuntman Dies After Work Injury

A stuntman on the show The Walking Dead recently died after he was injured in an accident on set. According to one news source, the stuntman hit his head on a concrete floor after he fell about 30 feet. He was brought to a hospital in Atlanta after the accident, but he died a few days later. The stuntman had worked on other shows and movies, and his death was the first stuntman death in 17 years. The show had been filming its eighth season and had filmed many episodes in metro Atlanta.

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In a recent decision, a Georgia appeals court considered whether an employee who was injured while traveling from Georgia to Alabama for work was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The employee worked for a company repairing railroad tracks in different states. On one Sunday afternoon, the employee left his house in Georgia and drove toward Alabama, where he was supposed to begin work on a railroad track on the following morning. On his way to the motel, the employee was injured in a car accident. The employee filed for Georgia workers’ compensation benefits, claiming he was temporarily disabled. Yet the company argued that the accident did not arise out of and in the course of his employment.

TrainWhat It Means to Arise Out of and in the Course of Employment

Under O.C.G.A. 34-9-1(4) of Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act, in order to be eligible for benefits, an injured employee must prove that their injury was related to their job. Specifically, an employee must show that the accidental injury arose out of and in the course of his or her employment. The requirement that the injury arises out of the employment means that there has to be a causal connection between the employee’s job and the injury. The requirement that the injury occurs in the course of employment considers the time, place, and circumstances of the injury.

Generally, injuries that occur when an employee is commuting to and from work do not arise out of and in the course of employment because courts believe that most jobs require some form of commute, which is not necessarily related to the functions of the job. In this case, the employee was traveling to a motel near the job site when the injury occurred. Accordingly, the court found the employee’s injury was not compensable.

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Georgia workers’ compensation cases are often centered around the question of whether an employee’s injury was related to his employment. In some cases, injuries worsen over time, and an employee may need to seek additional compensation. However, employers often contest these claims. In a recent case, an appellate court considered whether a subsequent injury barred the employee from recovering workers’ compensation benefits for an earlier work-related injury. The employee had injured his back at work when he caught a falling ladder. He applied for workers’ compensation benefits and was awarded temporary total disability benefits and temporary partial disability benefits.

Wooden LadderLater, the employee was injured outside work. The employee filed for benefits again, claiming that the second injury aggravated his existing injury. The workers’ compensation commission awarded him permanent partial disability benefits. The commission found his disability was partly caused by his work injury and partly due to pre-existing and subsequent conditions. Years later, the employee moved to reopen the case because he said his back condition had worsened. The case was reopened, but the commission found his second injury was a subsequent intervening event that broke the link between the work injury and his condition. The employee appealed the decision.

An appeals court explained that an award for temporary disability benefits considers the most recent injury, but an award for permanent disability benefits considers all of the injuries that caused the permanent disability. Therefore, the court determined that if an employee incurs an accidental injury and obtains workers’ compensation benefits, and then he incurs a subsequent intervening event, the intervening event does not preclude the employee from receiving additional permanent partial disability benefits for a decline in the employee’s condition. That is, even if there is a subsequent intervening event, the employee can still demonstrate that the employee’s condition has worsened and that the condition was caused by the work-related injury.

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In a recent opinion, a state supreme court held that an employee could receive increased workers’ compensation benefits years after his accident, even after a doctor testified that the employee’s condition had not changed. The employee worked at a community organization and suffered a back injury at work in 2007 when his van was hit from behind. He returned to work, but in 2010, he had to stop working due to the pain from the injury. The employee filed for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer disputed the claim, arguing he was not impaired. In 2010, a judge awarded the employee permanent partial disability benefits and found he had a physical impairment rating of 13%.

Car AccidentIn 2014, the employee claimed that his condition had worsened and requested to reopen his case. The employee introduced medical reports from two other doctors. One doctor found the employee had a 47% permanent impairment rating, and the other found he had a 28% permanent impairment rating. The employer also introduced a medical report from a doctor who found the employee had a 23% permanent impairment rating. The second judge found the employee had a physical impairment rating of 23%.

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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.

Bed BugsGenerally, 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.

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In a recent case, a Florida court of appeals recently considered whether one employee’s workers’ compensation claim was a result of a workplace injury or a result of a preexisting condition. The employee claimed that she injured her neck at work while pushing a passenger in a wheelchair. Her employer paid her workers’ compensation benefits and authorized an orthopedic surgeon to treat her injury.

wheelchairHowever, the employer later claimed that the injury was not a result of a workplace injury but was due to a pre-existing condition. The orthopedic surgeon believed that the major contributing cause of the employee’s neck pain was not the workplace injury but instead was a preexisting degeneration of the cervical spine. An independent medical examiner also examined the employee and determined that the workplace injury was not a “major contributing cause” of her condition.

Under state law, an employer is responsible only if the workplace injury is the major contributing cause of any resulting injuries. That means that the workplace injury has to be more than 50% responsible for the employee’s injury. It also has to be demonstrated by objective medical evidence.

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In a recent decision, a Florida court of appeals determined that a football player whose contract was not renewed for the following season and who then injured himself during tryouts was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits despite a contract between him and the team. The court explained that although the team and the player had signed an employment contract that had not yet expired, the football league had never signed the contract.

Football PlayerThe Facts of the Case

The football player had played for one year with the Orlando Predators, a team in the Arena Football League, but his contract was not renewed. He tried out again for the team, and on the second day of tryouts, he suffered an injury. He filed for workers’ compensation benefits, but the AFL contended they were not required to provide him with benefits.

The issue was whether the football player was an AFL “employee.” The football player argued he was entitled to benefits because he had signed a contract that stated that he was hired for employment from February to August of that year. He was injured at tryouts in July, one month before the contract ended. However, although the player and the team representative had signed the contract, the AFL never signed it.

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Back in 2015, the Governor signed into law Haleigh’s Hope Act, which established the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis to provide recommendations concerning medical marijuana regulations. The Act allowed individuals with certain illnesses to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil, if approved by their physician. The qualifying illnesses were Crohn’s disease, seizure disorders, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, severe or end-stage ALS, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and sickle-cell disease.

Marijuana NuggetsIn May of this year, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law Senate Bill 16, a measure that expands Georgia’s medical marijuana program. According to a recent article, the law makes six more illnesses eligible for medical marijuana treatment:  AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, epidermolysis bullosa, Tourette’s syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, and autism.

While the law allows doctors to certify patients for the State’s Low THC Oil Registry and authorizes the Georgia Department of Public Health to issue a registry card to qualified individuals, the bill does not authorize doctors to “prescribe” marijuana. The State has explained that a doctor’s certification is merely a certification that there is an established doctor-patient relationship, that the doctor has examined the patient, and that the patient has one of the qualifying medical conditions.

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According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), falls are a leading cause of workplace deaths. Falls represent 39% of all construction workplace deaths and account for around 350 deaths in construction jobs per year.

ScaffoldingOSHA requires employers to set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling and injuring themselves. Employers are required to provide fall protection for overhead platforms, for elevated work stations, and near holes in floors and walls. Fall protection must be provided for elevations of four feet or higher in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in construction workplaces, and eight feet in long-shoring operations. Employers must also provide fall protection if employees are working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of height.

Georgia Woman Falls to Death in Lowndes County

A 28-year-old woman recently fell to her death as she was working on a billboard in Lowndes County, Georgia. According to one news source, the young woman had been doing routine maintenance on the billboard on Interstate 75 when she fell. An OSHA spokesperson said that her death was still under investigation.

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In a recent case, an appellate court considered whether a woman had presented sufficient evidence to show she was entitled to home renovations after a workplace injury. The woman injured her lower back at work in 1989. In 2014, when the woman was in her 70s, she had a spinal fusion surgery and developed a difficulty in lifting the front part of her foot. She needed to use a cane and had difficulty maintaining her balance. She brought a workers’ compensation claim for the injury she sustained at work to authorize payment for her lawn care, attendant care, and treatment from a podiatrist, as well as home renovations.

Wheelchair BoundTo support her claim for home renovations, the woman hired a nurse to prepare a home assessment. The nurse made recommendations for home renovations, including a ramp, outdoor motion sensor lighting, and widened doors. The judge of compensation claims (JCC) awarded the woman all of the renovations recommended by the nurse, along with all of her other claims. The employer appealed the decision.

The state appellate court considered the award and affirmed the award for all of the services except for the home renovations. The appellate court determined there was not sufficient evidence to show that the home renovations were medically necessary. Under state law, the employer is required to provide compensation for treatment for injured workers, including any “medically necessary apparatus.” Under this statute, the employer may be responsible for providing an accessible living environment.

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