Articles Tagged with Georgia workers’ compensation

Lawmakers in Oklahoma passed legislation three years ago that gave companies the ability to “opt out” of the state’s workers’ compensation system and write their own plans. It was yet another example of the gradual whittling away of injured workers’ rights across the country. Large companies were emboldened by this success and began lobbying heavily for similar measures in other states, including Georgia. 

Then came the stories about how unfair this opt-out system was for workers. Suddenly, employers were responsible for setting the terms of which injuries they would cover and which they would not. Workers were held to varying standards about when they had to report their workplace injuries. Some were given a month, others just a day. A worker at one company might be paid a certain amount for a finger amputation, while another might receive far less. Many workers were having to rely on taxpayer-funded programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, to cover the cost of their work-related injuries.

Now, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ended the opt-out program in that state. In Vasquez v. Dillard’s, the court declared Oklahoma’s version of opt-out unconstitutional. The court reasoned these opt-out plans treated one group of workers differently from all others in the state. The primary example given was the amount of time workers had to report claims at this retail store:  just one day. Normally, workers in the state have 30 days.

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It’s not uncommon in Georgia workers’ compensation claims for employers or insurers to dispute causation in order to avoid having to pay the claim. This is especially true in cases where the worker was seriously injured and may require temporary total disability payments or some type of permanent disability payments, partial or total.

Proving causation does not mean you have to show that you never before suffered injury to the body part in question. Rather, it means that those prior injuries or conditions are not the primary cause of the ailments of your claim. If a work-related accident or incident exacerbates a previous injury, it can be considered causative, particularly if the worker was able to do his or her job just fine prior to that.

In the recent case of Nichols v. Fairway Bldg. Prods., the question of causation was a main focus. The claimant sought workers’ compensation for an on-the-job back injury that required several surgeries. He asserted that he was totally and permanently disabled and his doctor claimed, with a reasonable amount of medical certainty, that the cause was his work injury, a forklift accident. Continue reading

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration is fighting against a federal magistrate’s ruling denying the agency a warrant that would allow it to inspect a poultry plant in Gainesville, Georgia for alleged worker safety violations. The U.S. Magistrate stated that federal regulators first must set forth clear probable cause, or else inspections end up becoming “tools of harassment.” In this case, the judge held, this standard had not been met.

OSHA is appealing.

Although the agency already conducted a cursory search of the facility, it had requested an expanded inspection. The magistrate, however, held that the probable cause standard wasn’t met and, interestingly, could not be met solely on the basis of a worker’s complaint or a reported work injury. OSHA had asserted that those should be reason enough, but even so, this was a situation where there were high numbers of work-related injuries. The agency believes the company to be not only in violation of serious safety rules but also poor record-keeping practices. Continue reading

The goal for most injured employees collecting workers’ compensation is to eventually return to work. However, doing so can have consequences for your benefits. That’s why it’s important to consult with your lawyer before returning to work. 

In addition to the coverage of medical bills, workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia are supposed to cover a portion of wage losses if a person is unable to work for a time. Even if that person returns to work, they may still collect some of those benefits – but only if they are earning less than they did before as a result of their disability.

A worker who earns more than they did before while still collecting benefits may find themselves running afoul of the system. Take for example the recent case of State ex rel. Perez v. Indus. Comm’n, a case recently weighed by the Ohio Supreme Court.  Continue reading

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has fined a Georgia company for failing to protect workers on at least seven different occasions from fall hazards. Workers were reportedly exposed to hazards of up to 13 feet on an Alabama project site. 

The company, a masonry firm, was fined $130,000. OSHA inspectors reportedly observed employees toiling on second-story scaffolding with no personal fall arrest system or guardrails. There was also allegedly no safe access or egress from the scaffolding via a sturdy ladder.

OSHA reportedly had investigators who came out to inspect this particular project on six different occasions over the course of five years and it has cited the company for fall hazards on each and every one of those visits.  Continue reading

Opioid prescriptions in Georgia workers’ compensation cases are down nearly 20 percent, according to a study released recently by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute

Study authors credit the reduction with changes made at the federal, state and organizational levels in recent years intended to combat opioid overuse, abuse and overdose among injured workers.

It’s been a tough balancing act because those injured in Atlanta work accidents are genuinely grappling with pain. But the question has been raised whether the commonly-prescribed opioids were the best way to deal with that in the vast majority of cases. In fact, workers prescribed opioids on the whole take longer to return to work. Further, because of the noted danger of these medications, workers who suffered an overdose or developed addictions often sought coverage for these secondary claims as well.  Continue reading

In Georgia workers’ compensation cases, a “fictional new injury” occurs when an employee is injured on-the-job, but then continues to perform his or her work duties until he or she has to stop because the condition gradually worsens and, at least partially because he or she continued working after the injury.

This differs from what we understand to mean a “change in condition.” A fictional new injury is one in which duties performed at work after the initial injury actually served to make the injury worse.

This was the claim in Rosenburg Forest Products v. Barnes, recently before the Georgia Supreme Court. Continue reading

Workers’ compensation laws provide that employers who provide workers’ compensation insurance benefits to qualified employees are typically immune from personal injury litigation stemming from workplace injuries and occupational diseases. That’s why workers’ compensation is sometimes referred to as the “exclusive remedy” for workers. 

But questions regarding who is an employer and who is required to provide workers’ compensation insurance and who is a “third party” for legal purposes can be complex, particularly on a construction site. That’s because there are so many different entities – from site owners to general contractors to subcontractors.

When workers are injured on-the-job at a construction site, they should seek guidance from an attorney to explore all possible options.  Continue reading

A Georgia work injury that occurred last year when a fire broke out at a manufacturing plant in Winterville has resulted in a citation from the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA), which asserts the Japanese-based manufacturer violated health and safety protocol. 

The agency has proposed penalties totaling $145,000 for one willful, 18 serious and one other-than-serious health and safety violations that reportedly resulted in a Georgia worker suffering burns on 80 percent of his body. Investigators say the 33-year-old maintenance worker was the victim of the indifference to safety displayed by his auto parts manufacturer employer in September 2015.

The severity of the worker’s injury has resulted in an intensive and long-term recovery process. He sustained third-degree burns on most of his upper body. The worker was reportedly operating a dust collector at the time of the incident.  Continue reading

Many employers require workers to immediately report on-the-job injuries – no matter how small – as part of their company policy. Some take that provision too far and it borders on retaliation when workers do report the injury.

But O.C.G.A. 34-9-81.1 does require that employees report the accident immediately – but no later than 30 days after the accident – to the employer, employer’s representative, foreman or immediate supervisor. The statute specifically states that failure to do so could result in the loss of benefits.

There may be some allowances for instances in which a worker didn’t immediately realize he or she was injured or did not reasonably know the cause of the injury. But in general, as soon as you know you have suffered a work injury, you must report it.  Continue reading