Work Related Accidents
Facing the everyday challenges of life can be a bit like rolling a boulder up a hill. It seems like the job is never really finished no matter how hard you try. But it can get drastically more difficult. When you’re simply doing your job, a work-related injury can make those challenges feel even more frustrating and impossible to deal with.
If you’ve been the victim of a work-related accident, you have questions. Here are just a few:
- What does worker’s compensation cover in the event of a work-related accident?
- In Georgia, will worker’s comp pay for all of the damages I suffered in a work-related accident?
- What happens if I cannot work for the rest of my life?
- Can somebody other than my employer be responsible for work-related injuries?
- What proof will I need to win a work-related claim?
- What does Georgia’s worker’s compensation cover in the event of a work-related accident?
According to Georgia’s State Board of Worker’s compensation, workers’ compensation is an accident insurance program paid by your employer. (Look here for more complete information on benefits.) This insurance program may provide you with medical care and necessary rehabilitation. It can also provide you and your family with some income benefits if you are injured on the job. These benefits are meant to help you while you prepare to return to work. It can also provide benefits to your dependents if you die as a result of a job related injury.
In Georgia, will worker’s comp pay for all of the damages I suffered in a work-related accident?
Worker’s compensation insurance benefits do not cover all your damages. For example, if you were injured after June 30, 2013, you will be entitled to medical treatment for related injury for a maximum period of 400 weeks. If your injury is catastrophic or permanent, you may be entitled to lifetime benefits.
If you are not able to return to work right away, you may receive weekly benefits but they are paid at the rate of 2/3 your average weekly wage, with a maximum of $575.00 per week.
Your benefits may look small and completely out of proportion to what you’ve lost because of your work-related accident. What you may not know is that you may have additional resources to draw upon that a legal expert may be able to help you locate and take-advantage of.
What happens if I cannot work for the rest of my life?
Your doctor will determine whether or not you will be able to return to work. If you are permanently injured, that doctor will report on the extent of your injury based upon the Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, a guide published by the American Medical Association.
At the end of your treatment period, you may still receive benefits for a designated period of time. After that, you may wish to apply for permanent disability through Social Security.
Worker’s compensation is a limited program meant to help you return to work and is not designed to resolve issues of a permanent nature.
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Can somebody other than my employer be responsible for work-related injuries?
Absolutely. In many cases there are other negligent parties who can be held liable for your injuries. Don’t imagine that the only recourse you have following an on-the-job accident is worker’s compensation insurance.
It’s often possible in a work-related accident to recover damages from negligent parties so that you don’t have to rely entirely on your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance. For example, if your work requires you to do refrigeration work in a grocery store and you slip and fall on a cherry tomato in the produce aisle, you may be able to seek damages from the grocery store for their negligence in failing to keep their aisles safe for the public. There may be additional avenues for recovery following an accident – it’s a good idea to explore all of your options for recovery.
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Can somebody other than my employer be responsible for work-related injuries?
Sometimes. When you’re injured because of somebody else’s carelessness, as in the case above, you can file a claim in addition to your worker’s compensation claim, just as you would if you were not working when you were injured. The case then proceeds just like most other personal injury claims.
If you decide to file an action against the at-fault party, you could be eligible to receive payment for losses not covered by worker’s compensation insurance, including:
- Medical expenses
- Property Damages (To your car, for example.)
- Lost Income (At your full usual rate, not 2/3)
- Pain and suffering (Not just for you, but also some of the impacts of your injury suffered by your family that are not covered by worker’s compensation)
- Wrongful death
However, when worker’s compensation insurance pays for your medical care and lost wages, you may be expected to reimburse them if you receive compensation from the negligent party. We call this right to recover from your settlement a Subrogation Lien*
What proof will I need to win a work-related claim?
A worker’s injury claim is very similar to other injury claims caused by the negligence of somebody else. Some of the more common injuries involve the following:
- Car accidents – Motor vehicle incidents are among the leading causes of job-related injuries in the U.S. If your job duties included driving a car, and you were injured in a wreck, you may have a claim or lawsuit against the driver of the other vehicle (the third party in the liability claim) even if you were on the job when the accident happened. Third-party claims can, and often do, lead to a much larger financial recovery than Workers Compensation alone.
- Faulty/defective equipment – Malfunctioning machinery or equipment can cause injury or death at a jobsite. If you are a worker harmed by such equipment, there may be a case against the manufacturer and/or distributor of the equipment or machinery. There may also be a claim against an outside company for failing to properly maintain or repair your company’s equipment. Such a claim should be investigated if there were recalls, warnings or similar incidents pertaining to the equipment / machinery involved in your injury.
- Faulty design/supervision – In some cases, the jobsite itself is dangerous. For example, if you are injured in a construction accident, the general contractor, architect or engineer in charge of the construction project may have been negligent. This is often the case when a wall, stairway or even an entire building collapses.
- Property hazard – The owner of any property may have a legal responsibility to ensure that the property is safe for visitors. If you are an employee sent to work on a property owned by a company or an individual, and you are hurt there, you may have a worker injury claim if a dangerous condition on the property contributed to the accident. A property owner might be held accountable for the hazardous property conditions that caused your injury or illness.
When we examine injuries caused in these situations, we often find that the injury could and should have been prevented. Here is an example of a typical worker’s injury.
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Suzanne’s Story – A worker’s injury example
Suzanne is a pharmaceuticals sales representative. She represents her drug company at the local level, introducing physicians and hospitals to the products her employer makes.
Suzanne is thirty-two years old. She has been married eighteen months. She and her husband are looking forward to starting a family. For Suzanne and her husband Troy, life is full of potential for growth and success.
One summer afternoon, Suzanne is about to visit a local hospital’s Chief of Surgery to deliver samples of a revolutionary new surgical soap that will help eliminate the chapped raw skin from which many surgeons suffer. She is waiting at the intersection that leads into the hospital parking lot. She intends to make a right-hand turn and is in the appropriate lane.
In the lane to her left, the driver of an approaching hospital linen delivery truck realizes late that he is also supposed to turn at this intersection. He is new, nervous, and this is his first delivery to this particular hospital. The truck crosses Suzanne’s lane and crashes into the driver’s side of her vehicle smashing in the driver’s door and leaving Suzanne injured from the impact with her left side badly cut and torn by jagged edges of the door.
The trauma physician in the emergency room sees that Suzanne’s left leg has been nearly amputated in the wreck and works to stop the bleeding. In emergency surgery, the orthopedic surgeon determines that Suzanne’s leg cannot be saved and completes the amputation. Her other lacerations are stitched up and her left arm and shoulder immobilized with a cast.
Suzanne’s hospital bills and her lost wages will be covered by her employer’s workers compensation insurance, but who will compensate this young woman for the grief over her sudden disfigurement? How will she do her job without a leg? Suzanne and her husband are understandably devastated by the horrible consequences they face even though Suzanne did nothing wrong.
After a few days, Troy calls an Atlanta personal injury lawyer who agrees to meet with the couple at the hospital.
Suzanne will claim pain and suffering for her damages and her loss as well as costs for medical care. Worker’s compensation will cover some of this. She will be compensated by the worker’s compensation insurance for the loss of her leg according to a schedule or list of values given to various body parts by the insurance industry. This value is a conservative one that will be adjusted to reflect Suzanne’s young age.
Suzanne and Troy agree with their attorney that their losses are greater than what worker’s compensation insurance is likely to offer them. They decide to sue the negligent truck driver and his company in an additional action. They understand that the worker’s compensation insurance company may claim a portion of their settlement in this action according to the Subrogation Lien they have.
What proof is necessary in an On-the-Job Injury Claim?
This claim will proceed separately from the original worker’s compensation claim. It is essentially the same as any other car accident in all other ways except that the worker’s compensation insurance company may claim part of the settlement as noted above.
The first job will be to prove that the driver of the linen delivery truck was at fault. This should be fairly easy since the police cited the driver for several offenses including improper turning and failure to yield. The insurance company will allege that Suzanne was at fault for her own injuries since she did not seeing the truck coming, but those questions will be answered by the expert accident re-construction witness who will say that Suzanne couldn’t have reasonably known that he planned to turn since the truck was in the wrong lane and moving forward when she saw the truck.
Other witnesses to the accident will testify that the driver didn’t slow down before making the illegal right-hand turn in front of Suzanne.
Suzanne’s lawyers will allege that the driver of the truck did not know where he was going and that the driver was not properly trained to do his job.
How will a settlement amount be reached?
Once all the facts and evidence has been gathered, the attorneys will begin the process of coming to a settlement amount.
The hard costs to Suzanne and Troy are fairly easy to prove. By supplying a copy of the hospital bills and adding the projected costs for future treatment, cost for the purchase of and replacement and/or repair of prosthetic legs in the future, as well as the cost to replace Suzanne’s car which was totaled, Suzanne’s lawyers will have a solid claim amount.
The harder part of settlement negotiations is the more subjective business of assigning a value to things like mental anguish, pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, and Suzanne’s quality of life. This is where having a personal injury specialist is essential.
These figures are based upon other, similar cases that have already been settled. Your attorney’s knowledge of these factors is critical to your ultimate settlement. The more experience your law firm has, the more likely it is that you will be adequately compensated.
“I was very pleased with The Millar Law Firm, LLC! They were very professional and handled my case in a timely manner. One thing I really liked about the firm was that they gave me right expectation and was very honest. I was very pleased with the way they kept in contact with me. I was well advised and kept informed during the case. I would suggest that if you want an attorney who will be honest and go after your claim or case, choose The Millar Law Firm, LLC.”– Anthony Love