Stephen Hasner | Workers' Compensation | February 4, 2023
Georgia workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides benefits to employees who suffer work-related injury or illness. Workers’ comp is mandatory for most employers. When a workers’ compensation claim arises, an employee has 30 days to notify their employer of their claim. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation governs workers’ compensation insurance in Georgia.
How Workers’ Compensation Differs From Personal Injury Claims
The workers’ compensation system makes it easier for injured workers to obtain compensation for work-related injuries, and it prevents courts from becoming clogged with work-related claims. As such, it differs significantly from the personal injury compensation system in a number of ways.
Workers’ Comp Is a No-Fault System
Workers’ comp is mostly no-fault, in the sense that you can win a claim without proving that your employer was at fault, either directly or vicariously. You can even win your claim if the accident was your fault. This system differs dramatically from the personal injury compensation system.
You Cannot File a Lawsuit Against Your Employer
You must resolve your workers’ compensation claim through administrative channels, not in court. Nevertheless, you are entitled to a hearing, and you can appeal if you are dissatisfied with the initial decision. You enjoy the same due process rights that you would enjoy in court.
Your Damages Are Limited
You can only receive economic damages for a Georgia workers’ compensation claim. In most cases, that includes only medical expenses and lost earnings. You can receive 100% of your medical expenses arising from the accident, including rehabilitation, if you need it. If your injury was serious enough, you might even qualify for lifetime medical benefits.
For lost wages, you are entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wage up to a statutory maximum. Currently (early 2023), the maximum is $725.00 per week, but it increases periodically to account for inflation. If your injury was permanent, you might receive much more than this. Additionally, your family might receive substantial benefits if you die as a result of a work-related accident.
Third-Party Liability: The Great Loophole
Normally, fault for the accident that injured you lies with your employer, yourself, or a fellow employee. In all of these cases, the employer bears ultimate liability under generally accepted principles of personal injury law. This is because, under the legal principle of respondeat superior, an employer bears liability for the consequences of wrongful acts committed by their employee, at least if the employee committed the act within the scope of the employee’s work duties.
The situation changes, however, if you can identify a third party who is liable for your injuries. If you can do this, you can file an ordinary personal injury lawsuit. This third party might be:
- The owner of a construction site you were working on;
- A general contractor, if you were working for a subcontractor; or
- The driver of an automobile (or, more likely, the driver’s insurance company), if the driver caused an accident while you were on duty.
The disadvantage of suing a third party is that you will have to prove liability. The advantage is that you can seek non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering as well as emotional distress. This is a huge advantage because non-economic damages typically make up the lion’s share of damages in a personal injury claim.
You Have the Right To Retain a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Even though workers’ compensation claims don’t go to court, you still have the right to hire an attorney to help you with your claim. This attorney can provide you with legal advice, participate in settlement negotiations, and attend workers’ comp hearings with you. In almost all cases, your chances are much better with an attorney than without one.
Make sure to select an attorney with experience handling both workers’ compensation and ordinary personal injury cases. Workers’ comp cases differ radically from ordinary personal injury cases. Nevertheless, you might need a personal injury attorney if you manage to find a third party who is liable for your injury.
Contact the Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Hasner Law, P.C. For Help
We serve in Fulton County, Chatham County, and its surrounding areas: