Stephen Hasner | Workers' Compensation | December 10, 2021
Georgia’s workers’ compensation system covers most workplace injuries in Savannah. Workers’ compensation acts as insurance coverage for on-the-job accidents.
It provides income, medical, and rehabilitation benefits for works who sustain a workplace injury or illness. In addition, if a worker dies due to a workplace accident or illness, workers’ compensation provides death benefits to the worker’s surviving dependents.
Suing an Employer for Negligence After a Workplace Injury
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system. You are not required to prove negligence to receive workers’ comp benefits. All you need to establish is that you were injured while performing tasks during the ordinary course of employment.
However, there is a trade-off for not being required to prove negligence to receive workers’ comp benefits. In most cases, workers are not permitted to sue their employers for damages in a civil case. If workers’ compensation insurance covers the worker, they are limited to the benefits provided by worker’ comp.
Some exceptions exist. There are cases in which an injured worker could sue an employer for negligence in a civil lawsuit. The best way to know whether you have a negligence claim against your employer is to talk with a Savannah workplace injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Four Exceptions to the Workers’ Comp Rule for Employer Lawsuits
Depending on the facts of your case, you could be entitled to sue your employer for negligence after a workplace injury if:
Your Employer Intentionally Harmed You
Workers’ compensation laws do not protect employers from liability for damages resulting from an intentional act. If your employer intended to harm you, you could sue the employer for damages. However, this exception can be challenging to prove unless your employer assaulted you.
Your Employer Does Not Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Under Georgia law, employers must offer workers’ compensation benefits. The requirement protects employers from lawsuits. It also ensures employees have a quick and easy way to obtain medical treatment and income benefits if they are hurt on the job.
However, if your employer is exempt from providing workers’ comp benefits or neglected to obtain workers’ compensation insurance, you could sue your employer in civil court for damages.
Suing a Third Party for Negligence
You might not be able to sue your employer for negligence for a Georgia workplace injury. However, you might have a third-party claim against a party who caused your injury.
For example, let’s assume a defective machine or tool caused your injury. Then, you may have a claim against the manufacturer under product liability laws. Product liability laws hold parties legally liable for defective products that cause injuries.
If a motorist causes a traffic accident while you are driving a company vehicle, you may sue the other driver for damages. Likewise, if a subcontractor or property owner is responsible for causing your injury, you may receive additional compensation by pursuing a claim against those parties.
Deadlines for Filing Workplace Injury Claims
Generally, you must file a workers’ compensation claim within 30 days of your injury or discovery of an occupational illness. However, if a third party caused your injury, the Georgia statute of limitations sets the deadline for filing lawsuits.
A Savannah workplace injury attorney calculates the deadlines to file claims and lawsuits and monitors those deadlines throughout your case.
The insurance company and the employer make sure you give up your right to sue when you settle your workers’ compensation claim. The Receipt & Release you sign when you settle an injury claim at work contains language that releases the insurance provider and employer from all further liability for damages. The release applies to all past, present, and future claims.
Why Would an Employee Want to Sue an Employer for a Workplace Injury?
Workers’ compensation benefits do not compensate injured workers for all damages. Workers’ comp benefits pay for reasonable and necessary medical treatment. However, it only covers a portion of lost wages caused by a workplace injury or illness.
Furthermore, workers’ compensation does not cover pain and suffering damages. It also does not cover many out-of-pocket expenses incurred because of a workplace injury. By filing a civil lawsuit against the employer or a third party, an injured worker may recover compensation for all types of damages.
Damages that might be included in a civil claim include:
- Reimbursement for all medical expenses and costs
- The cost of personal care and assistance with household chores
- Long-term nursing care or personal care
- Reimbursement for all lost wages, including future loss of income and reductions in earning potential
- Pain and suffering caused by physical injuries
- Loss of enjoyment of life and quality of life
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Full compensation for disfigurement, impairments, and disabilities
You could recover a much larger settlement for a workplace injury by pursuing a third-party claim or lawsuit against your employer. A Savannah workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate your case to determine if you have a valid civil claim for negligence against your employer or another party. Contact our Savannah personal injury lawyers to discuss your case.