You may assume that if your employer is negligent and you’re injured as a result, you can file a personal injury suit against the company. It’s a logical assumption. After all, if you’re grocery shopping and slip on a floor that hasn’t been properly cleaned after a spill, you can pursue a personal injury case, alleging that the store was negligent. Many people reasonably expect that the situation is similar if you’re working at the grocery store when you slip and fall. However, under Georgia law, the two situations are treated very differently.
In Georgia, an injured worker typically can’t sue his or her employer.
Workers’ Compensation is an Exclusive Remedy
The Georgia workers’ compensation system helps ensure that injured workers have access to medical care and temporary or permanent disability benefits. Generally, these benefits–at least, basic benefits like medical coverage–are available much more quickly than an injured person could secure compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. The injured worker also doesn’t have to prove that the employer was negligent or in some way caused the accident.
Unfortunately, the less stringent requirements and more efficient process come at a price. Workers’ compensation benefits are generally much more limited than the compensation one might receive through a personal injury lawsuit. For example:
- In a lawsuit, the injured party can pursue compensation for 100% of lost income. However, workers’ compensation benefits pay only ⅔ of average weekly income, and only up to a cap. Currently, the cap is $675/week, meaning that anyone earning more than about $35,000/year will see a drop in income. For higher earners, that drop may be significant.
- In a lawsuit, the injured party can pursue compensation for intangible or “non-economic” damages such as pain and suffering. But, workers’ compensation benefits are limited to specific categories set forth in the statute, largely limited to medical care and partial replacement income.
- Benefits for dependents of an employer who is killed on the job are also capped at $675/week and may last for no more than 400 weeks–about four years and eight months. Compensation in a wrongful death case may be much more significant, and may be available to family members and other beneficiaries who are not entitled to workers’ compensation survivor’s benefits.
In short, a personal injury or wrongful death suit will usually allow for more compensation than a workers’ compensation claim. But, with very few exceptions, the injured worker will not be able to pursue a direct claim against the employer.
Protect Your Workers’ Compensation Rights
Though the Georgia workers’ compensation was designed to make securing benefits simpler and to minimize conflict between the employee and employer, workers’ compensation claims aren’t always straightforward. When the injury is serious and the disability long-term or permanent, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier or self-insured employer has an incentive to minimize payout.
If you encounter problems or delays with your workers’ compensation claim, or have simply suffered a significant injury and need to ensure that you’re receiving fair compensation, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney.
Third Party Liability for Work-Related Injuries
Although workers’ compensation is meant to be an exclusive remedy as to the employer, a third party may be responsible for or share responsibility for the injury. For example, a truck driver who is injured in a traffic accident while making a delivery may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, but may also have a personal injury claim against the driver who caused the accident. Another example might include an injury on a construction site, where multiple different contractors are working on a project and the employee of another contractor negligently caused the injury.
Explore All of Your Options When You’ve Been Injured on the Job
Not every personal injury attorney handles workers’ compensation claims. And, not every workers’ compensation attorney has experience with motor vehicle accident cases, premises liability claims, and other types of claims that may be available to a person who has been injured on the job.
The best way to ensure that you don’t miss out on opportunities to secure the benefits and compensation you need to move forward after a work injury is to consult with an attorney who is well versed in both workers’ compensation and personal injury law.
Atlanta attorney ReShea Balams fights for maximum compensation for people who have suffered injuries on the job, and represents Atlanta-area clients in both workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. The Balams Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations so injury victims can gather the information they need to make good decisions in difficult times. You can schedule yours right now by calling 855-352-2727 or filling out the contact form on this page.