It seems like an Atlanta workers' compensation case should be fairly straightforward - if you get hurt at work, you get benefits, right?
Although workers' compensation was designed to make things easier for employees who are injured on the job by taking the case out of the court system and providing for benefits that begin immediately after an injury or shortly thereafter, not every case is "easy."
Employers and their insurance companies may deny a claim based on one of several defenses available to them under the law, and, even if the claim is not denied, there may be disagreements about the nature and extent of the employee's injury and vocational disability arising from it.
Which kinds of defenses do employers and insurance companies have in a workers' compensation case?
One of the most common defenses is failure to give timely notice of the accident, injury, or illness for which the employee seeks benefits. Under Georgia workers' compensation law, an employee should report any accident that occurs on the job "immediately." Per the State Board of Workers' Compensation website, "If you wait longer than 30 days, you may lose your benefits."
The requirement of giving notice is separate from the formal filing of a claim. A claim must be filed with the Board within a year of the accident, or else the employer or its insurance company may have a defense based on the statute of limitations.
It is important to note that there are some situations in which a person may be injured on the job, and someone other than the employer may potentially be held liable. Separate deadlines apply to those claims and may serve to shorten the employee's time for taking legal action. For instance, an employee might be hurt by a defective piece of equipment, making a product liability lawsuit a possibility; in this situation, there is both a statute of limitations that runs from the time of the accident and a statute of repose that runs from the time the product entered the stream of commerce.
Assuming that I give timely notice and file my claim within a year, is there anything else that can go wrong?
Unfortunately, yes. In order to be compensable, a work-related injury must be "in the course and scope" of the worker's employment. There are some circumstances in which an employer or insurer may be able to argue that an accident did not happen within the course and scope of the claimant's employment. For example, if a delivery driver diverts from his usual route in order to run a personal errand, the employer may argue that an accident that happened during the errand was not covered by workers' compensation.
Also, the employer may assert that what the employee reported as a "work injury" in fact happened elsewhere - at home, during a hobby, in a motor vehicle accident, etc. Alternatively, the employer may admit that an employee was involved in an accident at work but argue that he or she is not disabled from working or that he or she is malingering.
How can I get advice about my case?
Atlanta workers' compensation attorney T. Andrew Miller will be glad to talk to you about your case. The sooner you call, the sooner you can learn more about your legal rights, including issues such as medical care, temporary total disability benefits, and compensation for permanent disability. For a free consultation, call the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, at 678-894-4758 today.