I’ve Been Injured at Work. Can I Sue My Employer?
Can I sue my employer? One of the most common misconceptions people have about work-related injuries is that you must sue your employer to get compensated for your injury on the job.
This is entirely untrue, yet it comes up again and again.
Here’s the thing: People have big ideas when they think about suing someone.
Many see dollar signs. Some see fear or shame.
No matter what you think when you question if you should sue your employer, the truth is that, in Georgia, you cannot sue your employer for work injuries.
This also means your employer doesn’t have to fear that their employees will sue if they are injured at work.
Let me explain.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 24.8 million visits to physician offices for unintentional injuries yearly.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, “Over 78,000 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported among Georgia’s private industry employers in 2019.”
In other words, many unintentional injuries occur every year, and many of those injuries are work-related. If all of these employees sued their employers for pain and suffering, businesses across the country would go bankrupt.
Moreover, if employees couldn’t prove their employer was at fault, they would not receive the financial help they need to cover job loss or medical bills.
Hence the reason workers’ compensation insurance is necessary and beneficial.
David Goguen explains, “Before states enacted workers’ compensation laws around the turn of the 20th century, the only remedy that injured workers had against their employers was to sue them for negligence. If the employer was not negligent, or if the employee did not sue or bring a claim against the employer, the employee got nothing.”
So, where does that leave you if you have been injured on the job and want to sue your employer?
Let’s break it down.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Under Georgia law, employers that have three or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance so that, in the event of a workplace injury, employees can be compensated for medical treatment, lost wages, and permanent disability.
Workers’ compensation may also provide benefits to dependents of work-related death victims.
Often, people think workers’ compensation is a lawsuit against their employer for being injured on the job. For this reason, many workers hesitate to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Instead of thinking of it as a lawsuit, think of workers’ comp as a request for benefits. It’s essentially an insurance claim – not a lawsuit. You, as a worker, are a beneficiary on your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy. They pay premiums to cover their workers for work accidents.
According to Georgia workers’ comp law, workers’ compensation ensures employees can secure benefits and receive benefits if injured on the job. It is important to note that you cannot recover compensation for pain and suffering in a workers’ compensation claim.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim is a different type of law altogether.
Personal injury law is there for those who have suffered an injury at the hands (or fault) of someone else. With personal injury law, you can file a civil lawsuit to receive damages (aka compensation) for your losses that resulted from someone else’s negligence.
The key to personal injury is that it requires proving fault. Therefore, if you cannot prove someone else is at fault for your personal injury, you don’t have a claim.
Personal injury is also associated with “pain and suffering.” When people talk about suing for pain and suffering, they tend to be discussing personal injury claims, such as car accidents.
The Difference between Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claims
Perhaps people’s biggest misconception about work injuries is believing it means you sue your employer.
For one thing, workers’ compensation is receiving benefits, not suing your employer for pain and suffering. In fact, you cannot sue your employer for pain and suffering because of workers’ compensation law.
A personal injury claim is based on a completely different set of laws that allow monetary recovery for pain and suffering in those cases that involve negligence.
In contrast, a work injury claim against your employer is not a personal injury claim and, as a result, does not allow for any monetary compensation for pain and suffering.
Workers’ compensation ensures employees can secure benefits as a result of workplace injuries and pays benefits according to Georgia workers’ compensation law.
Another big difference between workers’ compensation and personal injury is finding fault.
With workers’ compensation, there is no fault required. This means you can still receive benefits even if you don’t prove the employer was at fault and even if the accident was your fault.
However, you must prove fault to win your case with personal injury.
Rare Combination Cases
On rare occasions, if your work injury was caused by another person or business not related to your employer (a third party), then you may actually have two claims: a workers’ compensation claim against the employer (no pain and suffering) AND a personal injury claim (pain and suffering) against that third party who caused your injuries.
An excellent example of this is car accidents. Let’s say you were injured while you were driving for your job. In this case, you file a workers’ compensation claim because you were hurt on the job. You may also file a personal injury claim because you were injured by a third party (not your employer or co-worker).
What Benefits Am I Entitled to If I Am Injured on the Job in Georgia?
Don’t mistakenly believe that, just because you can’t sue your employer, you will be up the creek without a paddle.
Workers’ compensation benefits are intended to help you while you are out of work.
Workers’ comp helps provide compensation for medical treatment, rehabilitation, income benefits, and permanent disability.
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Georgia workers’ comp law has strict guidelines to determine which of the three types of benefits you are entitled to as a result of being injured on the job.
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD): This type of compensation applies if an authorized treating physician declares you can’t work at all. Additionally, it applies when your authorized treating physician says you can perform light-duty work, but there is none available.
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD): This type of compensation applies if your authorized treating physician clears you to return to work, but only in a light-duty capacity. Due to this prognosis, you earn less money because you have reduced work hours or are making less due to demotion.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD): This type of compensation typically occurs at the end of a claim when your authorized treating physician says you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) – which is just another way of saying, “This is your new normal.”
Ultimately, the workers’ comp insurance benefits you receive are determined on an individual case basis.
Additionally, workers’ comp in Georgia covers more than lost income benefits.
Georgia workers’ compensation should cover all expenses related to care and treatment due to a work-related injury.
Medical benefits should also cover:
- Assistive devices (walkers or wheelchairs)
- Prescription drugs
- Mileage to and from doctors’ appointments
- Meals and lodging for out-of-town medical appointments
Make sure you keep up with all your receipts so you can submit them for reimbursement.
Don’t wait until the end of the claim to submit for reimbursement as there may be a statute of limitations.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
It’s important to understand that workers’ compensation is not a lawsuit like a personal injury claim.
Any lawyer who tries to entice you to sign up with them by promising you a certain settlement number is unethical and is lying to you.
Unfortunately, some lawyers out there try to steal clients from other lawyers by making guarantees or promises they can’t keep, such as ensuring you’ll get a certain amount of money.
[Related Read: 12 Questions to Ask a Workers’ Comp Attorney Before You Hire One]
With that being said, every case is different. If you have one of the rare cases where you suffered a personal injury that occurred by fault of a third party (such as another driver or parts manufacturer), you may be able to sue this third party in addition to receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
The best way to ensure you are getting what you deserve for your unique case is to work with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Georgia.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.
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