Most people who suffer a work-related injury or illness realize they can file a workers’ compensation claim to address the matter. But what happens when they are not fully compensated for their injuries? Is there any recourse? A workers’ compensation Savannah attorney will explain that under certain circumstances there may be potential grounds for a lawsuit.
What Workers’ Compensation Means
The underlying premise of workers’ compensation is that an injured worker relinquishes the right to file a lawsuit against the employer that claims negligence in exchange for medical treatment, lost wages, and vocational rehabilitation — when appropriate. The worker need not prove any lack of care or other fault on behalf of the employer, only that the injury was related to the course of employment. The system was designed to expedite the worker’s claim and avoid the myriad of lawsuits that otherwise would flood the nation’s courtrooms.
In some cases there are denials of claims and the extent and scope of benefits must be approved. Workers’ compensation typically deals with the majority of employee/employer issues. Unfortunately, some matters require more than a simple workers’ compensation claim.
An Employer’s Intentional or Egregious Conduct Outside the Scope of Work
Reinforcing the general rule, Georgia is among a minority of states that specifically enforces statute codes that prohibit an employee filing suit against an employer. All work-related matters are to be addressed through workers’ compensation. However, this may not apply if the employer’s actions are so far removed from what may be considered the scope of work, beyond the purview of the statute.
Third Party Liability
Litigation between employee and employer may be precluded under typical workers’ comp situations, but there is nothing in the rules, regulations and court cases interpreting the issues that prevent an injured worker from seeking damages from a third party when appropriate. Because of the dollar limitation on workers’ comp recovery and the prohibition on punitive damages, a third party may be liable under one of these theories:
- Defective product – If a worker was injured at work using a machine, for instance, it may be possible to prove the equipment was in some manner defective. Strict liability may apply based on the facts and circumstances of the defect.
- Exposure to toxins – Toxic exposure injuries can sometimes be immediate and related to a single incident. More often, they are the product of long-term exposure and, therefore, not discernable for some time. The case becomes salient when determining whether the employer or the third party were responsible for the presence of the toxin.
- An independent contractor at the workplace – Many employers hire independent contractors who work alongside their employees. A construction site is a prime example. If the facts regarding the employee’s injuries support a conclusion that both the employer and the contractor share responsibility for the injury, the worker may have both a workers’ comp claim and a civil lawsuit for negligence against the contractor.
If you feel you have been less than fully compensated for your workplace injury, contact the workers’ compensation Savannah law firm with the most compassionate and experienced lawyers, Tate Law Group.