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I’m Hurt at Work. What are My Options? Workers’ Comp or a Personal Injury Claim… or Both?

Posted by James Paisley | Feb 05, 2018



What is Workers' Compensation? – It's the money that covers you if you are hurt at work. It's a no fault administrative remedy to collect money for your injuries at work regardless of who was at fault. Even if you are at work and you did somethinag ridiculously negligent that caused your own injury, you can still recover. Ideally – if you hire a lawyer, It can pay for lost wages, medical expenses, future medical expenses, etc. Paisley Law doesn't handle workers' compensation claims but we work with many lawyers that only practice workers' compensation. But many times there is also a 3rd party personal injury claim along with the workers' comp claim – personal injury claims can make up for the short comings of the workers' comp system.

You can't sue your employer, right? Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11, the exclusive remedy provision of the Georgia Workers' Compensation Act provides that an employee's rights and remedies under the act exclude all other rights an employee may have as a result of a work place accident that causes injury, loss of service, or death to an employee EXCEPT the right to bring an action against the third party tortfeasor. So if someone unrelated to your employers hurts you at work, you should in most cases be able to sue that unrelated 3rd party that hurt you along with making the workers' comp claim at the same time. An example of this would be if you're transporting materials for work and some random person runs a stop sign and hits your car. You're entitled to workers' comp benefits as well as going after the tortfeasor that T-boned you. We have 1 case that I'll go over with you that involves a workers' comp and a personal injury case – it's a little more complicated:

  • ---For confidentiality reasons, all names have been changed--- Belinda is employed by Nurses Inc. as a nurse. Nurse's Inc. is contracted by Atlanta Medical Facility to provide professional nurse services for the AMF location. AMF also contracts out its physicians, valet service, specialty surgeons, etc. Belinda receives paychecks from Nurse's inc., and is not employed at all by AMF. Last year Belinda was pushing her workstation into a patient's room when she slipped on a wet cleaning substance and fell down on the floor. She broke her tailbone, and the 100 lb. workstation collapsed on top of her. The wet cleaning substance was put down by Chad, an employee of Suds Cleaning, Inc. (Suds Cleaning is a contracted cleaning service that is contracted out by AMF much like Nurses Inc.) Chad never put down a warning sign to use caution - liability is not in question.

  • Who can Belinda bring a personal injury negligence claim against?

    i. AMF

    ii. Nurses, Inc.

    iii. Chad

    iv. Chad's employer, Suds Cleaning

AMF – because of their corporate setup they would likely be held here to be a “statutory employer.” Even though Belinda doesn't get her checks from AMF, because AMF acts as the “principal contractor” for many other subcontractors like Nurse's Inc, and Suds, they would likely be granted that “statutory employer” status and thus be protected by Georgia's Exclusive Remedy Doctrine. So although maybe Belinda could bring workers' comp claims against either company, she would likely not be able to sue either one even if AMF admits they had a duty to ensure the hallways are kept safe and clean and free from danger. Note – our firm would still name AMF in a 3rd party action, and shift the burden to them to prove they are a statutory employer under the Code. AMF will still present valuable information to this lawsuit: videos, reports of the incident, pictures, etc.

Nurses. Inc – This is Belinda's immediate employer and she cannot sue them pursuant to Georgia's Exclusive Remedy Doctrine

Chad – Chad has no employment relationship with Belinda, but he likely won't have deep enough pockets to pay any of the expenses associated with Belinda's medical bills, although he still could be named in the lawsuit. Chad still will have valuable information regarding his company's cleaning procedures.

Suds – They are the employer of the 3rd party tortfeasor, so they are liable in a general theory of negligence action. Suds will likely have a large general liability insurance policy, so in this scenario, Suds will likely be our primary Defendant in a personal injury action.

If you have been hurt at work, you might not know what to do. You might be worried about your employer retaliating against you if you make a claim. It is possible to only sue the 3rd party tortfeasor and NOT pursue the worker's comp claim. Regardless of your situation of being injured on the job, call our office ask to speak with attorney James Paisley. We don't charge a penny unless we win your case.

James Paisley is a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta, GA, and managing partner at Ferguson & Paisley, L.L.C. He fights for victim's rights when they are hurt due to someone's negligence. Call him directly at 404.618.0960.

About the Author

James Paisley

Firm Founder + Senior Partner Born and raised in Georgia, Attorney James earned an undergraduate degree at Georgia Tech, graduating with high honors. Afterwards, he went on to study law at Florida State University, where he also graduated near the top of his class. James began his legal career i...

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