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GA Supreme Court Bars Catastrophically Injured Worker From Workers Compensation Benefits3 minute read

I have discussed the harshness of the O.C.G.A. 34-9-104 change in condition statute of limitations in previous articles on this blog.  The harshness of workers compensation deadlines has harmed yet another injured worker.

The Georgia Supreme Court recently decided the case of Roseburg Forest Products Company v. Barnes.  Mr. Barnes’ leg was amputated below the knee as a result of a work-related injury.  His injury was designated as catastrophic.

Despite this devastating injury, Mr. Barnes returned to work for his employer, Georgia Pacific, with a prosthetic leg.  He continued working for his employer for over 15 years.  He even continued working when the plant was sold to another company.  This continued work worsened his injury and he was eventually laid off in 2009.

How Mr. Barnes’ case got to the Georgia Supreme Court

Because he was unable to work as a result of his work related injury, Mr. Barnes requested a hearing to prove his entitlement to temporary total disability benefits.  However, he was not even given the opportunity to present his case because a judge held that it had been too long since he had received benefits for being out of work.  That judge held that the law prevented Mr. Barnes from ever getting additional wage loss benefits for his injury.

Mr. Barnes appealed this decision.  The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the judge’s decision and held that Mr. Barnes could present his case for additional temporary Workers who suffer catastrophic amputations injuries need to know about their workers' compensation benefitstotal disability benefits.  The workers’ compensation insurance company appealed that decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The Georgia Supreme Court’s decision and what it means for Mr. Barnes and other injured workers

Unfortunately for Mr. Barnes and other injured workers, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded that the initial judge in Mr. Barnes’ case interpreted the law correctly.  They decided that O.C.G.A. 34-9-104 (commonly known as the “change in condition” statute of limitations) prevented from getting any wage loss benefits even if his injury kept him from doing any work at all.

The Georgia Supreme Court’s decision means that a catastrophically injured worker who goes back to work and works more than two years without getting wage loss benefits cannot ever get those benefits again.  This decision greatly discourages injured workers from returning to work.  Injured workers will risk the ability to get future wage loss benefits when they do return to work.

I strongly believe that it is unfair to punish Mr. Barnes for working.  Both the employer and workers’ compensation insurance company knew that Mr. Barnes had a severe injury that was always going to limit his ability to work.  They were still paying for medical treatment.  Why should the employer get to avoid responsibility for future wage loss benefits if Mr. Barnes has a catastrophic workers’ compensation injury that prevents him from working?

Unfortunately, the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision will be the law in Georgia unless the Georgia legislature changes O.C.G.A. 34-9-104.  The effects of this decision can be devastating to injured workers like Mr. Barnes.

All injured workers need to know the different deadlines that apply to Georgia workers’ compensation claims.  Failing to know these deadlines often results in the loss of some or all benefits you should receive.

What if I have other questions about workers compensation?

Georgia’s workers compensation system can be very confusing.  You have to worry about getting the treatment you need and paying your bills while also worrying about not missing any deadlines that could cause you to lose your right to receive workers compensation benefits.

If you have questions, I would recommend that you try to get answers.  To find out more about how to schedule a time to talk to me about your workers compensation questions, just read this short article.

Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers.  He regularly publishes videos and write blog articles about Georgia’s workers compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families.

To be notified of Jason’s new workers compensation videos, subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation Video Series channel on YouTube by clicking the subscribe button below.

Brittney-lee orourkeBrittney-lee orourke
05:23 18 Feb 22
Amazing! Jason and his team were very helpful and had the best communication by far. Walked me though every step with great detail and had answers for any question I had. They handled my case better then I could imagine, it was a weird case and they stayed on top of it and kept me updated every step of the way! Highly recommend this Team! Thanks so much to Jason and his Awesome team!-Brittney
China JonesChina Jones
18:58 08 Feb 22
I absolutely love this group of attorneys, when I was at my lowest they did everything they could to help me get justice for my injury. I believe if I were to have never picked my phone up and called the amazing group that helped me I definitely would not have received my idea of rights. If you have an issue and are just not sure please understand that they will help you, stay in contact, answer any question you have, and for sure get you the justice you deserve I thank them from the bottom of my heart and I will definitely refer them to anyone who has been hurt because they most definitely care about their work and clients.
Luv LocsLuv Locs
16:08 15 Jan 22
The entire law office was attentive and responsive to all of my concerns dealing with my workers compensation case.
moombimoombi
21:14 02 Jan 22
If you must get a lawyer involved, you’d do well to work with Jason Perkins and his team at Perkins Studdard Law.They were thorough in gathering information and in sharing all the steps in the workers comp process specific to my case. Jason and the team were responsive to my bevy of questions and concerns.I appreciated the informative videos and consultations provided by Jason over video meetings and multiple phone calls.I hope I’m never injured on the job again. However, if I am and if my employer responds as my previous employer did, I’ll contact Perkins Studdard Law immediately to handle the case.
Dana BessDana Bess
23:57 10 Dec 21
Everyone at Perkins Studdard was kind and professional. They were always extremely responsive and answered all questions that I had and followed up to make sure I had an understanding of what was going on along with emailing videos to explain every step of my case so I would know what to expect and be prepared. Jason is a very genuine person and I trusted him with my case. He answered so many questions for me even before I retained him as my WC lawyer. I highly recommend him and his associates at Perkins Studdard.
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