Most people think that Georgia workers’ compensation law covers employees who suffer“work-related” injuries. In other words, if you are doing something at work and suffer an injury, your medical treatment will be covered by the insurance company and you will be paid benefits while you are out of work. Unfortunately, recent court decisions have created some confusion regarding what injuries are covered by workers’ compensation and and what injuries are not. This blog post will discuss this issue and attempt to provide some clarification regarding how injured workers should address this problem.
What types of injuries are covered by Workers’ Compensation?
The general rule is that an employer (or their insurance company) must pay workers’ compensation benefits when an employee suffers an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment. “Arising out of and in the course of employment” are the words that are generally summed up as “work-related”.
The recent court decisions that have created some confusion have focused on the term “arising out of employment”. Georgia courts have previously said that the words “arising out of employment” basically means that the job caused the injury. However, recent court decisions have made it more difficult to prove that the job caused the injury. In one recent court decision, the court decided that a nurse who injured her knee while turning to give a glass of water to a patient did not have an injury arising out of the employment. Another very recent decision determined that a firefighter who injured her knee when she was following an order of her supervisor was not covered.
Most of us would think that a nurse is doing her job when she gives a cup of water to a patient. Most of us would also believe that a firefighter is doing her job when she follows a command from a supervisor. Nevertheless, these recent decisions concluded that the injuries in these cases were not covered by Georgia’s workers’ compensation law. To me, these decisions likely mean that you are not necessarily covered under Georgia workers’ compensation law even if you are injured while doing your job. You may have to prove a greater connection between your job and your injury.
When will this come up in my case?
If you are injured at work, your employer has 21 days to either accept or deny your claim. If you employer denies your claim, you will probably receive a Form WC-1 or Form WC-3 controverting (a fancy word for denying) your claim. Your employer or their insurance company will indicate the reason that your claim is being denied on this form. Often, they will say something like “the injury did not arise out of or in the course of the employment”.
If your claim is denied, it is important to understand that this is not the end of your case. You have a right to request a hearing and prove your case in court. This particular area of the law has always been complicated. Now, it is even more complicated than it used to be. With the recent court decision mentioned above, it may no longer be enough to prove that you were injured doing your job. You may have to prove more than that to make sure that you win your case and receive workers’ compensation benefits. Because of that, it is even more important than ever to have an attorney on your side that specializes in workers’ compensation cases.