Working on a construction site is a dangerous activity. Heavy equipment, multiple people working at the same time, and hazardous environments are just a few of the things that can cause a construction worker to sustain a severe or, in some cases, fatal injury. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there were 5,190 workers killed on the job in 2016 equaling roughly 99 deaths per week or 14 fatalities a day. Of the 4,693 worker fatalities involving privately employed workers, approximately 21.1% of these fatalities were in the construction industry with falls being the most common cause of death. In Georgia specifically, privately employed workers in the construction industry sustain injuries at a rate of about 3 injuries per 100 full-time workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and there were an estimated 4,600 recordable injuries in 2016 in the construction industry with 2,100 of these cases being categorized as injuries that required the worker to miss days from work.
This means that roughly six privately employed construction workers sustained an injury that required them to miss days from work every day in 2016, but these workers aren’t just a statistic. They are fathers, mothers, and family members that need things like medical care, lost wages, and medication in order to recover from their injuries and survive financially during the recovery process, but many employers don’t view a workers’ compensation accident in the same way as the workers’ compensation lawyers at Cambre and Associates. To them, a workplace accident means they will have to pay higher insurance premiums or increased costs, which is why the relationship between a worker and their employer can deteriorate so quickly after a worker sustains an injury. As such, if you have been injured in a construction accident in Georgia, there are some specific rules regarding the workers’ compensation system in our state that you should be aware of.
Workers’ Compensation in Georgia
As an injured worker, you and your employer have certain obligations under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. As such, it is important for you to understand exactly what these obligations are to ensure that you don’t inadvertently hinder your ability to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Moreover, understanding some of the key legal requirements for employers regarding workers compensation insurance and benefits can prove to be invaluable throughout the life of your claim.
Who is Required to Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
Georgia law requires most employers with three or more full-time, part-time, or seasonal workers to carry workers compensation benefits pursuant to the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 34-9-121 and O.C.G.A. § 34-9-2. However, there are certain types of companies that are exception from this rule which are listed below:
- Railroad Carriers
- U.S. Government Agencies
- Farm Laborers
- Domestic servants such as personal maids, butlers, nannies, etc.
In the construction industry specifically, the factors influencing what types of workers count as employees are important, because many construction companies are small. If the company you work for is a corporation, the officers of the corporation count as workers with respect to the three or more rule. If the company you work for is a sole proprietorship or partnership, the owner or owners are not considered workers. As such, if you are working for a sole proprietor that employs both you and one other employee, your employer may not be required to carry workers compensation insurance. If you have been involved in an accident at work and aren’t sure whether or not your employer has insurance, you can look up your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance information, or lack thereof, online on the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation website.
Workplace Accidents Involving Employees of a Subcontractor in Georgia
In the construction industry, subcontracting is a very common occurrence, and most general contractors require their subcontractors to carry workers’ compensation insurance for a reason. If you are employed by a subcontractor on a construction project and find out after sustaining an injury that your employer was not carrying workers’ compensation insurance, you may be able to bring a claim for workers’ compensation benefits under the insurance policy of the company that contracted with your employer to perform work on the construction project.
This ability is afforded to workers’ under O.C.G.A.§34-9-8, which states that a principal, intermediate, or subcontractor shall be liable for compensation to any employee injured while in the employ of any of his subcontractors engaged upon the subject matter of the contract to the same extent as the immediate employer. However, as with many things in law, the benefit that is afforded to you under O.C.G.A.§34-9-8 comes at a cost that specifically manifests itself when your accident is caused by a intermediate or general contractor.
Can I Sue Another Company that was Responsible for My Accident?
Under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11, the workers’ compensation system is considered to be the exclusive remedy for injuries sustained as a result of a workplace accident. This means that you cannot sue your employer or another employee that caused your accident to occur in most cases. However, you are allowed to bring a civil action against a “third-party tortfeasor.” A third-party tortfeasor is a person or entity, other than your employer, who is responsible for having caused you to sustain your injuries. A typical example of a third party tortfeasor would be an at-fault driver who hit a worker that drives as a part of their job duties while they are working. In this scenario, the injured worker can bring a personal injury case against the at-fault driver while still being able collect workers’ compensation benefits.
This provision applies to construction workers as well with one catch. You cannot cannot sue a principle, intermediate, or subcontractor that contracted with your employer and caused your accident to occur on a construction project in most cases based on the ruling of the Georgia Supreme Court in Warden v. Hoar Constr. Co., 507 S.E.2d 428, 429-30 (1998). In that case, the Supreme Court reasoned that a principal contractor was protected by the exclusive remedy clause in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11, because the principal contractor was considered a statutory employer under the provisions of O.C.G.A.§34-9-8. Although this is a narrow exception to the third-party tortfeasor rule, it is of particular importance to construction workers, because subcontracting is so common in the construction industry.
How Long do I have to File a Claim?
Under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-80, an injured worker has 30 days to report a workplace injury to their employer. However, this statute states that an injured worker should immediately give notice of the accident to their employer or give notice of the accident to their employer as soon as practically possible. This means that although the deadline is set at 30 days to report your injury without any possible legal repercussions, you should notify your employer of your injury as soon as possible after you have sustained an injury.
What Benefits can I Receive for a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The three main categories of benefits that a worker receives in a workers’ compensation case are:
- Medical care such as doctor’s appointments, medications, and surgical procedures
- Lost wage benefits
- Permanent partial disability benefits
The amount of money you receive in lost wage benefits can vary based on the work status your doctor has placed you in, and the specific benefits you can receive for your claim depend on a number of factors such as the type of injury you sustained, the severity of your injury, etc., which is why you should always consult with a workers’ compensation attorney to gain a thorough understanding of all of the benefits you are entitled to under the Georgia workers’ compensation system.
Construction Accidents in Atlanta, GA
At Cambre and Associates, our team of workers’ compensation attorneys understand how frustrating and overwhelming sustaining a workplace injury can be, which is why our attorneys have dedicated their careers to helping injured workers like you. Don’t wait till it’s too late to file your claim. Call our office today for a free consultation.