A Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) employee was critically injured in a recent work zone crash. It was the second incident in less than a week, with the other resulting in the death of a motorist and injury of another worker.
GDOT is urging caution by motorists, especially as road construction projects are now picking up across the state.
State DOT Commissioner Russell McCurry released a statement saying workers must be allowed to return home to their families at the end of each work day. He said while motorists must always be alert, attentive and cautious on the roads, nowhere is that more important than in a work zone.
“We must keep our employees safe,” McCurry said.
It was just last month that the state observed National Work Zone Awareness Week, drawing attention to the high risk of Georgia workplace injury and death that employees in roadway construction face. The agency reported 58 DOT workers have been killed in work zone-related accidents since they started keeping records in 1973. When counting all members of the public – including workers – there were 27 work zone fatalities in Georgia in 2015.
That same year, there were a series of work zone accidents that resulted in employee injuries for a number of DOT workers. One of those involved three sign crew workers who were injured in a chain-reaction collision when a tractor-trailer slammed into a buffer vehicle as the crew was laying reflective pavement markers in the Southwest corner of the state. Four other workers – including Highway Emergency Response Operators (HEROs) – were all struck by vehicles in four separate instances.
This year, the May 9th injury of an assistant highway maintenance foreman. According to news reports, the foreman and his co-worker were patching the road on Ga. 113 when a passenger car rear-ended the DOT truck, which then struck the foreman. His co-worker was not harmed, but the foreman had to be flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital.
Just a week earlier, a HERO truck was assisting a stranded motorist along I-285 in Fulton County when a car crashed into the back of it. The passenger car driver was killed, while the HERO truck operator was injured.
It should be noted that motorists who speed in a work zone will face additional fines of up to $2,000 and 12 months behind bars.
Beyond that, they will also face the potential for civil liability.
In most workers’ compensation cases, the benefits provided by the employer are the sole remedy for the worker and/or surviving family members – even if the worker is killed. That’s because the exclusivity provision of workers’ compensation law prohibits workers from suing employers for negligence. However, they are not forbidden from taking legal action against third parties. In this case, that would be the at-fault driver and, if applicable, the driver’s employer.
If damages are awarded to the injured worker as a result of this action, the workers’ compensation insurer may be entitled to a lien, based on benefits already paid (i.e., medical, lost wages, etc.). It’s important to discuss this possibility with your Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer and how it might affect both claims.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.