Georgia courts see vast numbers of cases filed each year. In an effort to help courts deal with the volume of cases that are filed, the legislature as well as the court system have developed certain procedural rules that must be followed in order for a case to be properly resolved. These rules come into play early in a case, starting with when, where, and how the case is filed.
In Georgia workers’ compensation cases, generally an injured worker will file a claim. If the employer denies the claim, the claim can be submitted to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation for resolution. In some situations, a party that believes the board made an incorrect decision can then appeal the case to a civil court of law. However, Georgia law only allows for a workers’ compensation appeal to be heard when there has been a “final order or judgment” entered in a case. A recent case decided by the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates how meticulous courts can be when applying procedural rules and laws.
The Facts of the Case
A worker was injured while on the job. The employee filed for medical benefits under the workers’ compensation program, but his employer denied the benefits. Specifically, the employer claimed that the employee’s claim was not filed in a timely manner and that the statute of limitations barred the employee’s claim.
An Administrative Law Judge on the State Board of Workers’ Compensation heard the employer’s case but determined that the employee’s claim was timely. The entire Board then heard the case and agreed with the Administrative Law Judge.
The employer, not satisfied with the reasoning behind the Board’s decision, filed an appeal in a Georgia court, seeking a reversal of the Board’s decision. That court again agreed that the employee’s claim was timely, and again the employer appealed. This time, however, the court refused to hear the employer’s argument. The court explained that the lower court should never have heard the case in the first place, since the Board’s decision was not a “final order or judgment.”
The court explained that the only ruling the Board had made was that the employee’s claim was timely. Thus, the employee’s claim was technically still pending at the time of the employer’s appeal, and no final order or judgment had been made. As a result, the Georgia courts did not have jurisdiction to hear the employer’s appeal, and the case was dismissed. As a result of this ruling, the employee’s claim will be considered by the Board before further action is taken by the court system.
Have You Been Injured While on the Job?
If you or a family member has been injured in a Georgia workplace accident, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to help you financially while you recover. As the case discussed above illustrates, workers’ compensation claims are not always straightforward and are often contested by employers. To be sure that your claim and you are treated fairly, be sure to contact a dedicated workers’ compensation attorney prior to filing your claim. Call 404-303-7770 today to schedule a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney.