Car accidents often involve complex issues of liability involving different insurance policies. When one or more injured individuals is working at the time of a car accident, workers’ compensation laws may also come into play and could limit an individual’s recovery through other policies, as was the situation in a recent Georgia workers’ compensation case.
In that case, the plaintiff was in a car accident and suffered substantial injuries. Two cars were involved in the accident, and the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the other vehicle’s driver. The other driver was underinsured, and the other driver’s insurance paid him only $25,000 in a settlement. The plaintiff was working at the time of the accident and also received workers’ compensation benefits of $197,966.55 for his injuries. Yet the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation provided him with a weekly amount that was less than his weekly income at the time of the accident, and he therefore accumulated $183,022.38 in lost wages. The plaintiff also did not receive compensation for pain and suffering or for future medical expenses.
However, the plaintiff’s insurance provided uninsured motorist (UM) insurance coverage to the plaintiff, and he sought additional compensation through his UM coverage. His policy provided a total limit of $100,000 in UM benefits. The policy also had a provision that stated that the limit would be reduced by any money paid under the workers’ compensation law.
The insurance company argued that since the $197,966.55 for workers’ compensation benefits he had received was greater than his $100,000 UM policy limit, the insurance company’s liability under the UM benefits was reduced to zero. The plaintiff contended that his UM policy should cover up to $100,000 of his damages that were not covered by his workers’ compensation award, including his pain and suffering, uncompensated wages, and future medical expenses.
On appeal, the court agreed with the plaintiff and found that the insurance company was liable up to the $100,000 limit for losses that were not covered by his workers’ compensation award or the settlement with the other driver. The court explained that the statute only allows for the exclusion of liability for damages for which the insured has been compensated. In this case, the plaintiff was not fully compensated by the settlement and from his workers’ compensation benefits, and thus, he was entitled to compensation for the damages for which he was not compensated.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage and Workers’ Compensation Benefits Under Georgia Law
The Workers’ Compensation Act is the only remedy of an employee against an employer for damages suffered in a workplace accident. A workers’ compensation award also does not compensate an employee for the employee’s past or future pain and suffering. However, particularly in car accident claims, other insurance policies may provide a worker with compensation.
If a motorist has coverage for underinsured motorist benefits, there are some limitations on recovery. Under Georgia Statutes O.C.G.A. 33-7-11(i), UM coverage policies can contain a provision that “excludes any liability of the insurer for personal or bodily injury or death for which the insured has been . . . compensated pursuant to workers’ compensation laws.” This means that if a worker has already received compensation for injuries through workers’ compensation, the motorist cannot recover again through UM coverage policies.
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have been injured and believe you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, contact a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. At the Georgia law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C., our attorneys have decades of experience handling Georgia workers’ compensation claims. We offer quality legal representation and responsive client service. To learn more about how we can help you obtain workers’ compensation benefits, call us for a free consultation at 404-303-7770.