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Court Finds Employee Can Pursue Workers’ Compensation Benefits After Settlement with Third Party

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2017 | Workers' Compensation Case Law |

In some Georgia workers’ compensation cases, the plaintiffs have to consider not only workers’ compensation claims but also separate claims against third parties. In a recent case before one state’s supreme court, the court considered whether the plaintiff was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits after the plaintiff had already settled a claim against a third party.

In that case, the plaintiff injured his neck and shoulder while he was working as a utility technician. He filed a workers’ compensation claim, and his employer accepted the claim as compensable. When he was supposed to return to work, the plaintiff was still in too much pain, and his treating doctor informed him that he would provide him with an out-of-work note that he could pick up from the office.

On his way to pick up the note, the plaintiff was in a car crash and suffered a traumatic brain injury. The plaintiff’s wife contacted the plaintiff’s supervisor and explained the circumstances of his car accident, and the plaintiff later discussed it with his supervisor and his safety manager. The plaintiff hired a separate attorney for a personal injury claim related to the car crash. His personal injury attorney told his health insurance company that he was not “at work” when he was in the car crash, and therefore the health insurance company should cover his injuries. He then settled his personal injury claim for around $45,000.


Later, the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation attorney learned that the plaintiff had been on his way to the doctor’s office to pick up his out-of-work note when he was in an accident. The plaintiff then added a claim for the head and brain injuries from his accident to his workers’ compensation claim, arguing that he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The employer argued that it was not compensable because the accident resulted in a settlement, and the plaintiff had failed to preserve the defendant’s interest in the case. However, the state’s supreme court determined that even though the plaintiff had settled his personal injury claim with a third party without the consent of the defendant, he was not barred from pursuing a workers’ compensation claim.

Workers’ Compensation and Third-Party Claims

Under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee’s employer is immune from tort liability for any injury covered under the Act. However, an employee can bring a claim against a third party, unless it is an employee of the employer or another person who provides workers’ compensation benefits to an injured employee pursuant to an agreement with the employer. The Workers’ Compensation Act is not meant to shift liability from a third party responsible for having caused the injury to the employer. Therefore, an employee may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits and also to bring a claim against a third party.

Contact a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

At the law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C., we are authorities on Georgia workers’ compensation law. Our attorneys have a combined 50 years of trial experience and have written articles and given lectures on workers’ compensation. Because of this experience, our law firm is well positioned to help our clients pursue the workers’ compensation benefits they are entitled to receive. We provide our clients with quality legal representation and responsive client service. For knowledgeable representation by experienced attorneys, you can rely on our office. To set up a free consultation about your claim, contact us today at 404-920-4708 .