Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act is meant to give employees a faster and more streamlined way to receive benefits for injuries suffered at work. However, the drawback is that there are limits on what employees can recover under the Act. In some cases, employees attempt to bring claims outside the workers’ compensation system, although in many cases they are barred from doing so.
O.C.G.A. 34-9-11 of Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act states that the “rights and remedies” granted to an employee under the Act “shall exclude and be in place of all other rights and remedies of such employee, his or her personal representative, parents, dependents, or next of kin, and all other civil liabilities whatsoever at common law or otherwise, on account of such injury, loss of service, or death.” This means that generally, any claims for injuries incurred at work must be brought under the Workers’ Compensation Act. However, there are exceptions in some cases that may allow employees to bring additional claims.
Court Rejects Breach of Contract Claim, Finding It Barred Under Workers’ Compensation Act
One state’s supreme court found in a recent case that a breach of contract claim was barred by the state’s workers’ compensation act after the man died from a work injury. The man had been injured at work and required multiple surgeries over the next few years as a result. During one hospitalization, he requested an order from the Workers’ Compensation Court that he be treated by a nutritionist, based on a recommendation from his doctors. However, he died before a consultation could be completed. The insurer claimed that it was not required to pay for a nutritional consultation because it argued that his nutritional problems arose prior to his work injury.
The Workers’ Compensation Court later found that the man was entitled to death benefits because he died as a direct result of the original injury. It awarded continuing payments, funeral expenses, and a lump sum payment to his spouse and two children.
A representative of the man’s estate sued his insurance company, alleging that the company failed to provide medical treatment as ordered by the Workers’ Compensation Court. The plaintiff claimed that the man’s survivors suffered damages from the insurance company’s breach of its good-faith duty. The court explained that although normally wrongful death claims can be filed under the state’s wrongful death statute, the state’s workers’ compensation act is an exclusive remedy in workers’ compensation claims. Even though the plaintiff characterized the claim as a breach of contract claim, it was clear that any wrongful death claim that requires workers’ compensation remedies must be pursued in workers’ compensation court. Therefore, the family was limited to the benefits they received in the workers’ compensation court.
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have been injured and believe you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, contact the law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. as soon as possible. Our attorneys handle Georgia workers’ compensation claims and have a combined 50 years of trial experience. We are friendly, approachable attorneys who will take the time to talk to you about your concerns. For knowledgeable representation by experienced injury attorneys, you can rely on the law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. To learn more, call us for a free consultation at 404-303-7770.