The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act can provide many benefits to Georgia claimants. Yet it can also act as a roadblock to certain claims, as one recent case illustrates.
In that case, a hospital employee in Missouri was a courier who was responsible for delivering medical supplies. He was supposed to work on a day when there was a severe winter storm. His supervisor asked his superior whether the employee should drive that day, and he was told that he should but that he should drive slowly and carefully. During his shift, the employee’s supervisor called the employee to check on him, and the employee said that his windshield was freezing. The supervisor called his superior again, who said that he should continue to work. Later during his shift, the employee’s vehicle slid off the road, and the employee died as a result. The employee was not delivering any supplies that needed immediate delivery.
The employee’s wife sued the two supervisors for wrongful death, claiming they were negligent in directing the employee to drive his route despite the conditions. The defendants argued the lawsuit was barred by the exclusivity provision in the state’s workers’ compensation act.
The state’s workers’ compensation act states that an employer is liable under the workers’ compensation act for the injury or death of an employee arising out of and in the course of employment, and it is released from all other liability. However, a co-employee is not included under the definition of employer and thus is not covered under the act. Yet if a co-employee is carrying out the non-delegable duties of the employer, the employer remains liable, even though the employer has assigned the duties to the employee. In that case, an injured employee cannot bring a negligence claim against a co-employee.
In this case, the court explained that other courts have held that the duty to provide a safe place to work is a non-delegable duty. The court found that the supervisors’ decision not to pull him from his route due to dangerous weather conditions clearly fell within the employer’s non-delegable duty to provide a safe workplace. Therefore, the lawsuit was barred by the workers’ compensation act.
Georgia’s Exclusivity Provision
In Georgia, the 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.” In addition, unlike in the case above, co-workers are generally protected. Under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11(a), generally a claim cannot be brought against “an employee of the same employer.”
Contact a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured at work, you may be entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits. At the Georgia law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C., our attorneys have decades of experience handling workers’ compensation claims. Our experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys can skillfully lead you through the process of pursuing benefits. 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.