Since workplace injuries are generally governed by workers’ compensation laws, bringing a Georgia work injury claim against a coworker can be complicated. In a recent case, one state’s supreme court rejected the claims of two plaintiffs brought against coworkers due to the state’s workers’ compensation laws.
In both cases, the plaintiffs were injured at work. In one case, the employee touched a power line that he thought had been turned off. He was thrown off the platform, and the injury rendered him a quadriplegic. He alleged a coworker was negligent because the coworker used the wrong tool to de-energize the power line. The plaintiff also alleged his supervisor was negligent, since his supervisor was responsible for enforcing the company’s policy on safely de-energizing a power line, and he told the employee the line had been de-energized, even though he had not properly confirmed that it was.
In the other case, the employee was injured when a forklift hit him and ran over his foot. His coworker was driving a forklift when it allegedly hit a rock, causing it to shift and hit the employee. The employee alleged his coworker was negligent in operating the forklift.
Both employees sued their coworkers, alleging negligence, but the coworkers argued that it was part of their employer’s non-delegable duty to provide a reasonably safe workplace. Under that state’s laws, to prove a negligence claim arising from a workplace injury, an employee must show that a coworker breached a duty separate from the employer’s duty to provide a safe workplace, which would fall under the workers’ compensation act. The court explained that the employer has a non-delegable duty to protect employees from reasonably foreseeable risks in the workplace.
The court found that in the power line case, the risks of failing to de-energize a power line are foreseeable, and the employer had a duty to ensure lines are de-energized before workers begin working on them. Thus, it found the coworker’s alleged negligence was due to a breach of the employer’s non-delegable duty to provide a safe workplace.
In the forklift case, the court found it was reasonably foreseeable to the employer that an employee would be injured if a coworker negligently operated a forklift. The court found the plaintiff failed to allege the coworker breached a duty separate from the employer’s duty to provide a reasonably safe workplace. Therefore, in both cases, the cases could not proceed against the coworkers because they had to be resolved under the workers’ compensation act.
Understanding Whom To Sue After a Workplace Injury
In Georgia, generally an employee cannot bring a negligence claim against a co-employee. Such a claim is barred under the “exclusivity rule” of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, which generally bars personal injury claims and requires that workplace injuries be resolved through workers’ compensation benefits. Even in the case of an intentional tort, an employee’s sole remedy is generally through a Georgia workers’ compensation claim. However, a claim can be brought against a co-worker if the co-worker willfully injured the employee for purely “personal reasons” unrelated to the conduct of the employer’s business.
Contact a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Have you been injured in a work-related incident? You may be entitled to compensation through Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act or by pursuing another claim against another individual or entity. At the law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C., we handle all types of Georgia workers’ compensation claims. We are friendly, approachable attorneys who will take the time to talk to you about your concerns. For knowledgeable representation by experienced workers’ compensation attorneys, you can rely on the law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. To set up a free consultation about your claim, call us at 404-303-7770.