Types of Injuries Covered under Workers' Compensation in Georgia

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There are many types of Georgia workers' compensation injuries.  These can range from the typical back strain from lifting a heavy object, all the way to catastrophic injuries which prevent an injured worker from ever working again in the future.  Today's post will discuss common work related injuries and how they are handled in Georgia's workers' compensation system.

Are all work injuries covered in Georgia?

Workers' compensation is a no fault system, so in general, as long as a worker is injured while performing their job the injury is covered.

What is a cumulative trauma injury?

A cumulative trauma injury is an injury that is not the result of a single accident, but occurs over time.   A common type of cumulative trauma injury is carpal tunnel syndrome.  Carpal tunnel syndrome generally occurs as a result of repetitive gripping, grasping, and use of your hands.  A worker suffering from this type of injury generally does not notice any pain at first, but as they continue to to perform repetitive motions with certain body parts they begin to experience pain or numbness.  These injuries can often be treated with rest or modified/light work activity, but may end up requiring surgical intervention.  It is important that you report any type of pain or discomfort caused by any repetitive work, as a paper trail can assist in having your cumulative workers' compensation claim approved.

What is considered a catastrophic injury in Georgia?

In Georgia,  a catastrophic workers' compensation injury typically refers to a severe and life-altering injury.  These injuries usually prevent an individual from ever being able to work again in the future.  In Georgia, some injuries are automatically considered catastrophic.  These include:

  • Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
  • Spinal Cord Injuries: Injuries that lead to paralysis or loss of motor function, significantly impacting an employee's mobility and quality of life.
  • Severe Burns: Extensive burns that cause disfigurement, impairment of bodily functions, and ongoing medical treatment.
  • Amputations: Loss of limbs or body parts that permanently limit an employee's physical capabilities.
  • Loss of Vision or Hearing: Permanent loss of vision or hearing resulting from workplace accidents.

Additionally, any injury which would prevent someone from performing their past job, or any other job available in decent numbers, can be deemed "catastrophic."  In addition to rehabilitation benefits not normally offered to an injured worker, individuals suffering a catastrophic injury are eligible to receive replacement income and medical benefits for the rest of their life.  In contrast to the typical workers' compensation injury which has a 400 week limit on replacement income and medical benefits.

What is considered an occupational disease in Georgia?

An occupational disease in Georgia, refers to a medical condition or illness that arises as a direct result of an employee's work  or exposures in the workplace. These diseases are typically caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to hazardous conditions, substances, that are specific to the employee's job.  For example, a fireman who develops asthma due to repeated smoke exposure.  Occupational diseases may not manifest immediately but can develop over time due to cumulative exposure.

Common examples of occupational diseases in various industries include:

  • Asbestos-related diseases: Such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, often found in workers who were exposed to asbestos fibers.
  • Occupational lung diseases: Like pneumoconiosis (such as black lung disease) from exposure to coal dust or silicosis from exposure to silica dust.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss: Caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise levels in industries like manufacturing or construction.
  • Repetitive strain injuries: Such as carpal tunnel syndrome in workers who perform repetitive tasks.
  • Respiratory illnesses: From exposure to fumes, chemicals, or toxins in certain work environments.
  • Skin conditions: Resulting from exposure to irritants or allergens in workplaces like the healthcare industry.

 

In Georgia's, for a disease to fall under the workers' compensation act, it generally needs to meet certain criteria, which may include:

  1. Causation: The disease must be caused by the work activities or conditions. There should be a clear link between the work environment and the development of the disease.
  2. Work-Related Exposure: The employee must have been exposed to the hazardous conditions, substances, or activities that are known to contribute to the development of the disease as part of their job duties.
  3. Time Frame: The disease must develop over a period of time due to the cumulative effect of exposure, rather than being caused by a single isolated incident.
  4. Proof of Causation: The employee or their legal representative typically needs to provide medical evidence linking the disease to the workplace exposure.

What if I reinjure, or aggravate. a pre-existing condition while working in Georgia?

As previously mentioned, Georgia's workers compensation law is considered a "no-fault" system.  As long as the injury occurs while performing your job, then it is covered.  This includes reinjuring or aggravating a pre-existing injury or condition.  For example, say a worker injured their back 5 years ago and underwent surgery to repair the injury.  After a course of rehab, the individual returns to work performing a lighter duty job for the next 5 years.  Unfortunately, the worker injures their back again lifting a pallet at work.  Under Georgia law, the employer/insurer is responsible for providing medical treatment that returns the injured worker back to the condition they were in before the latest back injury.  In this case, the employer/insurer is responsible for providing medical treatment to the injured worker until the worker is capable of performing the light duty work which cause their latest back injury.

Are any work injuries not covered in Georgia?

While most injuries that occur while working in Georgia are covered by workers' compensation, there are a few specific injuries which are barred.  These include:

  1. Self-Inflicted Injuries: Injuries intentionally caused by the employee to themselves are generally not covered.
  2. Injuries Due to Violation of Company Policy: If an employee's injury results from their violation of company policies or rules workers' compensation coverage may be denied.
  3. Injuries Caused by Not Using Supplied Safety Equipment:  In an employee is injured while not wearing safety equipment supplied by their employer, and the safety equipment would have prevented the injury, it may not be covered by Georgia workers' compensation.
  4. Injuries Caused by Intoxication or Substance Abuse: If an employee is injured while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their claim can be denied
  5. Injuries from Horseplay or Personal Activities: Injuries that occur as a result of horseplay, roughhousing, or personal activities not related to work duties might not be covered.
  6. Purely Mental or Emotional Injuries: In Georgia, mental or emotional injuries that do not accompany a physical injury are not covered.  For example, PTSD caused by witnessing a traumatic event would not be covered. unless the individual also a suffered a physical injury due to the event.
  7. Injuries During Commute: Injuries that occur during an employee's commute to and from work are generally not covered.  This does not include injuries for workers required to travel for their job, such as delivery drivers or people workers' who are on-call.
  8. Criminal or Reckless Activities: Injuries sustained while engaging in criminal, or reckless quasi criminal activities (i.e. driving at an excessive speed) are usually not covered in Georgia.

If you or a loved one has suffered a work injury in Georgia, give our lawyers a call at (770) 214-2500 for a free consultation.

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