A guide for flooring installers to workers’ compensation benefits after an on-the-job injury
At first glance, installing flooring can seem like one of the lower-risk jobs in the construction and remodeling industries—but looks can be deceiving. Although floor installers might not be working at heights or driving oversized vehicles, they file traumatic knee injury claims at a rate that is 108 times higher than in the total workforce.
Frequent kneeling is one of the biggest occupational hazards for carpet layers and other flooring installers, and knowing how to protect your knees from injury and what to do if you get hurt helps you protect your financial well-being.
Typical job duties for flooring installers
Flooring installers, along with tile and stone setters, perform a variety of duties during their work that can put their health at risk. During the normal course of their day, they might be required to do the following:
- Remove existing materials from a workspace.
- Measure and cut materials.
- Secure materials in the space using adhesive, staples or nails.
- Apply special finishes
Many of these tasks require kneeling, bending and stooping, which can all put strain on the body.
Common injuries in the flooring installation industry
Performing job duties correctly and using appropriate safety equipment can help flooring installers avoid many of these common injuries:
- Knee injuries, ranging from scratches and bruising to bursitis and arthritis
- Respiratory illnesses and diseases, including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, from exposure to toxic chemicals
- Shoulder and wrist injuries from repetitive motions that lead to pain, swelling and other symptoms
Eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation in Georgia
Most private and public employers in Georgia must provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees if they have at least 3 people employed under their company, including family members.
However, keep in mind that some exceptions may apply to the following workers:
How does Georgia define an independent contractor?
Independent contractors aren’t typically covered under Georgia’s workers’ compensation insurance. This has led to many debates regarding how to define an employee vs. an independent contractor, which the state of Georgia has recently clarified through legislation passed in 2022.
Under the new law, the nature of a person’s work is analyzed to determine if they meet specific criteria for being an independent contractor.
For instance, someone who sets their own schedule and has the ability to work for another company at any time may fall under the category of being an independent contractor.
Other factors that define a Georgia worker as an independent contractor include the following:
- Freedom to accept or reject work assignments without consequence
- Freedom to set your own schedule without a requirement for minimum hours of work
- No geographic restrictions on work location
- No direct oversight of services to be performed and minimal instructions
Do independent contractors qualify for workers’ comp benefits?
Although you aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation benefits as an independent contractor, there may still be other routes for obtaining financial assistance after an on-the-job injury. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your accident, an attorney may suggest filing a third-party or personal injury claim if you aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Georgia’s no-fault workers’ compensation system
Injured workers sometimes make the serious mistake of avoiding filing a claim because they feel responsible for their injuries. In the state of Georgia, workers’ comp is a no-fault system that allows employees to collect benefits after a work-related injury regardless of who is responsible for the accident.
This means that in most cases, as long as you weren’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol or purposefully hurt yourself, you’re entitled to benefits after a work injury in Georgia as long as the injury occurred within the “course and scope” of your work.
Keep in mind that Georgia workers’ comp benefits are available for injuries that result from one-time accidents as well as injuries or illnesses that develop over time, like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and certain cancers.
Types of benefits available to Georgia workers who are hurt on the job
There are several types of workers’ comp benefits that you might be eligible to receive, including:
- Medical benefits that cover all associated costs with the recovery, including prescriptions, hospital bills, surgeries, rehabilitation and ongoing care
- Wage loss benefits that provide compensation to cover two-thirds of your lost wages if you’re unable to work while you recover
- Death benefits paid to certain dependents that cover funeral costs and lost income
Steps to take to file an injury claim
Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws provide an outline of steps that you must take to file a claim. Following each step is essential for ensuring your chance at compensation:
- Seek medical attention. This will provide documentation that ties your injury to your job, so you should see a doctor as soon as possible after an injury. With the exception of emergencies, you’ll be required to choose a doctor from an approved list provided by your employer.
- Notify your employer of the accident and injury within 30 days, preferably in writing.
- File Form WC-14 Notice of Claim with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
- Contact an attorney if you need help filing your claim or if your claim is denied.
Keep in mind that legitimate workers’ compensation claims are denied every day, so don’t get discouraged if you initially receive a denial. There is a process in place in Georgia to appeal a denied claim, but we highly recommend consulting an experienced work injury attorney to assist you with your appeal, as even small mistakes can greatly decrease your chance of success.
How an attorney can help if you’re wrongly classified as an independent contractor
Receiving the news that an employer is claiming that you’re an independent contractor is a major blow since it could leave you ineligible for benefits. An attorney can review the facts of your employment to determine if you’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor.
If you’re eligible to file for workers’ compensation, they’ll take you through the next steps in the process. If not, then they can also help identify potential alternatives, such as filing a third-party negligence claim.
Ways to prevent injuries as a flooring installer
To prevent injuries as flooring installers, consider the following measures:
- Provide and encourage the use of knee pads and shock absorbers to protect against scrapes, punctures, fractures and discomfort when kneeling on hard surfaces.
- Ensure proper ventilation by opening windows and doors, allowing fresh air to circulate throughout the work area.
- Use industrial fans to maintain airflow, improving ventilation and reducing the buildup of airborne particles.
- Use essential safety tools and equipment, including masks, gloves and eye protection, to protect against respiratory hazards, skin contact with chemicals and eye injuries.
- Prioritize site maintenance and cleanliness to minimize fall hazards, prevent on-site injuries, and address issues arising from negligence, ensuring a safe work environment for everyone involved.
By implementing these preventive measures, flooring installers can significantly reduce the risk of injuries and promote a safer working environment.
Contact an Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney
Once an accident happens, the clock starts ticking for handling your work-related injury case. Make sure to include reaching out to a workers’ compensation attorney in your plans so you can receive assistance with obtaining the maximum benefits allowed for your type of injury.
If you’ve been injured in a flooring installer accident or any other work-related accident in Georgia, contact the experienced Atlanta worker injury attorneys at Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys today.
Our attorneys have over 75 years of combined experience helping injured workers across Georgia recover maximum compensation after an injury. We’re here for you and ready to fight for the compensation you deserve.