Can farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers get workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia?
According to the Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB), 1 in 7 Georgians are employed in agriculture, forestry or a related trade. Georgia farms also cover more than 9,620,836 acres of land. With farming being such a widespread occupation, there are plenty of opportunities for injury.
Is it possible to draw workers’ compensation for agricultural workers and farmers in Georgia? If not, how can farmworkers be compensated for work-related injuries?
Below we discuss how farmworkers are most commonly injured, and what Georgia law says about farmers and workers’ compensation.
Common causes of farming accidents
Farm employees are constantly exposed to hazards that are not normally found in other occupations. For example, they may suffer an injury at the hands of one of the farm animals they are tending to. Many workers are scratched, bitten or even mauled by cattle, pigs or other livestock.
Farmworkers are also often required to operate heavy equipment, which comes with its own challenges and risks. Farm machinery must sometimes be driven on rough or uneven terrain, which can increase the odds of a tip-over. Poorly-maintained equipment and a lack of training can increase the odds of an accident as well.
Here are some other common causes of farming accidents:
- Exposure to chemicals and pesticides
- Respiratory issues from breathing grain dust
- Falling from or into a grain bin or silo
- Grain entrapment
- Heavy lifting
- Heatstroke or heat exhaustion from exposure to the elements
Common farming and agricultural injuries
Georgia farmworkers could experience any number of injuries, including:
- Loss of limb (amputation)
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Respiratory illnesses
- Chemical burns
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Severe cuts and lacerations
In addition, agricultural employees perform nearly all of their work outdoors. Consequently, they are also subject to weather-related injuries such as lightning strikes and heatstroke.
Challenges with farm-related workplace accidents
The location of farm work can sometimes make treating these injuries more difficult. Agricultural employees are often located in very remote areas far away from other workers. This can sometimes increase the amount of time it takes for them to receive treatment.
There can occasionally be language barriers among seasonal and migrant farmworkers. In turn, this can make it more difficult for someone to notify their employer of an injury. Individuals may also be unable to warn others about hazardous conditions, resulting in even more people becoming hurt.
In addition, many agricultural workers face intense pressure to get their work done during daylight hours or when weather conditions are favorable. As such, a worker who is hurt or sick may feel bad about taking time off to treat their injury. Instead, they press through and only wind up making matters worse.
Workers’ compensation for agricultural workers in Georgia
Generally, nearly all employers in Georgia with 3 or more workers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover regular full-time and part-time employees in the event of an accident on the job or occupational illness. Workers’ compensation provides medical, rehabilitation, and income benefits if you are hurt on the job.
Georgia law excludes certain occupations such as domestic servants and farm laborers from its workers’ compensation insurance requirements. Those who are injured in a farming accident are often unable to draw any workers’ compensation benefits.
Although workers’ compensation is not required for farmworkers, many farmers voluntarily provide this coverage. Consider asking your employer whether or not such coverage is provided or offered. If your employer does provide benefits, they should be able to tell you how to file a workers’ compensation claim.
How injured farmworkers can recover damages
Just because you might be unable to draw workers’ compensation doesn’t mean you can’t recover your losses. Farmworkers may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit if they can prove that their employer or another third party acted negligently. To do so, you must show that the responsible party had a duty of care and that the breach of that responsibility directly resulted in your injury.
To win in court, you will need to provide as much information about your accident as possible. Begin by documenting the events, taking pictures and gathering the names of any witnesses.
Can your employer retaliate against you?
When workers’ compensation for farm laborers is offered, employers may sometimes retaliate against injured parties for filing a claim.
Georgia workers who feel they have been retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim should speak with an attorney to find out if they have a remedy available under law. Many times, the retaliation stops once an employer learns that you have contacted an attorney.
Contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Georgia
If so, don’t just assume that you must suffer in silence. The first thing you should do is to obtain any necessary medical treatment for your injury. After that, please contact Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys to learn if there is a legal solution to your problem. Should you need assistance with filing a workers’ compensation claim, we can help you with that as well.