Are you eligible for workers’ comp if an “act of God” happens on the job?
There are circumstances where a workplace accident is caused by something beyond your control or the control of your employer. For instance, what if you suffer a broken leg in an earthquake while you are sitting at your desk, or a head injury after a tornado strikes the building where you are working?
Freak accidents and “acts of God” happen all the time and even though the accident may not be the “fault” of your employer, you may still be entitled to workers’ compensation in Georgia.
Continue reading to find out why.
Georgia’s no-fault system
In most states (including Georgia), workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means that when you’re injured on the job, your employer must provide you with workers’ compensation benefits regardless of the reason.
In fact, even if you inadvertently caused your own injuries, you can still receive benefits—although there are some exceptions to that rule. For instance, if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your workers’ compensation claim may be denied.
However, in the case of a freak accident or act of God—such as a weather-related event or another unforeseen factor that the employer has no control over—you are generally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits as long as you were performing a work-related task at the time of your injury.
Establishment of workers’ compensation eligibility
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must demonstrate that the incident occurred during the time you were working. For instance, if you were on your way to work and were injured by a tornado, you probably aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation.
You must also show that you were at a location that was a reasonable place for you to be while you were working. For example, if you’re a secretary who normally sits at the front desk and happened to be in the warehouse for some reason, you may still be eligible for compensation.
The final requirement is you must prove you were reasonably fulfilling your job duties or doing something required of your job. A receptionist may have been in the warehouse to deliver a message or a box that had just arrived, for example.
Examples of “acts of God” and freak accidents
There is no question that most workplace accidents can be prevented. However, an act of God or a freak accident is something that really couldn’t have been avoided by the employee or the employer. Some examples of acts of God include:
- Lightning strikes
Freak accidents are those that occur under highly unusual and unlikely circumstances. For instance, if you are a construction worker who is shot by a stray bullet while performing your job duties, that could be considered a freak accident. Most actual freak accidents may also be viewed as “acts of God,” such as being hit by a meteor while working on a roof.
Preventable injuries during acts of God
It’s possible that an injury from an act of God could be prevented in some circumstances. If you live in an area prone to tornadoes, employers should have procedures in place should a tornado watch or warning be issued. Employees should have a safe place where they can evacuate or be given instructions on what to do during this type of weather.
If you are employed on the water, in an earthquake-prone area or in a climate with significant ice and snow, your employer should provide written procedures on what to do should natural disasters impact your workplace.
Where and when the injury occurred
In order for your workers’ compensation claim to be approved, the insurance company will likely look at where and when the injuries you sustained happened.
For example, if your position requires you to be inside the building to perform your work duties and you are struck by lightning while you are outside, it’s possible the insurance company will question why you were out there in the first place.
Or if you were on a smoke break or were running to your car to get something, your claim may be denied. However, if your job duties require you to be outside and you are struck by lightning, it’s possible the claim will be approved.
Each case is unique, and there is no clear-cut answer as to whether all work-related injuries caused by freak accidents are covered by workers’ compensation. It depends on your individual situation, which is why it’s vital to consult with a work injury attorney near you.
Was it a freak accident?
In many cases, what has been deemed a “freak” accident was not really that unusual at all and could have been prevented had certain precautions been taken.
For example, someone who is injured when a car drives into a building could have been protected with street buffers or a desk placed further from the front entrance.
An accident involving a delivery person on a bicycle who hits a curb and suffers a head injury because they were not wearing a helmet would not be considered a freak accident, as they were not wearing the proper safety protection.
It would also not be a freak accident if someone was crushed by a vehicle while they were working under it if the vehicle wasn’t supported in the proper manner. Instead, these would be examples of preventable workplace accidents.