Filing for workers’ compensation for pain and suffering
You may have been going about your workday when, suddenly, an unexpected accident or injury occurred on the job. The accidental episode may feel quite traumatizing, and at the time, you may be unaware of the extent of your injuries along with your responsibilities as an employee.
Georgia workers’ compensation laws allow you to obtain assistance with lost wages and medical care. But perhaps you may have had extensive injuries that inhibit you from experiencing the fullness that life has to offer, or you may have chronic pain.
You may then come to a point in your journey where you wish to receive compensation for pain and suffering. You might be wondering:
Does Georgia law permit me to obtain award damages for pain, suffering and anguish?
Under normal circumstances, the answer to this question is “no.” Generally, awards for pain and suffering are only available in personal injury cases. However, there are some important exceptions, which we’ll explore more below.
Negligence, work-related accidents and third-party lawsuits
If you qualify for workers’ compensation, then Georgia law does not permit most workers to sue their employers for extra damages like pain and suffering. However, in certain instances, workers can obtain these damages when a third-party is responsible for the worker’s injuries.
In order to obtain compensation for pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff would have to prove certain “elements” of negligence. In some cases, this could end up being in the thousands or millions of dollars, depending on the extent of the injuries.
Say, for example, an employee was driving and doing errands for an employer and happened to get into a car accident with a third-party, of which the employee suffers life-threatening injuries.
The employee may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the third-party to obtain damages for mental anguish, life enjoyment, physical pain and lack of companionship with a spouse.
Occupational exceptions: pain and suffering for certain workers
Though most Georgia workers are unable to be compensated for pain and suffering, there are a few exceptions for those in certain professions such as railroad workers and crew members of vessels, boats and ships.
Railroad workers and FELA
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) allows interstate railroad workers — workers for railroad companies that do commerce in more than 1 state — to obtain pain and suffering damages if they get hurt on the job. FELA essentially replaces the workers’ compensation system.
Working in the railroad yard can be particularly dangerous. The arduous physical activity the average railroad worker experiences are above those of the average worker. Therefore, Congress designed a unique legal system to hear and administer the claims of the railroad worker.
With FELA, employers were incentivized to create safe working spaces for railroad workers so they would not have to endure paying out large awards to claimants. Claims under FELA do not have award limits, which means claimants with severe injuries have received payouts in the millions of dollars—including for pain and suffering.
But there is one caveat:
In workers’ compensation claims, a worker typically doesn’t have to prove negligence on behalf of the employer. For FELA, however, a worker must demonstrate some form of negligence on the side of the employer.
The FELA law not only covers workers who work on the railroad but the clerical staff and other employees who are essential to the function of the railway—if the duties were carried out during the scope of employment.
Maritime workers, the Jones Act and the LHWCA
Just like the FELA Act covers railroad workers, the Jones Act includes crew members of boat vessels. Seamen are also not allowed to recover damages from pain and suffering, medical and lost wages under the workers’ compensation laws. So that seamen can obtain personal injury damages for the Jones Act, each seaman must demonstrate that their employer was negligent and the direct cause of the seaman’s injury during work duties.
Seamen are people who work on a ship for several weeks or months at a time. The ship could be a luxury liner or a 2-person crew. However, shipbuilders and dock workers are not included in the Jones Act. Shipbuilders can apply for personal injury claims under The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
To receive compensation under the Jones Act, seamen must only prove that the employer contributed a small part towards the seaman’s injuries. Thereby, seamen can obtain damages for mental anguish, pain, suffering and loss of companionship.
Now, there is a 3-year statute of limitations when you are ready to bring a cause of action against your employer. As a seaman, you can sue your employer for:
- Coworker assault
- Unsafe working conditions
- Equipment breakage
- Improper crew training
- Oil spillage on the boat’s deck
Contact a knowledgeable work attorney in your area
After seeking medical care, you want to contact a knowledgeable work injury attorney who will inform you of your legal rights under Georgia workers’ compensation laws.
The only way an employee could obtain additional workers’ compensation benefits for the above accident scenario is if the employee developed a medical condition because of the accident. A few of the medical conditions could include severe depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and emotional disturbances. An attorney can help a claimant get treatment and benefits from the workers’ compensation case.
Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws also allow claimants who have chronic pain and become partially and permanently disabled to receive monetary payouts according to the disability. It is best to consult an attorney for a complete case evaluation.