What to do if you are injured at work outside of Georgia, or if you are not from Georgia and were injured at work while in Georgia
One of the most common questions we are asked is:
“Do I have a workers’ compensation case?”
Often, the question relates to the nature of the injury and its severity, or the status of their employment (independent contractor vs. an employee). However, sometimes the question revolves around whether or not an individual can begin a case when they are hurt outside the state of Georgia — or can they bring a claim in Georgia if they are from out of state.
The real question that is being asked is this:
When does the workers’ compensation system in Georgia have jurisdiction over a workers’ compensation case?
This may sound like a lot of legalese. We can also boil it down this way: When can you bring a case in Georgia?
When can I file a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia?
There are many different angles to this question, so let’s tackle the easiest one first.
If an individual is hurt in the state of Georgia while on the job, and their employer has 3 or more employees, then the injured worker can bring a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia.
This means injured workers are provided all of the protections that the workers’ compensation system provides, including:
- Medical treatment to be paid by the employer or their insurance company
- Temporary total disability benefits if the authorized treating physician has taken them out of work or the employer cannot accommodate their work restrictions, or
- Temporary partial disability benefits if the employer cannot offer them as many hours, and therefore equal pay to what they were earning before their injury.
Additionally, they will be eligible to receive a permanent partial disability rating once they have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).
Jurisdiction for workers’ compensation claims in Georgia
Just because there is jurisdiction in Georgia doesn’t mean that every case should be brought here. Georgia has one of the lowest maximum workers’ compensation rates in the United States.
For example, the maximum amount an individual can receive in Georgia on a weekly basis while they are out of work is $675. In comparison, Illinois, for instance, has a maximum temporary disability rate of $1,147.38 (as of January 1st, 2020). Clearly that is a significant difference.
In some instances, it may benefit the injured worker to bring a claim in another state when there is a choice. It is advisable to talk to an attorney.
Can my employer force me to file a claim in another state?
Sometimes, an employer or insurance company will attempt to insist that a claim be brought in another state, even though the injury took place in Georgia. This often happens when the employer is a trucking company.
The company will likely allege that the individual signed a contract stating that any and all workers’ compensation cases must be brought in a certain state, typically the state where the employer is based out of. If an individual was injured in Georgia, they can legally bring a claim in Georgia regardless of what their employment contract says.
The State Board of Workers’ Compensation has jurisdiction over all work injury claims that occur in the state of Georgia. One cannot contract away their right to bring a claim. Georgia code (O.C.G.A. 34-9-15) says that the State Board of Workers’ Compensation has the right to approve any and all settlements in a workers’ compensation claim.
The parties involved can make an agreement as long as they both agree. And in fact, the state encourages settlements. However, the settlements must be submitted for approval and there cannot be a prospective settlement of a claim that doesn’t exist. Therefore, a contract between the parties cannot strip the injured worker from bringing a claim in Georgia.
While this rule is very clear, many times out-of-state employers and insurance companies attempt to bully injured workers into bringing a claim in a venue that is less favorable to injured workers. It is extremely important to consult with an attorney before agreeing to any jurisdiction.
Georgia workers’ compensation claim for out-of-state injuries
A claim can also be brought in Georgia even if the injury took place outside the state. According to state law (O.C.G.A. 34-9-242), the requirements for an out of state injury to be brought in Georgia including the following three parameters:
- The contract for employment must have been entered into in Georgia.
- The employer’s place of business is in Georgia or the employee’s residence is in Georgia.
- The contract of employment cannot be for work done exclusively outside the state of Georgia.
Let’s look at each requirement separately.
The first requirement is that the contract for employment was made in Georgia. This doesn’t mean that the work has to be done in Georgia. The only requirement is that the actual contract was made in Georgia. For example, sometimes employers have a job fair in Georgia and hire people on the spot if they meet certain qualifications. This qualifies as an employment contract being entered into in Georgia. Just because the company is not legally registered in Georgia, doesn’t mean that they cannot enter into a contract in Georgia.
The second requirement is that either the employer’s place of business or the employee reside in Georgia. This is a question of fact and can be readily resolved through the discovery process if it becomes a part of litigation.
The final requirement is that the contract not be for work exclusively outside of Georgia. If an individual is hired in Georgia and they are a Georgia resident, but the work to be performed is for services at a warehouse outside of the state, then the third requirement has not been met.
All three requirements must be met for an individual to bring a claim in Georgia for an injury that took place outside of the state.
When to consult a Georgia workers’ compensation attorney
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when determining where a claim can and cannot be brought. We recommend contacting an attorney to thoroughly discuss all of your options. If you have any questions, or if we can assist you in determining whether or not you can bring a claim in Georgia, don’t hesitate to contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Gerber & Holder.