Dekalb County Civil Lawsuits and Worker’s Compensation

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As an Atlanta, Georgia injury lawyer, my office receives many calls from potential clients who have been injured at work. People are often confused about what remedies they have when they are injured while on the job. As is so often the case in the law the answer is “it depends.” The question is whether a claim must be brought within the civil justice/tort system or under the Georgia worker’s compensation system. What’s the difference?

The civil justice/tort system is what people generally think of when they hear “A sued B.” An example – A tractor-trailer rear-ends a couple in a Honda on I-75 in Atlanta. The couple is injured and brings a lawsuit against the negligent truck driver and company. This example is your standard lawsuit filed within the civil justice system.

Georgia worker’s compensation is totally different. An example – John Smith is severely injured at his job when a machine malfunctions and severs his arm. Can John sue his employer for negligence? No. (The answer is almost always no–there are a few very minor exceptions.). John must rely upon Georgia’s worker’s compensation system.

This is essentially a quid pro quo between employers and employees. What the employees “get” is a no-fault system where they can recover money after workplace injuries even if the worker did something wrong. What the employer “gets” is a system where they have to pay much less than they would in a regular lawsuit. Not surprisingly, the system generally favors the employer and the injured employee usually needs the help of a skilled worker’s comp lawyer.

One other common scenario arises. Suppose John is driving his company car and he is t-boned by a truck, causing severe injury. John can still sue the at-fault truck driver in a regular (non-worker’s comp) lawsuit. In other words, just because John is “on the job” as long as someone not affiliated with his company causes him injury he can still sue in tort.

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