A Guide to Suing an Employer After a Work Injury or Death

Every year millions of people suffer injury or illness on the job. In 2019, an estimated 2.8 million non-fatal and 5,333 fatal workplace injuries occurred.  

Accidents happen. Falls, burns, breaks, and even more extensive injuries can take place on the job site. No matter what happens or how it happens, your employer’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance should be able to cover you. 

However, there are other times in which you or a loved one sustained a grievous injury at a worksite in which you may wonder if you can bring an action against the employer. You may be questioning what types of situations would qualify for you to potentially sue an employer. We put together this guide to help you explore your options regarding a work injury or death. 

What Qualifies as a Workplace Injury or Death?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes an injury or death as work-related when an “event or exposure in the work environment caused or contributed to the injury or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury.” The injury or death could occur in your workplace, at a remote location, or anywhere else you are performing work for your employer’s benefit. 

Steps To Take After Experiencing a Workplace Injury in Georgia 

If you are injured on the job, there are essential steps you should follow. These steps can vary state by state, so it is important for you to review your state’s specific guidelines in regards to their workplace or injury guidelines. However, you should be sure to do the following as quickly as possible in Georgia:

Report Your Injury

Report the accident to a supervisor as soon as possible and preferably in writing. Telling a coworker who isn’t your manager or supervisor isn’t enough. Waiting more than 30 days to report the injury puts you at risk of losing your opportunity to receive full benefits.

Seek Medical Attention

If your injury is severe and you require immediate medical attention – seek that first. Inform the doctor taking care of you that you sustained the injury from your job so that they can make a note of it to provide to your employer.

When an injury doesn’t need the immediate care of a physician, ask your employer for a list of approved doctors. Going to a medical facility that’s not approved can give your employer and insurance company a reason to deny your worker’s compensation claim. 

File Your Claim With Georgia State Board of Worker’s Compensation

It’s essential to complete and file the  Form WC-14 with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, provide a copy to your employer and the workers’ comp insurance company, and keep a copy for your records. These steps will help protect your rights. 

Obtain a Copy of Notes/Files 

In addition to a copy of Form WC-14, you should also ask your employer for a copy of the report they filed with the worker’s comp insurance. Keep these documents, along with medical records, bills, receipts, etc., in a file. 

Update Your Employer

If the doctor takes you out of work or gives you work restrictions, be sure to get it in writing, keep a copy, and provide your employer a copy. If you are excused from work, it’s also essential to ask your employer how frequently you need to check in. 

Make Sure The Insurance Company Knows

Ensure that your HR department (or another responsible person) has sent the first report of injury to the insurer. Request your employer to provide you with the insurance company name and telephone number of the insurer and the person handling your claim. You can speak directly with the adjuster to assure they have gotten everything they need from your employer. 

When Can You Sue Your Employer?

In most cases in the state of Georgia, you can’t sue your employer for a workplace injury. Accepting Workers’ Compensation means you relinquish the right to sue your employer for an injury. 

However, some limited conditions allow you to file a lawsuit against your employer in civil court.

  • Your employer deliberately hurt you. This would mean your employer has taken some action with the specific and direct intent of harming you. These are voluntary acts only, not your employer’s negligence at failing to protect your health and safety. An example of intended harm would be your boss punching you in the face. 
  • Your employer doesn’t offer or offers insufficient workers’ compensation insurance. Employers in 49 of the 50 states are required to have worker’s comp insurance. (Texas is the exception.) If your employer offers insufficient workers’ compensation insurance or does not offer insurance, it’s because they have broken the law. If this is the case, you can file a lawsuit against your employer to recover damages from your work-related injury.

It’s critical to write down as many details as possible about the accident when they are still fresh in your mind. These details can be a tremendous help to you and your attorney down the road if you have grounds for a lawsuit against your employer.  

Suing an Employer on Behalf of A Loved One Killed in the Workplace

When a person dies due to a workplace injury, they often leave behind a spouse and children, who often then face financial struggles. Under Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws, those left behind are usually not allowed to sue an employer over a workplace death.

Still, they could be entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim for death benefits. These benefits include:

  • Funeral costs and expenses
  • Weekly compensation for dependents 

Other Lawsuits That May Be Filed 

Although suing the employer due to a work injury and death can be tricky, there are other reasons you may be able file a lawsuit. 

Injury or Death By a Faulty Product

If an employee is killed or hurt by a defective piece on a worksite that failed to work properly, or is inherently dangerous, there could be a reason to sue. 

The machine manufacturer can be held responsible if they knew of the danger and/or didn’t correctly warn the business or employees of its potential threat. In this case, the manufacturer would have to compensate the worker for medical bills, lost wages, and for their pain and suffering.

A Sustained Injury or Death from a Toxic Substance

Sometimes, chemicals and other substances that workers come into contact with can cause severe injuries and illnesses. 

There are two kinds of toxic injuries. Acute injuries are apparent immediately, while potential injuries may take years to appear. When a poisonous substance injures or causes the death of a worker, a lawsuit can be filed against the manufacturer of the substance and any safety equipment that proved ineffective in handling the toxic substance.

Work Injury or Death By a Third Party

Sometimes a work injury, fatal or not, can be the result of a third party. A third party can include vendors, contractors, etc. 

If a third party’s negligence or intentional actions cause an employee to get hurt or die, then there could be grounds for a lawsuit. 

Speak with an Expert 

While getting hurt at work is common, sometimes certain grievous work injuries that bring about tremendous pain and suffering or even death can cause great stress, anxiety, and pain. If you are considering bringing an action against an employer for the pain and damages you or a loved one suffered due to a work injury, it is important that you choose an experienced attorney you can trust to have the compassion and knowledge needed help you navigate a case of such a nature to help you potentially gain the compensation you may deserve.

Speaking with an attorney with experience in workplace injuries can help you learn all your options. Here at Robert T Homlar, P.C., we specialize in helping clients who have been injured on the job navigate through the legal and worker’s comp systems to potentially bring you and your family justice for the pain and damages you suffered, and gain the compensation you may deserve. 

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