October 20, 2017

Can You Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits if You Were at Fault in your Work Accident

Would you be surprised to learn that you are eligible to pursue workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia cases even if you were at fault in the accident?

Workers’ compensation law in Georgia is considered a “no fault” system, meaning that you are covered even if your injuries arose from your own negligence.  Under Georgia law, you are automatically covered by workers’ compensation is your injury arose out of and in the course of your employment.  This idea that in order to be covered you need to be acting for the benefit of your employer is common in workers compensation statutes in many states – for example in North Carolina the work injury law asks if your employer exercise control and direction over your work?

Examples:

  • a forklift driver turns too late and knocks over a scaffolding, causing boxes to fall on him, resulting in a broken arm and a closed head injury.  The forklift driver is eligible for benefits.
  • an industrial sewing machine operator gets distracted and loses a finger to a cutting knife.  The machine operator can pursue workers’ comp. benefits
  • a backhoe operator fails to properly park his machine and he gets run over when trying to exit the cab.  The backhoe operator is covered.

While you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits even if you were at fault, you can be denied if your injury was the result of “horseplay.”

Horseplay Can be a Defense to Payment of Benefits

Georgia work injury law distinguishes between employee negligence and horseplay.  For example, if you and a co-worker are tossing a football around the warehouse and your co-worker slips on a grease spot and injures his back, your employer’s insurance company will likely deny his claim on the grounds that tossing a football is horseplay having nothing to do with job performance.

Sometimes, however, the line between horseplay and a relaxed work environment can be disputed.  For example, if a supervisor and his employees have a long history of playing practical jokes on one another to ease the boredom of a job, an injured worker could argue that the nature of his job could be expected to include some horseplay and that the horseplay did not substantially change the performance of his job.

Gather as Much Information as Possible Immediately After Your Work Injury

If you believe that something you did might have contributed to your work injury, you might feel embarrassed or uncomfortable accurately reporting what happened when you report your accident to your supervisor.  If you make inaccurate statements about your work injury, however, those inaccurate statements can be used against you as evidence that you are not truthful.

You also should be very careful about the words you use to describe your on-the-job accident, especially if you were engaged in activity outside the normal scope of your job.

I advise my clients to write down as much as they can remember about their work accidents as soon after the accident as possible.  I also advise my clients to report exactly what happened to their supervisor and to any doctor they see.  The truth is going to come out and it is far better to tell the truth from the beginning than not.  If you are concerned about what to say when you report your injury, it would be wise to first talk to a lawyer for advice.

I am also available to help my clients clarify any omissions or misstatements after the fact – but the sooner you can make any corrections the better.

Regardless of the circumstances of your work accident, if you want to talk about your case with me, I am here to help you.  My direct phone number is 770-351-0801 and my email is jodiginsberglaw (at) gmail.com

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Jodi Ginsberg

Attorney Jodi Ginsberg represents employees who are injured on the job and who need medical care and missed wage benefits available under Georgia's workers' compensation laws.

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