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Will Fault Emerge Into Workers' Compensation Laws?

by The Brown Firm / September 27, 2016

New Workers' Compensation Laws went into affect March of 2016. Learn how these legal transformations may disperse into surrounding states deviating benefits workers were at one time entitled too. 

Workers' Compensation was originally assembled in 1911 and serves as a stable structure in which both employers and employees surrender certain advantages in order to gain others that are deemed more important.

The statute's purpose is to deliver quick and efficient disability and medical benefits to a worker who has suffered injuries and to assist the employee's return to gain reemployment at a reasonable cost to the employer. 

Employers surrender the immunity that would otherwise apply in cases where they were not at fault and employees surrender their former right to full damages in the few occasions when they could recover under common-law action and instead accept more moderate assured benefits for injuries and deaths (without having to prove fault.) Meaning, a worker cannot sue their employer for negligence and employers provide benefits to injured workers no matter who was at fault. 

The ideology of negligence should never come into play within the workers’ compensation system. The doctrine of liability without fault is a division of the compensation system; the 1911 legislation made efforts to guarantee payments by the employer for injuries arising within the scope of employment. The financial burden turned from the employee to the consuming public.

Initially, the only remnant of fault and negligence (depending on the state) involved penalties concerning employer or employee safety violations. In the case that an employee was hurt because of the employer’s safety violation, the benefits to which the worker was entitled were increased by 15% and paid directly to the employer.

Equally, if the employee committed a safety violation causing injury, benefits from the insurance carrier or self-insured employer could be reduced by 15%.

Recent Revisions Make Changes to The Workers’ Compensation Law

New changes that came into effect March 2nd of 2106, slowly dissolve the legislative deal made in 1911 where workers gave up all rights to sue their employer’s for negligence in return for which the company paid for workplace injuries mindless of fault.

Current Changes Hinder Future Injury Claims:  

  • Employee Discharge or Suspension could result in lost benefits: In the past, an employee who has suffered a work injury and would return to work for an employer has always received the protection of the Workers’ Compensation Statute.

    Even if the employee was expired for a good cause during a post-injury healing, he was entitled to continued proceeds of Temporary Total Disability Benefits. The new statute now states (defined by the Unemployment Compensation Law,) if an employee is discharged or suspended for misconduct or substantial fault, the employee’s Temporary Total Disability benefits could be suspended.

  • Moving forward, organized bureaucratic hearings in both Unemployment Compensation and Workers’ Compensation Forum will occur. A decision is yet to be set as to one forum being confined to the other. In other words, a worker could be issued the double “whammy” of being denied benefits in both the workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation case.

  • The new law also states that an employee who violates an employer’s drug and alcohol policy at the time of injury would not qualify for any disability benefits under the Workers’ Compensation System. 

  • Lastly, the revised statute allows Permanent Partial Disability involving cases of traumatic injuries; decisions as to whether benefits should be given are based off the permanency of the injuries and if the injuries were "caused by other factors," other than work-related issues. However; the law fails to define the meaning of disability, or “other factors,” and the gray areas in between. The problems raised by the possible interpretations of these terms are scheduled to be affirmed in succeeding court hearings. 

These new statutes explicitly create grounds for further disputes in the supposedly “no fault” compensation system—predicted to concentrate in more litigation and potentially raising the cost of workers’ compensation for all persons’ of interest.

If you need assistance filing for workers' compensation benefits or have been denied work injury benefits, contact The Brown Firm today. We are experienced in the workers' compensation laws and understand the statute of limitations when filing for work-related injuries.

Employees are entitled to benefits after suffering a work injury or illness. Call our Georgia Workers' Compensation Lawyers in Athens, Atlanta, and Savannah today at 912-200-9755 or click below for a no risk-free consultation.

Free Work Injury Consultation

Want to learn more? Check out our post on Factors That Affect The Value of a Personal Injury Settlement. 

Tags: Workers Compensation Injured at Work Georgia Workers' Compensation Attorney Occupational Illness Workers' Compensation Laws

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