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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

When should you consider a civil suit for a workplace injury?

One of the benefits of being covered under workers' compensation is that you don't have to prove that you weren't at fault for the accident that caused your injuries -- your employer assumes the liability whether you were at fault or not.

One of the major drawbacks, however, is that you usually don't have any recourse other than workers' compensation to recover for your injuries -- and workers' comp can be significantly more limited than what you might receive in a personal injury claim.

For example, Georgia's workers' compensation system won't pay for psychological injuries that aren't connected to a corresponding physical claim. If your working conditions cause post-traumatic stress disorder or panic attacks, you still can't claim benefits (including treatment) for those conditions unless you also suffered a physical injury that was directly connected.

In addition, you are limited to a maximum allowable benefit that may not come close to meeting your losses. For example, unless your injuries are considered "catastrophic," you can usually only get 400 weeks of unlimited medical care for any given condition. While that may seem like a lot, it won't match up to a lifetime of chronic pain from a back injury that won't heal or worsens over time.

What situations create an exception that allows you to take your workplace injury case into civil court?

1.) You are purposefully harmed by your employer.

Any time your employer acts in a way that inflicts intentional harm on you, whether it's something like physically assaulting you or purposefully damaging your reputation through defamation could give rise to a civil suit. Malicious behavior like the intentional infliction of emotional distress would also fall under this category.

2.) You injuries are caused by a third party.

If a third party, like the manufacturer of a defective piece of factory machinery, is at least partially responsible for your injuries, you can file a civil suit against them in addition to your workers' comp claim with your employer.

3.) Your workers' compensation benefits are wrongfully denied or terminated.

Sometimes employers or their insurers will try to keep costs down by unfairly denying a workers' comp claim or putting someone back to work too soon.

If you believe that you could have a reason to file a civil lawsuit for your workplace injuries, discuss the situation with your attorney as soon as possible.

Source: FindLaw, "Workers' Compensation: Can I Sue My Employer Instead?," accessed March 07, 2017

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