There are certain steps you should take following an off-work car accident. But what happens if the auto accident occurs while you’re on the job?
In Georgia, nearly half of all occupational injuries are the result of transportation accidents.
Fortunately, workers injured while driving on the job may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. There are, however, certain steps workers need to take following a motor vehicle accident to put themselves in a position to receive compensation.
Georgia’s workers’ compensation act
Workers’ compensation is an accident insurance program paid by your employer which provides medical expenses and lost wages to employees who are injured while on the job.
In Georgia, the law requires most businesses with 3 or more employees to provide workers’ compensation. Certain types of employment, such as railroad carriers, domestic servants, and independent contractors, are exempt.
Workers who are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits may receive:
- Disability benefits (wages)
- Medical benefits (medical bills connected to the injury)
- Mileage reimbursement
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Death benefits
What if you’re injured while driving?
To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia, an employee must be injured by an accident that:
- Arises out of the employment, and
- Arises in the course of the employment.
The term “arises out of the employment” simply means that there’s a connection between the work required to be performed and the resulting injury. For example, if you injure your neck in a truck accident while delivering goods for your employer, your injury arose out of your employment.
On the other hand, if you have a heart attack while delivering goods for your employer, your injury didn’t arise out of your employment. Rather, your injury was caused by something that would have occurred apart from your employment.
The term “arises in the course of employment” simply means that the injury occurs:
- Within the period of employment,
- At a place where the employee may reasonably be in the performance of their duties, and
- While the employee is fulfilling those duties or engaged in something connected with those duties.
For example, if you’re transporting goods for your employer and you’re injured in an accident, your injury “arises in the course of employment.” Similarly, if you’re injured while driving in the parking lot of a gas station, the injury is likely covered because getting gas is “connected” to your work duties.
On the other hand, if you’re transporting goods for your employer and take an unscheduled detour to your house to pick up your phone, any accident you’re involved in on the way to your house is unlikely to be covered.
What steps should you take after a work-related auto accident?
Immediately following a work-related motor vehicle accident, there are certain steps (some obvious, some not so obvious) that you should take to increase your chances of receiving workers’ compensation damages.
Step 1: Seek emergency medical treatment if necessary
Your health should be your top priority. If you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident, call 911 or ask someone else to do it.
If you’re worried about the fact that you haven’t filed a workers’ compensation claim yet, don’t be. Assuming your workers’ compensation claim is ultimately approved, the insurance will cover injury-related medical expenses incurred before you filed your claim.
Step 2: Call the police
Even if the motor vehicle accident appears minor, call the police. The police account will become part of the record and a police report will help speed along your workers’ compensation claim.
Step 3: Gather information
If it’s safe to do so, gather as much information about the accident as you can. This should include:
- Photographs of the scene and any damages
- Contact information for the other driver(s) involved in the accident
- Contact information for any witnesses to the accident or the aftermath
Step 4: Report the accident to your employer
Report the accident to your employer (boss, foreman, or supervisor) as soon as possible. In Georgia, you risk losing benefits if you wait longer than 30 days to notify your employer.
Step 5: Be sure to follow company policies for reporting accidents
Most companies (especially commercial trucking companies) have certain policies that must be followed after an accident. Though you may be distracted with your workers’ compensation claim, be sure to follow your work protocol.
Step 6: Consult with physicians specified by your employer
Your employer is required to post information identifying approved medical care providers. Find this information (or ask your employer for it) and make an appointment to be seen.
It’s important to consult with a medical professional even if you don’t think you’re injured, as some symptoms don’t show up for days or even weeks after the injury.
Step 7: File your workers’ compensation claim
In Georgia, you must obtain and file a WC-14 from the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. This must be done within 1 year of the accident.
Step 8: Keep track of all medical expenses
To ensure you’re compensated for all of your injuries, it’s important to keep meticulous records following your accident. Be sure to keep copies of all your medical records and keep a pain journal to document the effect of the injury on your daily life.
Step 9: Follow all treatment plans
Be sure to follow your doctor’s orders. If you fail to do so, you risk losing some or all of your benefits.
Step 10: Contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at any point throughout this process, or if you simply want to make sure you get all the benefits you deserve, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.