Understanding your workers' comp claim process following an industrial workplace accident
Industrial accidents are a frequent source of workplace injuries in Georgia, particularly at manufacturing plants. Many of these accidents involve serious injury and death. Workers’ compensation laws allow for recovery in these cases, and the monetary awards can be quite significant. Proper documentation is key, and an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation is strongly encouraged.
Georgia’s 30-day rule for accident reporting
Perhaps the most important fact to keep in mind with industrial accidents is that you only have 30 days to report your injury to your boss, supervisor, manager, etc. This rule is part of Georgia’s laws and guidelines for workers’ compensation, and failure to report before the 30 days will bar your potential recovery.
Verbally telling your employer is rarely enough, unless your manager witnessed the accident. Instead, use some form of document to inform your employer about the accident. Send an email or complete the paperwork that your company provides.
Following your written communication with your supervisor, your company’s insurance provider must notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within 24 hours. OSHA will then conduct an investigation of your place of employment.
Remember that your only responsibility is to report the accident. Once you have completed that task, you become eligible for compensation for your industrial accident.
Most dangerous industries in Georgia
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics releases annual reports regarding workplace accidents for each state. The highest fatality rates in Georgia were linked to the following 3 industries:
1. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting
3. Transportation and utilities
Georgia’s manufacturing industry had the highest number of non-fatal injuries in 2016. The top 3 most dangerous manufacturing jobs were:
1. Office furniture (including fixtures) manufacturing
2. Architectural and structural metals manufacturing
3. Textile and fabric finishing and fabric coating mills
Causes of industrial accidents
Industrial accidents, especially accidents at manufacturing plants, are often preventable as negligence or faulty equipment are frequently to blame. Some of the most common causes of these workplace accidents include:
- Electrical shocks
- Falling objects
- Faulty equipment and mechanical malfunctions
- Negligent supervision
- Hiring inexperienced workers
- Insufficient training
- Fires and explosions
- Chemical spills
- Collapsed scaffolding
- Improper equipment maintenance
- Safety code violations
All of the above have the potential to cause very serious injuries. Though these accidents are typically limited to the manufacturing facility, warehouse or plant, some of the listed accidents may also cause harm to the surrounding town or city. Thus, factory supervisors and other industrial managers have an important duty to maintain the safety of their employees and the community.
Catastrophic injury from an industrial accident
As injuries from industrial accidents are often severe, many employees aren’t able to return to work after the accident. Georgia lawmakers understand how unemployment can cause serious financial hardships, which is why they created a specific form of workers’ compensation for these claims.
Georgia statute OCGA 34-9-200.1 identifies 6 forms of workplace injuries that are designated as “catastrophic” and entitle an accident survivor to medical treatment for lifetime as well as weekly income and benefits for life. These 6 categories of injury include:
- Paralysis in an arm or limb from a spinal injury
- Limb or appendage amputation
- Traumatic brain injury
- Second or third-degree burns on at least 25% of the body; or 5% of the face and/or hands covered by third-degree burns
- Other serious injuries that keep a person from going back to his or her current job or a similar position
In order for your injury to be classified as catastrophic, one of two circumstances must occur:
1. An agreement is made between your attorney and the attorney for your employer; or
2. The Georgia Board of Workers’ Compensation declares your injury as catastrophic.
Having your injury classified as catastrophic would provide a lifetime of medical care and financial support, which is why it’s important to hire the right personal injury attorney to manage your claim.
Additional injuries from industrial accidents
Catastrophic injuries and death are often associated with accidents at plants and factories, but a host of other injuries are also possible. Injuries from industrial accidents include:
- Back and neck injuries
- Brain and spinal cord injuries
- Herniated disks
- Torn or sprained muscles
- Broken bones
Industrial accidents also have less common injuries that are tied in to the specific event. For example, an explosion may cause deafness or tissue damage in your ears. Excessive heat exposure or straining to steady falling equipment may lead to a heart attack or stroke. A fall may reveal repetitive use injuries. The list goes on.
These less common injuries are sometimes rejected by an employer’s insurance company. That, however, doesn’t mean that you are barred from workers’ compensation for these claims. Your best shot at receiving the monetary assistance you deserve lies in hiring an attorney who specializes in industrial accident and workers’ compensation.
Can I sue my employer for an industrial accident in Georgia?
The state of Georgia does its best to protect both the employer and employee in workplace accidents. An employee may not sue his or her employer for industrial accidents, but Georgia is also a no-fault state for workplace accidents. Thus, even if an employee was partly to blame for the accident, he or she is still entitled to workers’ compensation.
When an accident takes place in a manufacturing facility, factory, plant or other industrial setting, the only lawsuits that are permitted are those suing third parties. If, for example, you were injured by a faulty product or defective equipment, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer or other responsible party.
What to do after an industrial accident
As explained above, your primary responsibilities after an industrial accident are to report the accident to your employer and seek proper medical attention. Though you may be required to first schedule an appointment with a company physician, it never hurts to also go to the emergency room or make an appointment with your primary care physician. You may not be awarded for these medical bills, but a second opinion may prove useful for demonstrating the extent of your injuries.
Unfortunately, receiving your workers’ compensation payout often takes more time than you may have hoped. Continue to document your injuries and how you feel during this time. Enjuris created a post-accident journal template to help with this task.
Post-Accident Journal Form
Sample accident journal/diary to help you document the effect on your daily life
Download in PDF format
Additionally, you should keep track of all your medical expenses and lost wages with a form like Enjuris’ expense worksheet. This will help you identify if the compensation you’re awarded truly matched the extent of your injury.
Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
Download in PDF format
If you believe you were denied full compensation or are being treated unfairly, it’s time to consult an expert. Get started by browsing our Georgia workers’ compensation lawyers in the Enjuris directory.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.