My workers’ comp stipulation was approved, when should I expect a check?

Once a stipulation agreement is approved by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, the employer generally has 20 days to make the payment. The question arises, then – if a payment is mailed, when does it have to be mailed to be considered timely? The relevant statute provides for an assessment of a 20% penalty for failure to pay a stipulation within 20 days (O.C.G.A. Section 34-9-221(b)). The statute also provides that payments mailed from within the State of Georgia are considered timely made if they are mailed on the 20th day after the approval. Payments made from outside the state of Georgia are considered timely made if they are “mailed no later than three days prior to the due date to the address specified by the employee or the address of record according to the Board.” The code used to read that the payment had to be received on the 20th day. The state legislature has since shanged that. The language of the statute was explored in Liberty National Life Insurance Co. v. Coley, 201 Ga. App. 203 (1991). In that case the Court compared the difference in the language of the statute and emphasized the fact that the revised language makes quite clear that a payment is “considered paid when mailed.” So if a payment is not received on the 20th day, it is not necessarily...

Death and Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Claims

From time to time an injured worker will file a workers’ compensation claim and subsequently die before the resolution of the claim. This is always a sad situation and it can leave the surviving family members and the deceased’s former employer uncertain as to the proper way to handle the pending claim.  Initially, one might assume that death cuts off any obligation the employer has to pay an injured worker.  After all, the two primary purposes of Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws is to compensate an employee for the time she can not work because of the work-related injuries and to pay for the injured worker’s medical treatment.  It may sound callus, but death eliminates an employee’s need to find suitable employment after an injury and obliterates the need for future medical treatment. Georgia law takes a split view on whether entitlement to compensation transcends an employee’s death.  If death was caused by something other then the workers’ compensation injury, the employer’s liability terminates and it may stop paying all of the unpaid workers’ compensation payments.  O.C.G.A. 34-9-265(a).  If death is caused by the workers’ compensation injury the employer is required to pay for the employee’s burial and to pay the employee’s dependent(s) compensation equal to what the employee was entitled to under the code. If there are no dependents the employer is only responsible for burial costs.  O.C.G.A....

Injury in Restroom Deemed Compensable

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1(4), an employee’s injury may be compensable only if it is an injury “by accident arising out of and in the course of” the employee’s employment.  However, even in a case in which an employee is injured during a non-scheduled break the employee’s claim still may be deemed compensable. A court has previously stated that where an employee is on the employer’s premises in the act of egress, even if on a break, the Workers Compensation Act will apply. In a recent claim before the Appellate Division, an employer contended that an employee’s injury which occurred while the employee was on a break was not compensable.  The employee who was allegedly attempting to repair a paper towel dispenser in the restroom argued that the injury occurred during the course of and arose out of her employment despite the fact fixing the paper towel dispenser was not among the employee’s regular job duties.  The Appellate Division agreed with the employee and confirmed the ALJ’s ruling which concluded the injury occurred during the course of and arose out of the...

When the Workers’ Comp Exclusive Remedy Provision does not Apply

In general, the Workers’ Compensation Act provides protection for the employers and insurers from tort actions. This protection is known as the “exclusive remedy provision.” The provision exists to protect the employers and insurers from additional exposure after being legally required to provide benefits without proof of any level of intent or negligence. This protection generally also extends to co-workers who may have caused injury to another worker. There are exceptions to the exclusive remedy provision. One such exception is when an injury is caused by a co-worker and it can be shown that the act of the co-worker was in a willful effort to cause injury, and that the act was purely personal in nature, the claimant may also bring suit against the co-worker. It is this requirement that can prove a difficult obstacle to overcome because, absent a blatant physical attack on the claimant, proving willful intent can be a very difficult burden. Other exceptions to the exclusive remedy provision include: sexual assault; libel, slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress; false arrest; sexual harassment, fraud in procurement of settlement or award; failure to provide workers’ compensation insurance; property damage; negligent inspection by an insurer; professional negligence; and others. The key element to remember in all of these is that in order to circumvent the exclusive remedy provision, there must be a showing that the event lacked a connection with the...

Employee Injured During Fight May Not Qualify for Benefits

Pursuant to State v. Purmont, 143 Ga. App. 269, 238 S.E.2d 268 (1977), if an employee is injured in an attack by another employee, the employee must not have been the aggressor in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. When asserting an aggressor defense under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-17(a), it is the employer that bears the burden of proving that the injury an employee sustains during an altercation was the result of the employee’s attempt to injure another. The employer may present details of the events leading up to the altercation. In a recent case before the Appellate Division, details pertaining to an employee’s behavior helped provide an indication as to whether the injured employee was the aggressor.  The court relied on the fact that the injured employee retreated and began to run away when his supervisor gave chase with a knife. It was this behavior that established credible evidence that the employee was not the...