Suffered a Second Accident While on Workers’ Compensation? | Ramos Law Firm

Unfortunately, some workers’ compensation recipients suffer a second and unrelated accident while under care for their work injury. It would almost appear the insurance companies wait (and pray) for that to happen in hopes of cutting off the injured worker’s compensation benefits. We have had many clients who had the unfortunate experience of being in a car accident on their way to the grocery store or even to their physical therapy appointment. In one case, the injured worker suffered a compensable injury to his back and had an open work comp claim. He played a few rounds of golf wherein he aggravated his back. In those cases, the insurance companies seek to assert O.C.G.A. §34-9-204 which holds that a suspension of benefits may be warranted if an employee has a subsequent, non-work-related accident which breaks the chain of causation between the occupational injury and the injured worker’s disability.  See also, Hallisey v. Fort Howard Paper Co., 268 Ga. 57 (1997). In order to keep workers’ compensation benefits from being stopped, the injured employee needs to demonstrate that the “chain of causation” for the claim was not broken. This will likely depend upon the medical evidence and expert opinions of the doctors. Obviously, the insurance company may compel the injured employee to a known doctor such as Dr. Hal Silcox at Peachtree Orthopaedic or Dr. Philip Ploska at Resurgens in order to obtain an opinion sympathetic to their side. Conversely, the injured worker will be required to secure medical evidence proving that the second injury was either temporary or insignificant.  Generally, the injured worker’s authorized treating physician would hold more...

Should I Hire An Attorney For My Work Injury Claim? If So, How Do I Choose One When There Are So Many Attorneys In Atlanta, Georgia

An often asked question is “Should I hire an attorney for my work injury claim?”. That question requires a look at the Georgia workers’ compensation process and it also may depend on what is happening in your specific work comp claim. Like other accidents, no one plans to be hurt on the job. It just happens. For that reason, Georgia law requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance if they have more than 3 employees. Millions of lawsuits are filed every year, but less than 7,200 workers’ compensation claims were filed in Georgia in 2016. Many of these claims were from folks who have never filed a claim before and have no actual knowledge of workers’ compensation law. On the other hand, the workers’ compensation insurance carriers are very prepared to handle injury claims from Georgia’s injured employees. The insurance adjusters are trained in GA law. They are coached on what to look for to justify the denial of benefits. Their primary purpose is to defend the insurance company from paying out any money in your work injury claim. These insurance adjusters handle hundreds, if not thousands, of work comp claims every year. They are required to have continuing training and they have pre-selected doctors and lawyers “on-call” to help them deny workers’ compensation claims. As you can see, the playing field does not appear to be leveled. The insurance companies have the resources to purchase medical opinions and literally stack the deck against an injured worker. They send nurses to talk to your doctors; hire other doctors to contradict your care plan; send investigators to catch you on...
Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Georgia are Due to Injured Workers, Even Those Who Are Undocumented or Considered an Illegal Alien

Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Georgia are Due to Injured Workers, Even Those Who Are Undocumented or Considered an Illegal Alien

In order to receive workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia, the employee must demonstrate that he or she is an “employee” of the employer. The State Board will evaluate whether there is a valid employment relationship for the purposes of work comp benefits.  The State Board is directed to construe this relationship liberally. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 65% of undocumented immigrants are gainfully employed and pay applicable taxes.  Many of these of these workers are told that if they are injured on the job, they would not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  This is not true.  The Georgia Courts have held that undocumented employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits despite their immigration status. Dynasty Sample Co. v. Beltran, 224 Ga. App. 90 (1996).  In the Dynasty Sample case, an undocumented worker suffered a clear occupational injury.  However, he misrepresented his immigration status to the employer who then argued that the “employment contract” was void.  The Court found that this misrepresentation did not bar the injured worker from receiving work comp benefits.  See also, Continental Pet Technologies, Inc. v. Palacias, 269 Ga. App. 561 (2004). Once the employment relationship is established, the injured worker has the burden of demonstrating that the injury arose out of and in the course of his or her employment.  Therefore, the injured workers’ immigration status does not factor into whether the worker is entitled to medical or income workers’ compensation benefits under Georgia laws. However, the employer may try to defend against the injured worker returning to his job, even once he is released to work by the doctor. They will often...

What If The Work Comp Authorized Treating Physician, or ATP, Says Negative Things About Me In The Medical Records?

The Georgia Workers’ Compensation system relies on a duly licensed physician to serve as the work comp “authorized treating physician”.  This physician is often referred to as the ATP and his or her opinion and language in the medical narratives carries a lot of influence with the direction of a workers’ compensation or occupational injury case.  The ATP’s opinion not only determines the injured worker’s medical treatment plan, but also whether the employee is entitled to receive workers’ comp income benefits or return to work. Additionally, the ATP determines whether the injured worker may be assigned a permanent impairment rating. However, what happens when work comp ATP includes negative comments about the injured employee or says things that are potentially libelous? In the case of Jasarevic v. Foster, 335 Ga. App. 528 (2016), the ATP was sued for making “libelous statements” in his medical records about Mr. Jasarevic. In 2012, Dr. Foster asserted in a medical narrative that Mr. Jasarevic made threatening statements during a medical appointment for a workers’ comp injury. Moreover, Dr. Foster considered the injured employee as a “threat” and refused to continue care for the workers’ compensation injury. Mr. Jasarevic advanced a libel suit and asserted that Dr. Foster’s statements prevented him from receiving additional medical treatment. Dr. Foster hired a lawyer and requested the Court to dismiss the case on the grounds that statements made in workers’ compensation proceedings are privileged and cannot serve as the basis for a libel claim. The trial court agreed and dismissed Mr. Jasarevic’s case.  Additionally, the Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling  that, “statements made by a physician in his or...

Trial Preparation From Start To Finish For Paralegals

Thanks for attending the November 10, 2016 seminar Trial Preparation From Start to Finish For Paralegals and the session Succeeding at Trial. Attached you will find the information we discussed including the reference lists and the PowerPoint. It was a pleasure to be at the seminar. If the Ramos Law Firm can assist in any way, please let us know. List of Georgia Courts List of Federal Courts List of Georgia Rules PowerPoint...

Hurt at Work and Now My Phone Won’t Stop Ringing: Who are these people calling after my work accident?

Once you get hurt on the job, a host of people may be calling you trying to get information from you regarding your work injury. It is important to distinguish what their motives are for calling. First, if a lawyer is calling you before you are soliciting a call from them, this is improper.  Be very careful of these unprofessional lawyers as they may be the proverbial “ambulance chasers” you don’t want representing you. Second, the workers’ compensation insurance adjuster may call you to gather some information about the work accident. It is important to know that the adjuster’s role is to limit as much liability as he or she can for the insurer. In other words, his or her loyalty runs to the insurance company, not you. Therefore, be careful. If you speak to the adjuster, write down his or her name and take good notes of your conversation. Also, be careful about what they are asking you to sign. They are experts in workers’ comp law and they will try to get the advantage over you if they can. Additionally, this person may request to record your conversation.  I usually instruct my clients against this recording as it is often only used against the injured worker later in the case. In some cases, the workers’ comp insurance company will have a number of adjusters calling the injured worker. One may be a “lost time” adjuster who handles cases where the injured employee is missing time from work. Another may be a “medical only” adjuster who handles claims where the injured worker is not currently missing time from work, but is...

Are You an Injured Coke Worker That Has Been Terminated or Worried About Termination?

As we mentioned in our Beverage and Food Industry page, workers employed at these manufacturing facilities in Atlanta such as Coke and Coca Cola Enterprises are particularly vulnerable to sustain occupational injuries. These may include back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder injuries, and many more.  We have found that Coke and its partners often hire a “third party administrator” such as Sedgwick CMS or Gallagher Bassett to handle these workers’ compensation claims. Our firm has represented many Coca-Cola Enterprises or Coke injured workers who have been hurt on the job.  These workers included Coke employees who were injured on the production line to those tasked with placing the product on the store shelves and building displays.  Some of our past Coca-Cola workers’ compensation settlements include: $129,000 settlement for a back and neck injury $99,950 settlement for a back injury $90,000 settlement for a knee injury Unfortunately for injured Coke employees, they seem to be terminated after six months of being unable to return to work due to their work injuries.  The reasons for termination are often suspect to our firm but these firings and terminations appear to be immune under Georgia’s “work at will” status.  However, we will still question it.  From a Georgia workers’ compensation standpoint, we believe this is simply unfair and we would take the position that Coke and its partners must pay the injured worker for “firing” him or her because of the work injury.  Obviously, Coca-Cola and its partners would object to our position and we would fight for the injured workers’ benefits in Court. In addition, many injured beverage industry workers who have worked...

Catastrophic Workers Compensation Claim Definition – What Are My Rehab Benefits and Entitlements?

Rehabilitation benefits are services that the State Board determines are “reasonably required and appear likely to restore an injured employee to (a) maximum physical condition and (b) suitable employment. These goals may be attained through medical care, treatment, counseling, vocational assistance, job planning, or additional training. See, O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200.1; Pringle v. Mayor of Savannah, 233 Ga. App. 751 (1996). The date of accident is very important when determining whether an injured employee is entitled to rehabilitation benefits. All claims with a date of accident prior to July 1, 1992 are automatically entitled to rehabilitation services. For dates of accident after July 1, 1992, the claim must be designated as “catastrophic” for the injured worker to receive mandatory rehabilitation services. However, if the parties agree, these services may be provided to non-catastrophic cases. GA Workers Comp Catastrophic Designations To be designated as “catastrophic”, the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Code recognizes a few serious injuries that automatically qualify as “catastrophic.” These injuries are: (1) a severe spinal cord injury involving paralysis of an arm, leg, or trunk; (2) an amputation of an arm, hand, foot, or leg involving the effective loss of use of the appendage; (3) a severe brain or closed head injury where there is severe sensory or motor disturbances, as well as disturbances in communication, cerebral functioning or consciousness, or neurological disorders; (4) second or third degree burns over 25% of the employee’s body or third degree burns to 5 percent or more to the face or hands; (5) total or industrial blindness. (6) The code also recognizes any other injury of a nature and severity that prevents...

Is Avvo a Credible Legal Resource?

If you watch much TV, you may have seen the commercials for Avvo, the online legal directory service. They’re clever TV spots for certain. But is Avvo a credible legal resource? Avvo was founded in 2006 out of Seattle by a lawyer who was then Expedia’s general counsel. Seeing the need for a credible resource to match lawyers with people-in-need, Mark Britton married his tech-savvy with his legal connections to initiate a legal rating system and online directory. Now, 97% of lawyers in the U.S. are rated by Avvo. The directory includes profiles of lawyers, reviews from their clients and an Avvo rating for each attorney in the system. As Avvo’s television commercials imply, it’s often easy to know when you need a lawyer, but can be difficult to find a good one. The Ramos Law Firm advocates use of the Avvo directory. Whether you are looking for a workers’ compensation attorney, a divorce lawyer, a personal injury lawyer or other…it’s always good to use a credible resource to find the representation you need. Be sure to read reviews from the attorney’s former clients and check their Avvo rating. Attorneys are rated on a 1 (extreme caution) to 10 (superb) scale based on public documents, using a mathematical model. There is no bias. Attorneys cannot pay to achieve a high rating. And in case you’re interested, Avvo is short for avvocato, which means ‘lawyer’ in Italian. In today’s complicated world, it’s good to know there is a system out there that can provide unbiased, simplified information to help make an important and sometimes complicated system. The Ramos Law Firm...

Will Georgia Employers Opt-Out of Workers’ Compensation responsibility?

A well-funded special interest lobbying coalition is pushing to eliminate the Georgia Workers’ Compensation System. As I wrote about a couple of months ago, the “Association of Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation” (ARAWC), funded by approximately two dozen national corporations is at the helm of this effort. In its drive to squash workers’ comp, the lobbying group desires that Georgia employers opt-out of workers’ compensation and their  responsibility to injured workers, by accepting a system recently adopted by Texas and Oklahoma. In those states, private companies are allowed to specify its own standards to determine a worker’s right to collect disability and medical benefits. Hence, every company would have different rules for its employees to follow. Moreover, if the employees fail to follow the company’s arbitrary procedures, the company may justifiably deny benefits. The onus is then on the injured worker to fight for benefits through a traditional law suit in State or Superior Court. This is vastly different as Georgia’s workers’ compensation system is governed by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. In fact, Georgia and the rest of the country formed or adopted the current workers’ compensation system due to the failures of the tenants of the proposed system. The Georgia State Board is exclusively dedicated to the adjudication and resolution of workers’ compensation claims. The State and Superior courts are generally over-extended with diverse cases ranging from criminal issues, land disputes, business conflicts, and domestic matters. If an injured worker was relegated to the State or Superior Court, the time needed to adjudicate the claims would be much longer given the volume of cases and lack...