A Workers’ Comp Success Story

Felicia S. is no stranger to hard work. As a retail manager working with high-end customers, she has learned to transition from up-selling at the make-up counter to packing piles of fragrance boxes at the blink of an eyelash. But after Felicia took a bad fall at work while taking down a visual display, her career -and her confidence- seemed to lie on shaky ground. “I couldn’t see straight after my fall,” Felicia told us. “Everything seemed to hurt. I had been carrying fragrance boxes which jammed into my ribcage. I landed hard on my knee. There was nowhere to sit and re-group. I was just on the ground.” A colleague helped Felicia get to the office to file a claim and get help. From there, she was able to get herself to the doctor who diagnosed her injury as a basic contusion of the knee. After a few days off work with standard treatment for the knee, Felicia was ready to tackle the job again. “I wanted to get back to work, but I still didn’t feel up-to-speed. My ribcage was bothering me so much- I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  A couple of my managers could see the pain on my face.” As Felicia learned, pain from an injury often settles in days- sometimes weeks- after the initial accident. Felicia’s doctor later diagnosed her with a cracked rib, based on her symptoms. Felicia took additional time off of work to receive physical therapy, and eventually knee surgery. Surgeons repaired a torn medial meniscus, including a cleanup of the kneecap which revealed additional deficits in that area. “I...

Are Subcontractors Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?

Subcontracting is a common business practice that can help general contractors and businesses get jobs done more efficiently. But what happens when a subcontracted worker is injured on the job? Are subcontractors eligible for workers’ compensation benefits? The facts about subcontractors and workers’ comp Georgia is one of 44 states that statutorily regulates workers’ compensation within a general contractor-subcontractor relationship. While the law specifically excludes “independent contractors” from workers’ compensation coverage, “employees” of a sub-contractor should be provided with workers’ compensation by the immediate company hired to do the subcontracting performing work. However, some subcontracting companies do not have enough employees to require that they secure workers’ compensation insurance. Fortunately in this case, the injured employee may be deemed a “statutory employee” of the “general” contracting company. This analysis can be very complicated and it is very fact sensitive. The court will consider all the facts surrounding the employee’s work relationship in order to determine if the workers’ comp claim goes through the general contractor. Subcontractors in construction The construction industry is an area in which subcontracting frequently comes into play. Holder Construction Company, Balfour Beatty U.S., Brasfield & Gorrie LLC,The Conlan Company, and The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. Inc. are among the largest construction companies in Atlanta. CA South LLC, Catamount Constructors ,Batson-Cook Company are up-and-coming in the interior construction industry. Work injuries among subcontractors, especially in the construction industry, are common. However, securing workers’ compensation benefits may be challenging as many of the companies will be pointing fingers at each other while the injured work endures the injury. It is clear that the injured worker would likely benefit from...

Injury from Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

A tragic series of mishaps at an asphalt refining company in Douglas County, Georgia this week is a reminder of how quickly injuries can happen when workers are taken off-guard. It also prompts us to re-visit safety protocol and prevention of injury from hydrogen sulfide gas. The incident at the Asphalt Refining and Technology Company happened when several co-workers went to the aid of a man who went into cardiac arrest while working on a platform 20-feet off the ground. In the apparent confusion, a vent opened, releasing hydrogen sulfide gas. One of the workers fell off of the platform after the gas sprayed in his face. He later died from his injuries. The heart attack victim and other co-workers were sent to the hospital. While the victim apparently did not die from exposure to the gas, the accidental release of the poisonous substance may have added to the panic that ensued after the co-worker’s unfortunate heart attack. Dangers of Hydrogen Sulfide   Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable, extremely hazardous gas with a “rotten egg” smell. It is found naturally in closed spaces where bacteria and decaying material lay- in sewers, for instance. It is also a bi-product of processes including pulp and paper and hot asphalt production–such as in the case of this company. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports several incidents of deaths due to hydrogen sulfide gas exposure: A 49-year old sanitation worker died when rescuing a co-worker from an underground sewer vault when he was overcome with hydrogen sulfide gas. Workers who entered a 27-foot deep pit in a marshy area died...

Pain and Suffering Compensable in Workers’ Comp?

Getting injured on the job has long-term ramifications for many workers. In addition to loss of income, workers feel entitled to compensation for “pain and suffering” to make up for the emotional and physical toll and injury can take on them. So- is pain and suffering compensable in workers’ comp?  The truth is, the Georgia Workers’ Compensation law does not provide a remedy for the traditional notions of “pain and suffering” or “matters of equity”.  The workers’ compensation case cannot be brought before a jury of peers to determine lost opportunity costs (such as plans to go school or potential raises) or “inconvenience.” In a workers’ comp court hearing, an administrative law judge (or ALJ) listens to the evidence tendered by all parties.  The injured worker may testify as to the level of pain he or she is experiencing and how it has affected his or her life.  However, this testimony does not directly translate to compensation. After the testimonial and documentary evidence is tendered, the ALJ is then tasked with the duty of determining if the injury or accident is covered under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act wherein medical treatment and income benefits would be provided to the injured worker.  Additionally, the ALJ has the power to determine if the extent of the injury qualifies for a permanent impairment “rating”.  This rating must be determined in conjunction with the medical opinions relating to the injured workers’ limited range of motion and functionality.  It is crucial that your evidence is well thought out to maximize your chances of securing the best financial and physical recovery possible.  The Ramos Law Firm...

NPR: Reforms Hurting Injured Workers

A ProPublica and National Public Radio Report issued yesterday painted a distressing but realistic picture of the uphill battle facing many injured workers. In short, the report points to a trend which threatens to slowly erode compensation even for severely injured workers. While statistics show that employers are now paying the lowest rates for workers’ compensation insurance since the 1970’s, states are continuing to put the squeeze on workers with tighter regulations and changes in workers’ comp laws. In our own state of Georgia, we have seen shifts in regulations since the early 2000’s that fly in the face of progress. In 2013, Georgia ruled against life-long benefits for all but catastrophic injuries. With an 8-year cap on benefits, workers who have had knee or hip replacements, for instance,  may be out of benefits by the time those replacements wear out. There’s no doubt– insurance companies like to play hard ball. And with tighter state restrictions on their side, it’s easy for injured workers to get run over by the system without the proper help. We have seen it here with our own clients. Before seeking representation, many people have been nearly driven into poverty- losing their car, their home, and just about everything they have– before getting the help they needed. The Workers’ Compensation system in this country was born in the early 20th century out of a need to protect workers in the grueling environment of the industrial revolution. And as we have witnessed here hundreds of times, the need exists yet today. I sympathize with my clients. It is hard enough to be hurt on-the-job. But...