A lot of people must drive as a part of their job, and accidents are an unfortunate fact of life. What happens if you are involved in a car accident on the job? What do you do? Are you eligible for workers’ compensation in Georgia? This is an area that The Law Office of Arthur E. Snead, LLC is very familiar with. Let me give you a concise overview of the process and what you might expect.
Standard Operating Procedure
Start by doing what you would in any sort of car accident, work-related or not. Presuming you’re able, exchange phone numbers and insurance information with the other driver. Get photos. Get the phone numbers of any witnesses. And get yourself checked out by a doctor. If you’re going to claim workers’ compensation and missed time off, you will need the written assessment of a doctor.
Then you need to report the accident to your employer. Don’t delay in doing this. Workers’ compensation eligibility is on a 30-day clock that starts at the time of the accident. This is considerably shorter than the two-year deadline that exists for filing a traditional personal injury lawsuit.
You also want to be sure you’re complying with your company’s protocols for how an accident report is filed. Industries like commercial trucking have very specific ways they document these incidents, and your eligibility could hinge on how thorough you are in completing the appropriate paperwork.
Am I Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?
Georgia law on workers’ comp eligibility requires that the injury “arise out of the employment and in the course of employment.” Let’s go beyond the legal definition and consider some practical scenarios….
- You’re a sales rep who was driving from your 11 AM appointment to your 2 PM meeting. If that’s all there is to the story, you were indisputably injured in the course and scope of your employment and will qualify for workers’ comp.
- But what if the distance between those two sales calls was short and you took the opportunity to pop in and pick up your kindergartner after a half-day of school, and the accident occurred while bringing your child to the daycare facility? Now you’ve taken an obvious deviation from the work schedule and into personal time. As such, you may be sadly out of luck when applying for workers’ comp.
- You work in an office and your boss asked you to pick up some office supplies. In the parking lot at Staples, you get into a fender-bender. You’re on company time and doing a company-oriented task and are therefore eligible.
- However, if while on that same errand you stop at a flower shop to pick up a little surprise for your spouse and that’s where the accident occurs, you may no longer be eligible.
The above examples illustrate some polar extremes, where on-the-job and off-the-job is easy to identify and define. But let’s say you’re a remote employee who was called into the office to host a morning event. In rush-hour traffic, you are involved in an accident. Are you on the job or off the job?
This is a grayer area. On the one hand, commuting is not considered to be on-the-job. But in this specific situation, it’s an employee who is typically not in the office. How a case like this gets answered is not cut-and-dry, and good legal representation will matter.
Things That Don’t Matter
Georgia’s workers’ compensation program is a no-fault system. That means it doesn’t matter if the accident was your fault. Even if you were the person who caused the fender-bender, you are entitled to workers’ comp benefits, so long as the eligibility question is answered in your favor. You aren’t necessarily off the hook when it comes to a private personal injury lawsuit, but the workers’ comp program doesn’t care where the fault lies. The exception to this rule is if drugs or alcohol were the reason for your fault.
Regarding that private personal injury lawsuit...it also doesn’t matter if you are pursuing separate legal action. Let’s flip the scenario and assume the other driver was at fault. You still have every right to work towards some type of settlement that’s separate from the workers’ compensation claim.
What Kind of Benefits Will I Get?
The standard settlement for lost income in Georgia is two-thirds of your income, up to $675 per week. Showing previous pay stubs, along with income tax records, are a way of proving how much you make. This is particularly pertinent to sales reps, who often work on straight commission and are a prime example of employees who may be in a car accident while on the job. The sales rep will need to prove the income they would have reasonably expected to earn during their missed time.
Beyond lost income, eligibility can qualify you for medical expenses, vocational training (if the injury requires you to make a career change) and death benefits for your dependents.
Don’t Go It Alone
I founded The Law Office of Arthur E. Snead, LLC, in no small part, because I was injured on the job too. I know how frustrating the workers’ compensation system can seem, even when there’s no dispute over the legitimacy of the claim. And cases like these, where defining eligibility and the scope of employment are at stake, are often quite disputed. Details matter and knowing what information to ask for matters. I can help you and I’ll fight for you. You can either contact me online or by phone at (404) 800-1181 to set up a free consultation and we’ll go to work on this together.