When Can You Sue An Employer For Negligence?

In Georgia, and in most other states, generally, when your are injured on the job your only remedy is for benefits under the applicable workers compensation laws.  In Georgia, this is known as the exclusive remedy doctrine.  The benefit of this doctrine to injured workers is that they do not have to prove that a party was negligent in order to be compensated.  Proving negligence can be very difficult in some cases.  Rather, they simply need to prove that they were working and while working, were injured.  The downside to workers compensation’s exclusive remedy is that a workers’ recoverable damages are limited.  For example, an injured worker is not entitled to receive compensation for pain and suffering or punitive damages.   

However, there are certain cases when injured workers can sue an employer based on negligence and thereby can collect  damages that go beyond what is available under workers compensation laws.  For example, Washington’s Supreme Court recently ruled that a worker injured while working on a company fishing vessel is entitled to seek punitive damages based on his company’s actions.

While working for this employer, the employee had two fingers amputated when a hatch fell on his fingers.  This worker presented evidence that the company knew about this faulty hatch for years and did nothing about it.  In Georgia, such conduct can be argued to show that a party knew about a hazard but did nothing to abate it and thereby was consciously indifferent to whether or not it harmed someone.

Since this injury occurred while working on an offshore fishing vessel, this worker had remedies not available to him if he had been injured in the same way at in inland work site.  The Jones Act allows maritime workers to sue their employers for negligence.  Further, an injured worker can also bring general maritime unseaworthiness claims as this worker did and therein make a claim for punitive damages.


Punitive damages serve the purpose of punishing conduct or deterring future similar conduct and are not levied to compensate an injured plaintiff.

If you have questions about whether you may be entitled to punitive or other damages as a result of a work injury, contact McAleer Law at 404-622-5773 to find out.


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