Court Determines Employer Not Liable for Employee’s Exacerbated Injuries after Failing to Provide Injured Employee with Medical Benefits or Treatment

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia workers’ compensation and personal injury case discussing whether the defendant employer could be held liable for failing to provide medical care to the injured employee-plaintiff after he was injured on the job. Ultimately, the court concluded that the “sole remedy” provision of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act precluded the plaintiff’s claim.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a Georgia car accident while he was working for the defendant. The exact details of the crash are not particularly crucial to the case. However, after the accident, the plaintiff claims that his employer denied him access to medical care and insurance, which delayed his treatment. The plaintiff claimed this delay aggravated his injuries, eventually resulting in the plaintiff suffering several strokes. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against his employer.

The employer argued that the sole-remedy provision to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act precluded the plaintiff’s ability to bring the claim. The sole-remedy provision states that “the rights and the remedies granted to an employee by this chapter shall exclude . . . all other rights and remedies . . . and all other civil liabilities whatsoever at common law or otherwise, on account of such injury, loss of service, or death.” Essentially, the sole remedy provision prevents an employee from pursuing a personal injury case against an employer if they can also bring a workers’ compensation claim.

The court began its analysis by noting that for the sole-remedy provision to apply, the employer must show 1.) that the injury occurred in the course of employment, and 2.) arise out of employment. Here, the parties argued over whether the injury occurred while the plaintiff was acting within the scope of his employment. However, the court noted that the relevant inquiry was the aggravation of the plaintiff’s injuries, explaining that “the aggravation by continued work of a previous injury is a ‘new accident.’ ” The court went on to explain that “aggravation of a pre-existing condition is compensable even when the pre-existing condition is not work-related.” Thus, when the employee’s injuries were aggravated by a failure to obtain medical treatment, this aggravation was “work-related.” Because the injury was work-related, the plaintiff’s claim was recognizable under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, and thus, he was precluded from filing a personal injury case against his employer.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Workplace Accident?

The intersection between Georgia personal injury law and workers’ compensation law can be complicated, and these claims are best handled by attorneys who are experienced in both areas of the law. At the Georgia workers’ compensation law firm of McAleer Law, we have extensive experience assisting injury victims and their families navigate these complex areas of the law, effectively guiding them through the process. We offer all prospective clients a free consultation to discuss their case and explain how we can help. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Georgia accident attorney about your injuries, call 404-622-5337 to schedule your consultation today.