Shocking, but true. If you are injured on the job, even if it is the employer's fault, your only claim or remedy against your employer is under the workers' compensation system. Employers are immune from other lawsuits or claims in return for providing workers' compensation coverage to their employees. This is known as the “exclusive remedy bar.” The exclusive remedy bar, however, applies only to your rights under Georgia law. There are certain federal laws, such as the Americans' with Disabilities Act or the Family Medical Leave Act, which may provide additional remedies.
Q1. Why can't I sue my employer if my injuries are the employer's fault?
Workers' compensation is a “no-fault” system. It does not matter if the injuries were your fault, your employer's fault or no one's fault. If your injuries arose out of your employment while you were engaged in your employment, you are covered. Although the employer is protected from fault (even for willfulness or gross negligence in causing the accident), the injured employee is also entitled to receive workers' compensation even if the injuries were the fault of the employee.
The Georgia workers' comp system provides very
limited benefits to an employee while providing total protection to employers. It is therefore important that you understand the worker's compensation system to ensure you receive all benefits the law allows.
Q2. Can I recover from a co-worker who injured me on the job?
No. The exclusive remedy bar is designed to protect not only your employer, but your fellow employees as well. If you are injured by a fellow employee while working on the job, your sole remedy is a workers' compensation claim against the employer.
Q3. What if I decide to waive my right to workers' compensation? Can I sue my employer instead?
No. Workers' Compensation is the “exclusive remedy” an injured worker has against the employer and its workers' comp insurer. Choosing not to pursue your benefits under workers' compensation laws does not give you the right to pursue other actions against your employer.
Q4. What if my injury was caused by someone other than my employer or co-employee, such as someone hitting me in a car accident or if I am injured by a defective piece of machinery?
The workers' compensation “exclusive remedy bar” only protects your employer and co-employees. It does not protect third parties. If someone other than a co-employee, supervisor, or other agent of your employer is responsible in whole or in part for your injuries, you can pursue a lawsuit against them for your injuries which may include negligence claims and “products liability” claims against manufacturers of defective products. Be sure to discuss these claims with your attorney.
Q5. What if my employer does not have workers' compensation insurance coverage when I have my accident?
Being uninsured when the law requires that the employer have workers' compensation insurance is not a defense to a claim for workers' compensation benefits. The employer is subject to fines, penalties, and criminal prosecution for not maintaining workers' compensation coverage. If uninsured, the employer is responsible for paying the benefits to which you are entitled. However, the employer is still protected from claims other than workers' compensation.
An employer may be self-insured and not have to carry workers' compensation insurance. Whether the employer is uninsured, self-insured, or has workers' compensation insurance has no effect on the injured employee's rights and obligations under the law.
Q6. I am an employee of a temporary agency and was injured while working at the warehouse of a company that uses our services. The temporary agency pays my wages and has workers' compensation coverage for me. Can I pursue a negligence lawsuit against the company where I was working?
If you are an employee of a temporary help contracting firm or an employee leasing company and injured while working at one of the client companies of the temporary firm, the client company is immune from lawsuits and your sole remedy is a workers' compensation claim with your temporary agency. Therefore, in your case you cannot pursue a negligence lawsuit.