New Court of Appeals Decision Regarding Workers’ Comp

In our previous posts, we have discussed the interplay of Georgia Personal

Injury Law and Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Law. There are

many times where a worker may be injured on the job and collecting workers’

compensation and at the same time pursuing a claim against a different

entity who may be responsible for the injuries. One common scenario where

this arises is when a person is on the job and has a personal injury claim

as a result of an automobile wreck. Under this scenario, because the person

is on the job, they have the right to pursue a workers’ compensation claim.

Additionally, the injured person has the right to pursue a claim against

the individual that caused the wreck. Thus, in this situation, the injured

person may receive benefits from workers’ compensation as well as

receive compensation for the personal injury claim.

Many times, when a person has both a personal injury claim

and a workers’ compensation claim the insurance company for workers’

compensation will claim it has a right to be paid back from any personal

injury settlement.

The claim for the workers’ compensation carrier to be paid back is

subject to Georgia’s “made whole doctrine” in that the carrier

has the burden of proving that the injured worker was fully and completely

compensated by the personal injury claim before the claim has to be paid

back. Past Georgia appellate decisions have made it extremely difficult

for the workers’ compensation carrier to prove that the claimant was

made whole. This is especially true when the claimant has signed a general

release that does not delineate how the personal injury claim is being

paid (i.e. pain and suffering v. medical bills).

While this may still hold true in many situations, a recent Court of Appeals

decision has affirmed a trial court’s ruling that there be a hearing

on whether or not the workers’ compensation carrier is entitled to

be paid back from a personal injury settlement. The case is

Suntrust Bank v. Travelers Property Casualty Company of America,

A12A2042 decided on March 28, 2013. This case may not be cited as binding precedence pursuant to Court of Appeals

Rule 33(a), but nonetheless it seems to foreshadow a trend that Georgia

courts may be apt to re-examine and possibly expand a workers compensation

carrier’s right to be paid back (at least in situations where the

workers’ compensation carrier has intervened in the underlying lawsuit).

Why is this important?

Any time another person has to be paid money out of a personal injury settlement,

it means less money for the injured party. As an Atlanta Injury Law Firm,

we are committed to making sure that our clients receive the maximum compensation

for their personal injury claim and recognize that this is accomplished

both by getting larger settlements and making sure that those with interests

in the claim accept less.