New Court of Appeals Decision Regarding Workers' Comp

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.


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