If you are seriously injured in any kind of accident, you may need weeks – and possibly an even longer period of time – to recover.
Especially if your injury is catastrophic or temporarily disabling, and if your recovery is going to be lengthy, for some of you who are reading this, your job could be at risk.
What are your rights after you’ve been injured? What are your employer’s rights? What can you do to protect your job if you need more time to heal from an injury?
IMMEDIATELY AFTER A SERIOUS INJURY, WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES?
Obtaining medical attention is the first priority whenever a serious injury happens. If you are the injury victim, after you have been examined by your doctor or healthcare provider, your next immediate priority is to obtain legal advice you can trust.
If you are injured in the Metro Atlanta area – or anywhere in the state of Georgia – you should discuss your legal rights as an injury victim with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney as soon as your medical exam is completed.
A good personal injury lawyer will handle the legal side of your claim from start to finish, will advocate on your behalf for the maximum available amount of compensation, and will bring your personal injury matter to its best possible resolution.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN TO THE VICTIMS OF LONG-TERM INJURIES?
Unfortunately, monetary compensation can’t cover some of the more personal losses that can be associated with serious long-term injuries:
1. If you can’t pay medical bills on time, it can mean losing your vehicle and/or your home.
2. Financial and emotional stress after a serious injury can lead to separation and/or divorce.
3. With many employers, if you take too long to recuperate, your job could also be at risk.
In the state of Georgia, whenever someone is hired without an employment contract, the employment is “at-will.” In an at-will arrangement, either the employer or the employee may end the relationship at any time and for any legal reason or for no reason at all.
AFTER AN INJURY, WHAT STEPS WILL YOU NEED TO TAKE?
Except when an employee who belongs to a protected class is fired for an illegal reason, employers in Georgia generally have the right to terminate employees for any reason.
That is why, if you sustain any serious injury or suffer any serious illness that will prevent you from working for more than just several days, you must take some steps – as early as possible after you’ve been injured or after you’ve fallen ill – to protect yourself and your job.
The law can help you.
You must exercise your employment rights and take advantage of the applicable state and federal employment laws. And you’ll need a good attorney’s insights and advice.
WHAT IS THE FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT?
Many accident victims in Georgia enjoy legal protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). It’s a federal law that requires employers with fifty or more employees to provide job-protected, unpaid leave for specific medical and family-related reasons.
If they need time to recover from injuries, employees who are covered by the FMLA qualify for up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave.
At the end of the unpaid leave period, an employee may return to the job, or else the employer must offer a similar job with comparable pay and comparable prospects for advancement.
If an employer eliminates your job or replaces you while you are legally away on FMLA leave – and does not offer you a similar position – it is probably a violation of federal law, and you will need to discuss the particulars with an injury attorney who is also familiar with employment law.
CAN YOU BE FIRED FOR TAKING LEAVE?
Provided that you have completed the necessary applications and notifications, you cannot be fired for taking leave that you are legally entitled to. That is wrongful termination, and it is against the law.
Several legal remedies are available to wrongful termination victims in the state of Georgia. When a wrongful termination claim prevails, the plaintiff may be reinstated at the job, may be entitled to back pay, and may in some cases be awarded legal fees and/or punitive damages.
If you have been seriously injured in the state of Georgia, if you need time off to heal and recuperate, and if your employer has fifty or more employees, tell your employer that you want to apply for unpaid leave under the FMLA.
Your employer may ask for some medical details and/or a statement from your doctor regarding when you can come back to work. Employers have that right.
IS ANY PAID LEAVE REQUIRED BY STATE LAW?
Georgia does not require employers to provide paid sick leave, but many employers do so voluntarily.
Be certain that you understand your own employer’s sick leave policies and that you adhere to those policies.
If any legal dispute arises regarding sick leave, it may become important to prove that you followed all of your employer’s rules and regulations and met all of the deadlines.
IF YOU’RE INJURED BY NEGLIGENCE IN GEORGIA, WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
If you are injured by someone else’s negligence in Georgia – in a traffic accident, an incident of medical malpractice, or any other accident caused by negligence – in most cases, you are entitled to full compensation for your current and continuing medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
You will need to be advised and represented by an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney who will negotiate aggressively for the compensation you need – and who will take your case to court if negotiations fail to resolve your claim.
But if your injury actually happens while you are working or at your place of work, you probably will not be allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit.
WHAT DOES WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PROVIDE IN THIS STATE?
Instead, you will probably qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation in Georgia provides:
1. short-term wage-replacement benefits (two-thirds of your weekly wage)
2. medical benefits for injuries sustained in the work-related accident
3. permanent partial disability benefits for those who qualify
While you cannot sue your employer for a work-related injury in Georgia, if a workplace injury is caused by another party – and not your employer or colleague – you may be able to file a “third-party” personal injury lawsuit and obtain additional compensation.
HOW CAN A GOOD LAWYER HELP?
A good personal injury lawyer can answer all of your questions about employment-related third-party personal injury lawsuits.
The intersection of personal injury law and employment law is complicated legal territory for anyone.
If you are injured at your job – or if you are injured anywhere in the state of Georgia by another person’s negligence – you are going to need legal advice that you can count on. Get that advice immediately. Your health – and even your job – may depend on it.