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If you suffer an illness or injury as a result of your employment in Georgia, you may be entitled to benefits through the Georgia workers’ compensation system. Those benefits may include the cost of medical care as well as weekly wage replacement while you are unable to work.

While these benefits are certainly important, they often fall short of fully compensating a worker. Unfortunately, additional compensation is unavailable from your employer. However, if a third party caused or contributed to your injuries, you could be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against the third party for additional compensation.

The purpose of the workers’ compensation system is to avoid the need for litigation when a worker is injured on the job. Prior to the establishment of workers’ compensation systems across the United States, a worker had to pursue a negligence lawsuit for compensation for job injuries. An injured worker would receive compensation only when the case was resolved, often months down the road — assuming the lawsuit was successful. In the meantime, a worker had no way to cover the cost of medical treatment much less provide for a family.

The workers’ compensation system solved this problem by eliminating the need for an injured or ill worker to prove negligence on the part of an employer. As long as the injury or illness is work-related, benefits are available almost immediately.

The drawback to the workers’ compensation system is that the benefits are limited. A worker can receive a maximum of two-thirds of his or her average weekly wage in wage replacement benefits, and compensation for pain and suffering is not available. If a third party’s negligence was a contributing factor in the accident, however, the third party could be required to pay compensation as a result of a lawsuit.

Third-party liability often arises in construction site accidents. Imagine that you are part of a landscaping crew at a construction site where there are a number of subcontractors. Suddenly, a pack of shingles falls off the roof because a worker for the roofing company failed to properly secure the pack. The shingles hit you in the head and cause serious, potentially long-term injuries.

Because you were on the job at the time, you would likely be entitled to Georgia worker’s compensation benefits. The negligence of the roofer could also give rise to a third-party lawsuit against the roofer and the roofer that employs the worker. Not only could you be entitled to additional compensation for medical bills and lost wages but also compensation for pain and suffering.