Workers’ Compensation Benefits & Idiopathic Injuries
We spend much of our lives at work, in part to earn money to be able to enjoy whatever leisure time is left over. All those on-the-job hours means that workplace injuries are bound to happen. When they do, most fall under the umbrella of workers’ compensation, which awards financial benefits for certain injuries. Georgia law provides that an accidental injury is compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act if the employee’s injury arose out of and in the course of employment. Determining whether there is a causal connection between the workplace conditions and the injury can be a complicated matter – and one that is key for compensation. As opposed to outward risks associated with employment, some risks stem from idiopathic conditions. An idiopathic condition is internal and comes about spontaneously, from an obscure cause, from an unknown cause, or from a personal trait. Idiopathic injuries do not generally qualify for worker’s compensation benefits because they do not meet the first part of the test. That is, they do not arise out of the nature or obligation of the employment. For example, a seizure could occur to an employee, but is likely not the result of the work. However, there are narrow exceptions. The Georgia courts have ruled in favor of employees who have come into contact with an employment-specific object where the object increased the risk of injury from an otherwise idiopathic condition. Take the seizure example. If a worker with epilepsy had a seizure and fell from a ladder he was using as a routine part of his job, the resulting injury could be compensable because the ladder aggravated his risk. A worker who has a heart attack while sitting at her desk does not likely have a worker’s comp claim, nor does a worker in the same situation that hits her head on the floor. However, the injury could be a viable claim if the premises of the employment increased the injury risk or aggravated the injury. The presence of a factor that is particular to the claimant’s employment is what renders injuries deriving from an idiopathic injury compensable. Whether or not a claim for worker’s compensation benefits will be granted is highly dependent on the factual circumstances surrounding the accident. It can be difficult to predict the outcome of these cases, rendering the assistance of an experienced worker’s compensation attorney invaluable. A knowledgeable GA worker’s compensation lawyer can help build the strongest possible case, which is extremely important because the person seeking benefits also has the burden of proving causation. The burden then shifts to the employer to prove that the idiopathic harm is independent of the employment and is the sole cause of the injury. If you have any questions about this topic or think your workers’ compensation benefits have been wrongly applied or denied, we can help. The Mann Law Firm has more than 50 years of experience in representing clients in Georgia workers’ compensation claims. Contact us today by calling 1-478-742-3381 or through our online form. We have the knowledge and the expertise to ensure that your rights are fully protected.