Legal options for compensation for injured farm laborers in Georgia
Injured farmhands and agricultural workers receive different treatment under Georgia law, depending on the nature of their employment. Seasonal and temporary workers are entitled to different types of compensation if they sustain an injury or become ill while on the job.
On average, 240 agricultural workers report a workplace injury each day. Despite the occupational hazards farmworkers often face, only 13 states require agriculture employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance for the individuals who work for them.
The state of Georgia does not require workers’ compensation coverage for people who work in agricultural settings.
Nevertheless, many employers who aren’t required to provide workers’ comp coverage do so anyways on a voluntary basis.
Common causes of workplace injuries in agricultural settings
Farm labor can be highly treacherous and dangerous work. From overexertion to sprains and strains due to the physical nature of the work, to exposure to chemicals and hazards posed by operating heavy machinery, there are many ways workers get hurt.
The most common injuries and fatalities among agriculture workers involve a vehicle. Tractor injuries cause between 500 and 600 deaths each year. Many tractor accident injuries occur as a result of a tractor rollover.
In addition, workers commonly develop respiratory ailments as a result of exposure to mold, toxic chemicals, gases and pesticides.
Workers also sometimes fall off ladders, bins, silos and equipment. Workers who fall from equipment, grain bins, ladders and structures on the property may sustain broken bones, injuries to the nervous system or even death.
Suffocation accidents sometimes occur if workers become trapped in grain bins or silos. Chemicals and pesticides may cause chemical burns and poisonings. Farm animals sometimes attack agricultural workers.
Farm work can cause repetitive motion injuries as workers frequently bend, lift and push heavy items on a continuous basis. Sometimes farmworkers regularly work in any combination of extreme heat, humidity or direct sunlight.
Farms are full of potentially hazardous situations; therefore, it is important for workers to understand their rights in the event of a workplace accident.
Protections for seasonal and temporary Georgia farmworkers
Workers’ compensation law doesn’t distinguish between part-time, seasonal and full-time workers. Therefore, most seasonal and temporary workers in Georgia are equally entitled to receive workers’ comp benefits if their employer offers coverage. This coverage begins on the worker’s first day on the job.
However, as mentioned, farm laborers and agricultural workers are generally excluded from Georgia’s workers’ compensation requirement. This means that in order to obtain compensation for a work-related injury, you’ll have to file an injury lawsuit against your employer and secure compensation by providing negligence and liability. If, however, your employer voluntarily carries workers’ compensation coverage, then you may have legal recourse to file a claim.
First though, temporary workers should know exactly who employs them. In some cases, the employer may be an employment agency; in other cases, temporary workers may work directly for the business owner. The party who employs the worker is responsible for providing workers’ comp benefits if the employer carries insurance as required by law or on a voluntary basis.
Migrant workers may receive workers’ compensation benefits if their employer voluntarily provides insurance.
What to do in the event of a workplace injury on a farm
Ideally, farmworkers should find out prior to beginning a job whether the farm for which they will be working offers workers’ comp insurance. In the event of a work-related accident or if a worker contracts an illness in the workplace, the first step is to notify the employer, even if they don’t offer coverage.
The next call should be to an experienced workers’ comp attorney who can provide solid advice regarding available legal remedies for the worker. Employers who don’t provide workers’ comp benefits may still be liable for their employees’ injuries. An attorney can help injured workers understand who is exempt from workers’ compensation and determine the best way to seek compensation.
Workers who are unable to receive workers’ comp benefits are often able to file a claim in court and receive a settlement or judgment to cover the injured worker’s medical expenses, lost wages and, in some cases, additional compensation.
Fighting for farmworkers’ rights
Whether seasonal, full-time, part-time or temporary, Westmoreland Law works diligently to fight for injured farmworkers’ rights. If you or a loved one works for an employer that offers farm labor workers’ compensation, contact us prior to signing any documents or agreeing to receive benefits. Often, workers may be legally entitled to receive more than the insurance company initially offers.
Our workers’ comp attorneys will help you weigh the pros and cons of all viable legal options so you can make an informed decision about which option is best for you. Contact us today to receive a confidential case evaluation. Let our compassionate, seasoned attorneys do the legal legwork while you focus on healing.