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Any time a work-related injury happens within the Georgia state limits, the state has jurisdiction over it.
But that’s not the only time Georgia may have jurisdiction over a work-related injury. In some cases, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation may claim jurisdiction even when an accident has occurred out of state, which enables the affected worker to file for benefits under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act.
This is because Georgia is one of the many states that recognize a worker’s right to choose to file a workers’ compensation claim in any one of three places, including:
- The location where the injury or incident happened
- The location where they’re primarily employed
- Where their employment contract originated
And any time that there’s a dispute over jurisdiction related to an out-of-state injury, a court will examine the incident to apply the conditions spelled out in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242. That’s the section of Georgia law that governs labor and industrial relations,” said Workers Comp lawyer Ramiro Rodriguez, Jr.
It indicates that any out-of-state incident is under the jurisdiction of the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation if it meets three specific conditions. They are:
- That the employment contract originated in Georgia
- That the contract wasn’t for services specifically to take place outside of the state
- And that either the employer maintains a business location in Georgia or the claimant’s primary home is in Georgia
If an out-of-state incident fails to satisfy any of those three requirements, it does not fall under the purview of the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. In that case, the claim must be handled in the state where the incident happened.
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And even though the law seems clear on its face, there are several precedents and prior rulings that govern how the courts decide if a particular incident satisfies the three requirements.
How the Courts Establish Jurisdiction for an Out-Of-State Incident
When it comes to determining if an employment contract originated in Georgia, the court must decide if the primary location of the employment relationship is within the state. For this, the court will rely on the precedent set in Guinn v. Conwood Corp., 185 Ga. App. 41, 363 S.E.2d 271 (1987). If they find that the employment relationship’s primary location is within Georgia, they need not continue to scrutinize the employment contract, as the worker is not considered “employed elsewhere than in the state” as per O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242. If not, they will proceed to determine if the employment contract originated in Georgia.
To do so, the court will examine the location where the contract was made and entered into. It won’t matter where the services spelled out in the contract were supposed to occur. In almost every situation, if the employer and employee were both located in Georgia at the time of the contract’s establishment, the court will find it to be made in Georgia. This is also the case if the employee was within the state when they accepted the contract, no matter where the business itself is located.
The second prerequisite is more straightforward. If the employment contract only called for out-of-state work and the employee never performed any work within Georgia, it doesn’t qualify to establish jurisdiction in Georgia. But, it doesn’t take very much in-state work to alter that. According to the precedent set in Roadway Express, Inc. v. Warren, 163 Ga. App. 759, 295 S.E.2d 743 (1982), an employee whose work was “nearly” all outside of the state would still qualify for Georgia jurisdiction. And the same holds if the work covered in a contract was completely out-of-state and the contract was later amended to cover work performed within Georgia, as per the precedent set in New Amsterdam Cas. Co. v. Thompson, 100 Ga. App. 677, 112 S.E.2d 273 (1959).
And as far as establishing whether a business maintains a presence within Georgia, the threshold is quite low. The courts have repeatedly ruled that non-resident corporations or partnerships have a presence in the state even if that presence is minimal. In Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Suits, 150 Ga. App., 256 S.E.2d 645 (1979), the court found that issuing paychecks to Georgia drivers and storing records in a trailer within the state was enough to satisfy the requirement outlined in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242. So of the three requirements, establishing whether a business has a presence in Georgia often has the lowest burden of proof.
The Exclusivity of Jurisdiction
It’s important to note that even if a Georgia court establishes that the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation has jurisdiction over a claim, there’s nothing stopping another state from claiming jurisdiction, too. An affected worker is legally able to seek benefits in more than one state for a single incident if more than one state has jurisdiction.
According to the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, the only restriction a worker faces in that scenario is that any benefits paid by Georgia are to be offset by any benefits paid by another state for the same incident. In addition, the processing of the claim in Georgia won’t take the result of any concurrent claim into account, and the board will only apply relevant Georgia laws in making its decision.
In a multi-state case of that kind, the claimant should take steps to understand their rights in both jurisdictions before deciding how to proceed. For more information, contact the experts at GA Injury Advocates at (770) 766-0555 for a situation-specific explanation of how the law applies. Hablamos Español.
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