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Psychological Injuries: Are They Recognized in Georgia as A Compensable Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Burdine & Brown Sept. 13, 2022

See Abernathy v. City of Albany, 269. Georgia 88 (1998) 

Assume the following: 

  • You are a worker in the water works department of your county. 

  • A major flood occurs in your city.

  • Your supervisor sent you and another worker out in a boat to rescue those in harm’s way. 

  • Your supervisor radios you to go to the local cemetery where much to your horror you are told 18 caskets have “escaped” their graves and are floating down the river. Your assignment is to capture the caskets (with the decomposed bodies hopefully still in the caskets). 

  • You find the caskets but as you reach for one of them your hand and arm easily pierce the casket and you find your hand has plunged into the decaying body inside the casket. You suffered no physical injury whatsoever.  

  • The next casket you encounter, you and your partner very carefully pull it onboard. However, the bottom of the casket breaks open and the deteriorating head of the corpse rolls out and into your lap. You suffer no physical injury whatsoever as you must remove the head and find a place for it inside the decaying casket. 

This is not a form of horror movie produced by Disney Plus. This is actually what happened in 1998 near Albany, Georgia. The worker who truly encountered these two unusual dead folks developed extreme psychological trauma and was clearly not able to work his water department job for six months. 

You say: most certainly this is a job injury. How could it not be? Yet, by definition, in Georgia, for there to be a compensable job injury, one must have suffered a physical injury first and then developed psychological symptoms afterwards. The psychological injuries can extend/continue long after the physical injuries clear up, but without the physical injury occurring first, the psychological injuries do NOT make a workers’ compensation claim. 

Georgia is one of only a handful of states that views psychological claims this way. In 2021, the Georgia legislature let die in committee a bill that will have allowed firemen to pursue psychological claims without physical injuries. The time coming for a change, I predict it will happen soon.    

I represent people injured on the job or in an automobile accident in Suwanee, Georgia. I have many years of experience and enjoy in representing people in their workers’ compensation claim or automobile accident cases I also represent people in their Social Security Income Disability claims.