- Out-of-State Accidents: When Does Georgia Have Jurisdiction?
- December 1, 2009 | Author: Ashley D. Alfonso
- Law Firm: Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers, LLP - Atlanta Office
- As a rule, Georgia retains jurisdiction for a work injury occurring within the limits of the state. However, there are cases in which the Board may exercise jurisdiction over accidents that occur outside the state, thereby enabling the employee to seek entitlement to indemnity and medical benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Georgia is in the majority of states which recognizes an employee may choose to file a workers’ compensation claim where jurisdiction may be in one of three possible places: (1) where the injury actually occurred, (2) where the employment was primarily located, or (3) where the contract of employment was entered.
When a question arises as to whether the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation has jurisdiction over a claim where an accident occurred outside of the state, the Court will look to whether the facts of the claim meet the prerequisites outlined in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242. Under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation has jurisdiction over an accident which occurs outside the state if all three of the following prerequisites are met: (1) the contract of employment was made in Georgia, (2) the contract of employment was not expressly for services outside the state of Georgia, and (3) the employer’s place of business is in Georgia or the claimant’s residence is in Georgia. If all three of these prerequisites are present, the Board retains jurisdiction over the claim even though the injury occurred outside of Georgia.
In order to meet the first prerequisite, i.e. whether the employment contract was made in Georgia, it must first be determined whether the principle location of the employment relationship is in Georgia. Guinn v. Conwood Corp., 185 Ga. App. 41, 363 S.E.2d 271 (1987). If it is, the employee is not considered “employed elsewhere than in the state” as stated in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242, and the Court need not apply the prerequisites outlined in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242. In contrast, if the principle location of employment is outside the state, the prerequisite of a made-in Georgia contract of employment must be satisfied. To determine whether a contract meets this prerequisite, one must look to where the contract itself was made rather than where the services were intended by the parties to take place. So, if the employer and the employee were in Georgia when the contract was executed, the employment contract is determined to be “made” in Georgia with some limited exceptions. One of those exceptions is if the employer and the employee were in different states when the contract was made. The Board will have jurisdiction over the claim if the employee tendered his acceptance of the employment contract in Georgia.
Also, the contract itself must not be for work exclusively outside of Georgia in order to meet the second prerequisite of O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242. The Board does not have jurisdiction over a contract if it was for work outside the state and if the employee did not actually engage in work within the state under the contract. O.C.G.A. § 34-9-7. In Roadway Express, Inc. v. Warren, 163 Ga. App. 759, 295 S.E.2d 743 (1982), the Court of Appeals noted that an employee’s work was not exclusively outside the state for purposes of meeting this requirement even if “nearly” all of the employee’s work occurred outside of Georgia. Moreover, Georgia properly retains jurisdiction over a claim where the original employment contract was for services exclusively outside the state, but later modified when the employee begins performing work within the state. New Amsterdam Cas. Co. v. Thompson, 100 Ga. App. 677, 112 S.E.2d 273 (1959).
To determine whether an employer has a place of business in Georgia, the Court will consider any place of business the employer may have in Georgia even if it is a non-resident corporation or partnership. For example, in Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Suits, 150 Ga. App., 256 S.E.2d 645 (1979), the Court of Appeals found the employer had a “place of business” within Georgia to satisfy O.C.G.A. § 34-9-242 based on evidence the employer operated out of a trailer in Cohutta, Georgia, where it issued paychecks to Georgia drivers and retained business records. Moreover, the employer also owned four trucks based in Georgia.
Dual Jurisdiction: Taking Two Bites of the Apple?
Although a claim may be subject to Georgia law, it does not preclude another state from also exercising jurisdiction over the same claim. An employee may file a claim for benefits in two different states, where one is the state in which he was actually injured and the other where the employment relationship was primarily located. In some instances, more than one state may have jurisdiction over the accident. Home Insurance Co. v. Burnett, 146 Ga. App. 355, 246 S.E.2d 394 (1978). The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act does not bar an employee from pursuing a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia even if he has already pursued a claim for the same injury under the workers’ compensation laws of another state. However, any benefits paid by the employer or insurer in another state are offset against any benefits that may be payable under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. Although the employee may pursue his claim concurrently in two states, the Board will only apply Georgia workers’ compensation law when adjudicating the claim in Georgia.
For more information on this topic, contact Ashley Alfonso at 404.888.6230 or [email protected]