If you’re unexpectedly, severely injured in an accident, it may take you a number of weeks – and maybe even months – to recuperate.

Particularly if you’ve been catastrophically injured or temporarily disabled, and if you need more than several weeks to heal, for some people working for some employers, your employment could be at stake.

After a serious injury, what are your employment rights? What are the rights of employers? How can you protect your employment if you require a little extra time to recover from your injuries?

WHEN A SEVERE INJURY HAPPENS, WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES?

When a serious accident happens, seeking medical treatment is the top priority. If you’re the person who’s been injured, after you’ve been seen by a physician or another healthcare provider, the next thing you must do is to retain legal counsel that you trust.

If you’re in the Atlanta area, as quickly as possible after your medical exam, arrange to speak about your rights and options with an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer.

A good injury attorney will provide sound legal advice and dedicated representation, will negotiate aggressively for your complete compensation, and will work diligently to resolve your case in a manner that’s just and fair to everyone who’s involved.

WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN AFTER YOU SUSTAIN A LONG-TERM INJURY?

Of course, no amount of cash can compensate for certain losses that result from severe, long-term injuries, such as:

1. Defaulting on medical bills could lead to foreclosure on your home, repossession of your car or truck, and/or bankruptcy.

2. The emotional and financial pressures arising from a severe long-term injury can result in a separation or a divorce.

3. Sometimes, employers can be impatient, and if your recovery takes too long, you could be replaced at work, or your position could even be eliminated.

When someone is employed in Georgia with no employment contract, it is an “at-will” employment arrangement.

Either the employee or the employer may terminate the arrangement “at-will,” provided that the employee is not fired for a reason that’s illegal – like discrimination or retaliation.

CAN YOU TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT YOUR JOB AFTER AN INJURY?

The right of employers to fire employees at-will is the reason why you must act to protect your job if you suffer any illness or injury that will keep you from work for more than just a few days.

The law in Georgia will be on your side.

You’ll need to know your employment rights and the pertinent federal and state employment laws. Having the advice and insights of an injury attorney will be imperative.

HOW CAN THE “FMLA” HELP YOU?

Many injury victims in our state have employment protection through the FMLA – the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. It requires employers who have at least fifty employees to offer employment-protected, unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons.

The FMLA provides qualified employees with unpaid leave for medical reasons for as long as twelve weeks.

After the leave period, the employee must be allowed to return to work, or the employer has to provide comparable employment with similar pay and similar advancement prospects.

If your employer eliminates your position or replaces you when you are legally on FMLA leave – and does not offer you a comparable position – the employer has probably violated federal law.

You’ll need to speak regarding your situation with a personal injury lawyer who also has employment law experience.

CAN TAKING LEAVE RESULT IN SOMEONE’S TERMINATION?

If you’ve properly completed the paperwork and you’ve made the necessary notifications, you can’t be terminated for legally taking leave. That would be a wrongful termination, and it would be illegal under federal law.

In Georgia, the targets of wrongful termination have the right to take legal action.

If your wrongful termination lawsuit succeeds, you can be returned to your job, you may be eligible for back pay, and in some instances, you may be awarded punitive damages and/or legal fees.

If you need time off work to recover from an illness or injury, and if you work for an employer with at least fifty employees, tell your supervisor or HR department that you need to take unpaid FMLA leave.

When you request FMLA leave, your employer has the right to ask for a statement from your healthcare provider regarding your medical condition.

DOES GEORGIA REQUIRE EMPLOYERS TO PROVIDE PAID LEAVE?

No mandatory sick leave is required by Georgia law. However, many employers in Georgia voluntarily provide paid leave.

Employees need to be sure that they understand the leave policies of their employers and that they comply with those policies.

If a dispute with your employer emerges over sick leave, you should be able to show that you complied with the employer’s leave policies, rules, and deadlines.

WHAT IS YOUR RECOURSE IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED?

If you’re injured by another person’s negligence in this state – in a vehicle crash, in a medical malpractice incident, or in any other scenario – you are probably entitled by law to complete reimbursement for your ongoing medical costs, lost income, and more.

Those injured by negligence will need advice and representation from a skilled personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will aggressively negotiate for your compensation and take your claim to trial if negotiations do not lead quickly to a fair and just settlement.

However – and this is important for every employed person in Georgia to understand – if you are injured at work or in the “course and scope” of your employment, you won’t be able to sue your employer.

HOW DOES WORKERS’ COMPENSATION WORK IN GEORGIA?

Employees injured on the job can’t sue their employers in Georgia, but they will almost always be eligible to receive workers’ compensation payments.

Workers’ comp in this state pays medical bills for job-related injuries, temporary wage-replacement benefits, and – for the eligible – permanent partial disability benefits.

Although you can’t sue an employer over a job-related personal injury, if that injury was caused by someone else – not your colleague or employer – you can probably pursue a “third-party” personal injury claim with your lawyer’s help.

WHY WILL YOU NEED A LAWYER’S HELP IF YOU’RE INJURED?

When employment law and personal injury law intersect in the same case, the legal issues can quickly become complicated.

If you are injured at your workplace – or anywhere in Georgia because another person was negligent – you’ll need legal advice you can trust, and you’ll need it immediately.

If your health and your job are both at risk, don’t wait. You must get the legal help that you need – right away. That is your right.