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Job hazard may trigger workers’ comp years later

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When it comes to workplace hazards, take note: Georgia employees have a very long time to file for workers’ comp benefits. As a result, you should keep meticulous records for many years on where and when employees worked.

In Georgia, employees have up to seven years after their last “workplace exposure” to file a workers’ comp claim. But they must file within one year of the date they learned about their disability and connected it to a workplace hazard.

Employees have an even longer period when they’ve suffered an asbestos-related ailment. No matter when the last asbestos exposure occurred, employees can file a claim within one year from the time they became disabled and knew the cause.

Recent case: Allen Jones, 70, was exposed to asbestos for about a month in 1992 while doing a renovation project for Putzel Electrical Contractors. Jones, a heavy smoker, developed breathing problems but his doctors couldn’t diagnose them for more than a decade. Finally, a doctor concluded Jones had asbestosis, rendering him totally disabled.

Jones sued Putzel, alleging the company was responsible as the last employer where he could have been exposed to asbestos. Since he filed the claim within one year of receiving the diagnosis, it didn’t matter that the last exposure occurred more than 10 years earlier. His employer was still liable for benefits. (Putzel Electrical Contractors, et al., v. Jones, No. A06A1039, Court of Appeals of Georgia, 2006) 

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