Articles Posted in Workers Compensation

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.20.18 PMLocal News

An explosion at the Hazlehurst Wood Pellets mill reportedly injured four people Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

According to WJCL News, at least one explosion occurred at the Hazlehurst Wood Pellets mill, off Hulett Wooten Farms Road, Tuesday afternoon. One person was air-lifted from the scene, per media reports. Three others were transported to the hospital with injuries.

Authorities have not yet identified the cause of the initial explosion.

Our Legal Take

The Murray Law Firm is following updates of the mill explosion closely and questioning what factors, such as combustible dust or an equipment malfunction, may have contributed.

A December 2014 report on the dangers of combustible dust accumulation in wood pellet plants noted new industry standards and advancements in dust control system design. Was combustible dust a factor in this explosion and, if so, was the mill in compliance with OSHA regulations and the latest industry recommendations?

When did the facility last undergo a safety inspection? Was the explosion a result of a catastrophic equipment malfunction or a lack of mechanical or procedural safeguards?

Based upon its experience in handling these types of cases, The Murray Law Firm suggests that the victims in this matter may have multiple avenues of redress to seek compensation and justice.  At the outset, as the injured victims were most likely in the course and scope of their employment at the time of the explosion, they are almost certainly entitled to substantial workers’ compensation benefits per Georgia law.  Under Georgia Statute O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200.1, severe burn injuries receive automatic designation as a catastrophic injury.  The statute reads as follows:

“Catastrophic injury” means any injury…[that involves] [s]econd or third degree burns over 25 percent of the body as a whole or third degree burns to 5 percent or more of the face or hands….”

The designation of an injury as catastrophic under the Workers’ Compensation Act is significant as it entitles an injured worker to additional benefits that might not otherwise be available.  For example, a typical injured employee may only be entitled to a maximum of 400 weeks of workers’ compensation indemnity payments.  A catastrophically injured worker, however, may be entitled to these payments for life.  This distinction is important to an injured worker’s family, as it will ensure guaranteed income for as long as their loved one is unable to return to gainful employment.  It is, thus, important that the victims in this case quickly retain an attorney who thoroughly understands the Georgia workers’ compensation system so as to ensure that their injuries, if appropriate, are immediatley designated as catastrophic.

In addition to workers’ compensation claims, other legal options may be available to the injured victims.  Although the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act prohibits employees from directly suing their employer for injuries received on the job, the explosion in this case may have been caused by an inadequate dust control system or malfunctioning equipment.  If this is the circumstance, the injured workers may bring a negligence case against the manufacturers or installers of any such machinery.  Under such a case, in addition to workers’ compensation benefits, the injured victims may be entitled to substantial monetary compensation for: pain and suffering; past and future medical expenses; loss of wages and future earning capacity; disfigurement; and emotional distress.  Given the complexities of pursuing such a case, it is imperative that the victims immediately retain an attorney who can ensure the preservation of any and all evidence that may support such a claim.  If the machinery is discarded during the course of clean up, the victims may lose the possibility of pursuing such a case.  Thus, based upon its prior experience in handling these types of cases, The Murray Law Firm suggests that photographs and a through, unbiased inspection of the scene will need to be performed immediately, before any evidence may be repaired, damaged or destroyed.

We are here to Help. Contact us for a Free Consultation.

The Murray Law Firm has extensive and successful experience in representing victims of catastrophic work injuries in Georgia, and we have handled cases such as this one that involve severe burn injuries stemming from a factory explosion.   We offer our legal assistance to the victims in this potential claim, if desired.  Anyone seeking further information or legal representation is encouraged to contact us at 912.385.9690 or, toll free, at 888.842.1616. Consultations are free and confidential.



Choosing the Right Attorney

Selecting the right attorney for you or your family is highly important. You must feel confident that the attorney you hire has a complete understanding of the law applicable to your particular case, and has successful experience in handling such cases.

Important: Do not hire a lawyer who has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct!!!

You should not hire an attorney who calls you or visits you unsolicited, or anyone that contacts you directly to offer legal services. This activity is strictly prohibited by Rule 7.3 of the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which states as follows:



If an attorney, or someone acting on behalf of an attorney, contacts you in this manner, that attorney is in violation of this Rule. This unethical and unprofessional activity on the part of the lawyer is good sign that you should stay away. It is imperative that you are represented by an attorney who is capable of advocating for you within the confines of the law, and an attorney who fails to abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct is probably not the best fit. In fact, any such attorney should be immediately reported to the local State Bar Association. If you have been contacted in such an unsolicited manner, contact us and we’ll assist you in filing a report.

SAC EM Update

The tragic August death of GSU freshman, Michael Gatto, has rallied many in support of Michael’s Law, a bill which would keep underage patrons and bouncers out of bars. House Bill 152 passed the Georgia House of Representatives on Friday, March 13th and now awaits review in the Georgia Senate.

Connect Statesboro Reports:

Since the death of GSU freshman Michael Gatto at Rude Rudy’s last August, Statesboro has been a hotbed of contention over underage alcohol sales and bar attendance. Police charged Grant James Spencer, then 20 — a bouncer who was at the club but reportedly off-duty at the time — with aggravated battery and felony murder. Gatto had arrived as a freshman at Georgia Southern University about two weeks earlier. Spencer, who was also a GSU student, remains in jail awaiting trial. Rude Rudy’s closed after Gatto’s death, and the club’s owner surrendered his alcohol license to the city.

In response to their son’s death, Gatto’s parents have been working to pass a bill that would keep underage people out of bars and away from alcohol. Last Friday, March 13, the Georgia House of Representatives passed House Bill 152, which proposes several changes to alcohol regulation laws statewide.


Here are the bare bones: The Georgia House of Representatives approved legislation to define what bars are, make 21 the minimum age to enter one or work as a bouncer, and place new demands on cities, counties and businesses to report alcoholic beverage violations.


What’s a bar?

According to the new legislation, a bar is a place that derives 75 percent or more of its revenue from alcoholic beverages. The Department of Revenue will be able to look at the monthly sales tax reports of each venue to determine where its revenue is coming from.

Under this definition, Statesboro technically doesn’t have any “bars” — only restaurants that serve alcohol but derive more than 50 percent of their revenue from food sales, or “sports restaurants” required only to have a food permit. However, if any Statesboro venues were to be audited and found to derive 75 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales, they would have to change their status to “bar” and enforce the under-21 restrictions.

The 21 rule

Under HB 152, a person have to be at least 21 years old to enter a bar. That applies to employees as well as customers, although the bill doesn’t explicitly include bartenders or servers.

Bouncers—defined as “individual(s) primarily performing duties related to verifying age for admittance, security, maintaining order, or safety, or a combination thereof” — must also be 21 years old.

Required reporting

Alcohol license holders must self-report any violations of local, state or federal alcohol laws to the Georgia Department of Revenue within 45 days of the violation.Cities and counties must also report any violations within their jurisdiction to the Department of Revenue. The revenue commissioner can issue fines of up to $750 for license holders who fail to report violations


Not exactly. The bill has been passed in the Georgia House of Representatives and still has to go through the Georgia Senate. The Senate could alter the bill or hold off on passing it, meaning it wouldn’t come up again as a potential law until next year. Also, to become an official law, it’s going to need the governor’s signature.

Read the full article at Connect Statesboro and follow House Bill 152 at the Georgia General Assembly.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx (DOT)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx (DOT)

The Department of Transportation has released a new work zone safety campaign, urging drivers to “expect the unexpected.”

The new campaign launches during National Work Zone Awareness week and reminds drivers that work zones may change frequently from one day to the next, posing risks for both motorists and work zone employees if drivers are distracted or not paying attention.

The Augusta Chronicle reports:

Since 1973, 57 Georgia DOT employees have died in work zones, but motorists and their passengers are actually more likely to be killed or injured in work zones, according to a news release.

Since National Work Zone Awareness Week – an annual campaign sponsored by federal, state and local transportation officials – began in 1999, national work zone fatalities have decreased by 34 percent.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, in 2013 there were 579 work zone traffic-related fatalities, 29,000 work zone injuries and 105 worker fatalities. All of the categories were decreases from the previous year.

Last year the Georgia DOT had no employee work zone fatalities, but there were 20 total work zone fatalities.

“While we are pleased that we have not lost a GDOT employee in a work zone related crash this past year, the loss of 20 lives is 20 too many,” Commissioner Russell McMurray said. “I implore the public to be mindful of our workers and to pay strict attention when driving, not just today, but every day, especially in work zones.”

When going through work zones, drivers are expected to remain alert, minimize distractions, not tailgate or speed, pay attention to signs and obey road crew flaggers.

The Murray Law Firm works tirelessly for victims and families devastated by work zone accidents and we offer our legal expertise, if needed. Anyone seeking further information or legal representation is encouraged to contact us at 888.842.1616. Consultations are free and confidential.