Workers' Compensation As Exclusive Remedy

When an employee is injured in the work place, he/she can seek monetary compensation through different legal channels. One method involves seeking relief under the state’s Workers’ compensation statute. Another involves presenting one’s claim in tort through the state’s common law. The technical difference between these two forums is simply that a statute is created by the state’s legislature while common law is derived from law laid down by courts. The potential differences between these two forums for an injured employee can mean the difference between receiving compensation for loss of earning capacity projected into the future, under workers’ compensation system, or a huge amount of money, in a tort action. A tort plaintiff may receive compensation for pain and suffering and may be entitled to punitive damages, remedies not available in workers’ comp. Unfortunately, the employee generally doesn’t get to pick the forum on account of the exclusivity doctrine.

The exclusivity doctrine provides that if the employee’s claim falls within the scope of the state’s Workers’ Compensation statute, the employee can only seek relief under the statute and is prohibited from suing in tort through the state’s common law. Whether the employee’s claim falls within the scope of the state’s Workers’ Compensation statute depends on whether the employee’s injury occurred during the course of employment. In other words, did the employee get injured while working for his/her employer? If the answer to this question is yes, the employee is barred to sue in tort. The following links discuss instances when an employee who is injured on the job may be able to sue in tort, or at times, both in tort or under workers’ compensation.

Claims against a workers’ compensation insurance company or employer for failure to timely provide medical treatment, disability pay, and other workers’ compensation benefits can only be brought at the workers’ compensation appeals board.  Expect for certain limited exceptions indicated below, an injured workers cannot file a claim against the employer or the employer’s insurance company in any other court other than the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.