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California’s workers’ compensation remedy rule has both simplified the system by which an injured worker can receive compensation while also trapping certain injured employees and limiting their options for relief. The state’s exclusive remedy rule means that workers’ remedies for work-related injuries can be limited solely to a workers’ compensation claim against the employer. In other words, an injured employee cannot file a personal injury claim against the employer unless the case qualifies as an exception. It’s important to understand the exceptions to the remedy rule and know your options as an injured worker.
In many cases, California’s exclusive remedy rule helps employees. While it limits employees’ legal avenues, it also gives employees automatic benefits if they sustain a work injury. Employees don’t have to prove an employer was negligent, or that negligence directly caused the injury. If an injury occurred during a job-related activity, that’s enough for the state to require an employer to pay for the benefits.
In some situations, however, an employee would be better off if he or she could bring a claim against a negligent employer instead of settling for workers’ compensation benefits. There are many cases where an employee would receive a large settlement if he or she won his or her lawsuit. If an employee wants to file a claim outside of workers’ compensation for a work-related injury, the situation has to fall under an exception.
According to California’s Labor Code section 3600, there are several exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule. One of the narrow exceptions to the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy rule is if a worker’s injury is the result of a third party’s negligence. A “third party” refers to an entity that is neither an employer nor a co-worker, such as the manufacturer of certain tool used on the job. Depending on the circumstances concerning the third party, workers’ compensation laws don’t prohibit filing a personal injury lawsuit.
These cases are rare, but in the event a worker’s injuries were the result of an employer’s intentional actions to harm the worker, the worker can sue. If an employer assaults an employee and results in injury, the employee can file a personal injury claim with the court. If an employer ratifies an assault by a co-worker, the injured employee can also file a claim.
If an employer fraudulently conceals an injured worker’s injuries, leading to the worker’s injuries worsening, the employee can sue the employer outside of workers’ compensation. To support a fraudulent concealment argument, a plaintiff has to prove that the employer concealed the injury and the connection between employment and the injury, and that the concealment exacerbated the injury. These situations most commonly involve hazardous substances such as asbestos or mold.
If your employer chooses not to secure workers’ compensation insurance, you may take the uninsured employer to court in the event of an injury. An injured employee can file a claim on the basis of negligence. An employer has a duty to abide by workplace safety codes and standards. If an uninsured employer negligently disregards these rules and it results in employee injury, the victim(s) can take legal action.
Understanding the complex nature of California’s workers’ compensation exclusive remedy rule and its exceptions requires the attention of a skilled attorney. Your employer may not be honest with you regarding your rights in the face of an injury, especially if your injury was the result of a hazardous workplace environment. Instead of taking what your employer might say for granted, consult with a workers compensation lawyer in Orange County who has your best interest in mind.
If you think the law restricts you to only filing a workers’ compensation claim, contact our team for a free evaluation. We’ll discuss the possibility of filing a personal injury claim to maximize your compensation.