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Workers’ Compensation Law and the Exclusive Remedy Rule: the Five Exceptions

While the workers’ compensation system provides medical care and disability benefits, injured workers do not get monetary compensation for pain and suffering. Nor does workers’ compensation provide damages for past or future wage loss, loss of earning capacity, or loss of consortium for the spouse of the injured worker. These are significant items of damage in civil cases that are not available under the Workers’ Compensation system

It is no surprise that a civil complaint filed in Superior Court has many advantages for those litigants who can prove negligence.

Labor Code Section 3600 bars any civil cases against the employer for work-related injury under the Exclusive Remedy Rule with certain exceptions. It is important to recognize when any of these exceptions apply to maximize monetary compensation.

Exceptions to the Exclusive Remedy Rule are:

(1) dual capacity;

(2) fraudulent concealment;

(3) employer assault or ratification;

(4) power press guard removal;

(5) uninsured employer.

If one or more exceptions apply to a work-related injury, an injured employee can sue his or her employer in a civil lawsuit and get around the limitations of the workers’ compensation system as a remedy.

Dual capacity refers to a situation where a worker in injured when his employer acts in another capacity in addition to being an employer. A clerk for a medical group suffered damages for injuries sustained by her employer as a result of medical malpractice.

An employer fraudulently concealed a worker’s injury and the connection to the workplace. As a result, the worker’s condition is made worse.

Employer assaults an employee or ratifies an assault on the worker by a co-employee.

Power press guard removal or failure to install a safety guard may give rise to a civil lawsuit under Labor Code section 4558.

A wilfully uninsured employer may be sued under Labor Code section 3706 in a civil lawsuit.

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