Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Workers Comp: When Exclusive Remedy Isn't So Exclusive

Workers are not allowed to sue their employers. That right was given up in the early part of 20th century in return for workers compensation -- a no-fault guarantee of some portion of lost wages and medical benefits. Before that, a worker's only remedy was to sue the employer. Sometimes that resulted in big awards, often it resulted in nothing.

Workers comp is called the "exclusive remedy" of workers injured or made sick on the job. Of course things haven't turned out quite so well. Workers comp almost never fully compensates workers for the injuries they suffer and does a particularly poor job when it comes to compensating workers for occupational diseases acquired on the job.

So the question naturally arises, "Is there any way to get around workers comp and sue my employer?"

The answer is "sometimes" in some states, often depending on the court's decision in individual cases. Workers Comp Insider goes into some of the ways around the exlusive remedy: when the employer intentionally harms a workers (which is difficult to prove) , or when an injury or illness is found not to be covered by workers comp. Workers Comp Insider also reported last year about a case where the worker was awarded $12 million because of fraud perpetrated by the workers comp insurance carrier.