When Injured on the Job, is Workers’ Compensation the exclusive remedy ?  Often YES , but sometimes NO.

When an employee is injured on the job her first recourse is always her employers’ workers’ compensation insurance.  Workers’ compensation insurance often covers the employee’s medical care costs, and their lost wages due to either temporary or permanent disability.  Workers’ Compensation Insurance provides coverage without regard for fault, or who caused the injury.  However, just because an injury occurred on the job, does not mean that workers’ compensation is the only avenue to compensation and recovery for the injured worker.  Often times, work place injuries are caused as a result of the negligence or actions of persons other than the employer, or co-employees.
In today’s work place employees are regularly exposed to potential injury from causes that fall outside of the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule.  When an employee is injured on the job as a result of a malfunctioning product, or the actions of a third-person who is not a co-employee (such as an independent contractors, or an unrelated party)  the employee may have a right to pursue a personal injury case against the product manufacturer or third party even though the injury occurred on the job.  Third Party Personal Injury claims often times carry a certain advantage as they  generally provide a greater potential for recovery of compensation for the injured worker.  Unlike a workers’ compensation claim, third party claims may provide the injured worker with compensation for their non-economic injuries, their pain and suffering, and affords other potential avenues for recovery, such as punitive damages.  The best part (if there can ever be a best part to being injured), is that the employee does not have to choose between the two. An injured employee may pursue both a workers’ compensation claim and a third party personal injury claim simultaneously.
When injured on the job, the injured worker is best served by carefully considering the causes of their injury for a potential third party personal injury claim.  The injured worker should consult with, not only an attorney who specialized in workers’ compensation claims, but also with a personal injury attorney who is experienced in investigating work place injuries for potential third party liability.
The Los Angeles based personal injury attorneys at Heimanson & Wolf are well experienced in identifying potential third party personal injury claims that arise out of an injury at the work place.  By identifying potential third party claims, we have helped many injured workers recover greater compensation than that afforded through the workers’ compensation system alone.
In future blog entries we will discuss instances where an employer is not protected by the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule – such as the power press exception provided by California Labor Code Section 4558.