Torts and Workers’ Compensation

California’s workers’ compensation system is designed to protect both the employee and the employer.  The employee is protected because the law provides that if he or she sustains a work-related injury in the course and scope of employment, he or she will be entitled to receive compensation for a variety of things, ranging from medical expenses to biweekly payments for permanent disability.  The employer is protected because there is a system in place to reduce incidences of fraud, ensure that the expectation for reasonable accommodations is clear, and it clear that not all workers are actually covered under workers’ compensation.  The workers’ compensation system is a “no fault” system, which means that the employee is not required to show the employer was at fault for the injury.  California labor code 3600 also provides that the exclusive remedy for an employee injured and seeking compensation is to purse a workers’ compensation case.  In other words, the employee cannot generally sue the employer for negligence or other civil torts.  All of the essential conditions contained in labor code 3600 must be met in order for the rule to apply.

Like so many other areas of law, however, there are exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule.  One exception is called “dual capacity.”  This exception acknowledges that an employee may have multiple different duties toward the employer.  If the injury arises out of an incident that was independent of the employment relationship, the employee may sue the employer.  Another exception is fraudulent concealment.  This will apply where the employer fraudulently conceals the worker’s injury and its connection to the employment, and the concealment exacerbates the injury.  This exception is typically seen in cases involving exposure to toxic chemicals, mold, or asbestos.  A third exception is employer assault or ratification.  This exception provides that although an employer is not typically responsible for injuries sustained when one employee assaults another, the injured employee may bring a civil suit if the employer took affirmative steps by either ratifying the conduct of the assaulting employee or by assaulting the employee. The next exception is for power press machines.  These machines are any material forming machine which uses a die to press, impact, punch, stamp, or extrude material.  A power press does not include the machines that simply cut material with a blade.  If an employer removes the guard on the press or fails to maintain the guard, an injured employee may sue the employer.  Finally, an employee may bring a civil suit against the employer when the employer has failed to obtain and maintain workers’ compensation insurance in accordance with California law.  This type of suit could allow for an injured employee to obtain workers’ compensation benefits while also recovering for negligence.

We have extensive experience with the workers’ compensation system and all types of associated litigation.  Contact us today for a consultation.

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