When you suffer serious injuries at work that were not your fault, your first instinct might be to sue your employer. But because workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for injured workers in most situations, your suit is not likely to be successful. There are only a few situations when workers’ compensation is not the sole available remedy.
Why Is Workers’ Comp Often the Exclusive Remedy?
The term “exclusive remedy” means that workers cannot recover money damages in a civil court for injuries at work. They must get specific types of benefits paid from their employer’s insurance company instead. The benefits generally do not cover pain and suffering or emotional distress from the injury.
The system is set up this way by Minnesota law to avoid placing fault on anyone involved in a workplace injury. Workers do not have to prove that their employers or others caused their injuries, while employers do not have to pay money damages. (Minn. Stat. § 176.021 subd. 1.)
Exceptions to the Exclusive Remedy Rule
There are a few exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule, including gross negligence or intentional harm, other tort liability, and third party liability. These exceptions can be difficult for employees to prove, and employers often still assert a defense that workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for the harm done.
First, employers or individual employees might have liability for injuries if they occurred because of gross negligence or intentional harm. An employer may have subjected its workers to excessively dangerous conditions to save money, for example. Or a coworker might have intentionally hurt an employee at work after a disagreement.
There are civil remedies for cases of battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other torts too, but these are tough to win against an employer. Employees injured in assaults or other incidents often have more success suing the other employee or third party who committed the act. In a few cases, workers have sought damages from manufacturers of defective or dangerous products that cause injury at work. If you believe that your injury was your employer’s fault or that of another employee or third party, contact a lawyer for advice on whether you can avoid the exclusive remedy rule.
Need help getting workers’ compensation for your injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.