Usually not. When they drew up the “Workers Compensation Act” (before most of us were even born) the employer gave up their right to assert contributory negligence as a defense and the employee gave up the right to sue the employer in civil court – in essence, a “no fault” system.
However, there are some exceptions. If your injury was as the result of “horseplay” on the job, it may provide the employer with a defense. On the other hand, if the employer caused your injury to occur through “serious and willful” misconduct, you may be entitled to additional punitive compensation, and under some circumstances, actually take the case outside of the Workers’ Compensation system.
Further, if your injury was caused by a third party (say for instance a reckless driver), you may be entitled to sue the third party and also get your Workers’ Compensation benefits. In these cases, the insurance carrier might be able to obtain credit from any recovery you may obtain in order to recoup its losses.
The Workers’ Compensation system in this state was meant to streamline the process of getting needed benefits and medical treatment to the injured worker without the red tape one encounters in civil court. However, anyone who has been involved with a Workers’ Compensation claim will probably tell you that this system has its share of red tape as well.
*The above article will be published in the April 2013 edition of The Magazine of Santa Clarita ~ www.santaclaritamagazine.com. All rights reserved
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