Workers’ Comp and Your Sole Remedy
Shocking, but true.
If you are injured on the job, even if it is the employer’s fault, your
only claim or remedy against your employer is under the workers’
compensation system. Employers are immune from other lawsuits or claims in
return for providing workers’ compensation coverage to their employees.
This is known as the “exclusive
The exclusive remedy bar applies only to your
rights under Georgia law. There are certain federal laws, such as the
Americans with Disabilities Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act, which
may provide additional remedies. For more information regarding your
rights and the exclusive remedy,
knowledgeable lawyer at The Barnett Law Firm.
Q1. Why can’t I sue my employer if my injuries
are the employer’s fault?
Workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system.
It does not matter if the injuries were your fault, your employer’s fault
or no one’s fault. If your injuries arose out of your employment while you
were engaged in your employment, you are covered. Although the employer is
protected from fault (even for willfulness or gross negligence in causing
the accident), the injured employee is also entitled to receive workers’
compensation even if the injuries were the fault of the employee.
The Georgia workers’ comp system provides very
limited benefits to an employee while providing total protection to
employers. It is therefore important that you understand the worker’s
compensation system to ensure you receive all benefits the law allows.
Q2. Can I recover from a co-worker who injured
me on the job?
No. The exclusive remedy bar is designed to
protect not only your employer, but your fellow employees as well. If you
are injured by a fellow employee while working on the job, your sole
remedy is a workers’ compensation claim against the employer.
Q3. What if I decide to waive my right to
workers’ compensation? Can I sue my employer instead?
No. Workers’ compensation is the “exclusive
remedy” an injured worker has against the employer and its workers’ comp
insurer. Choosing not to pursue your benefits under workers’ compensation
laws does not give you the right to pursue other actions against your
Q4. What if my injury was caused by someone
other than my employer or co-employee, such as someone hitting me in a car
accident or if I am injured by a defective piece of machinery?
The workers’ compensation “exclusive remedy
bar” only protects your employer and co-employees. It does not protect
third parties. If someone other than a co-employee, supervisor or other
agent of your employer is responsible in whole or in part for your
injuries, you can pursue a lawsuit against them for your injuries, which
may include negligence claims and “products liability” claims against
manufacturers of defective products. Be sure to discuss these claims with
Q5. What if my employer does not have workers’
compensation insurance coverage if I meet with an accident?
Being uninsured when the law requires that the
employer have workers’ compensation insurance is not a defense to a claim
for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer is subject to fines,
penalties and criminal prosecution for not maintaining workers’
compensation coverage. If uninsured, the employer is responsible for
paying the benefits to which you are entitled. However, the employer is
still protected from claims other than workers’ compensation.
An employer may be self-insured and not have
to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Whether the employer is
uninsured, self-insured, or has workers’ compensation insurance has no
effect on the injured employee’s rights and obligations under the law.
Q6. I am an employee of a temporary agency and
was injured while working at the warehouse of a company that uses our
services. The temporary agency pays my wages and has workers’ compensation
coverage for me. Can I pursue a negligence lawsuit against the company
where I was working?
If you are an employee of a temporary help
contracting firm or an employee leasing company and injured while working
at one of the client companies of the temporary firm, the client company
is immune from lawsuits and your sole remedy is a workers’ compensation
claim with your temporary agency. Therefore, in your case you cannot
pursue a negligence lawsuit.
If you want to know more about the exclusive
remedy surrounding the workers’ compensation system in Georgia,