People unfortunately often experience an injury on the job. Pain, suffering, medical bills, and lost income could affect a worker significantly, even when the recovery period is short. Thankfully, Colorado law allows for seeking filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. However, victims who are new to this process might not be familiar with the legal concept of “exclusive remedy”, which is an integral part of workers’ compensation law.
Workers’ compensation and exclusive remedy
An employee who files a worker’s compensation claim is generally barred from proceeding with a lawsuit against the employer. Colorado follows a no-fault system for workers’ compensation. Therefore, the employee need not prove that the negligence of the employer caused the injury, nor is the claimant’s negligence usually a bar to recovery. The workers’ compensation claim provides the “exclusive remedy” for the employee’s situation. The protection is not absolute, as some exceptions might apply.
Exceptions to the exclusive remedy provision
“Dual capacity” scenarios could allow workers to file for benefits and sue their employer as well. One example of how such a process could work would be if someone worked for a power tool company and was injured while demonstrating the use of a tool that turned out to be defective. The lawsuit could focus on product liability, which would be separate from the workers’ compensation claim.
An employee injured by an employer’s or a fellow employee’s intentional acts may have both a workers’ compensation claim and a lawsuit. As an example, if a co-worker or supervisor loses control and physically assaults someone, the injured party may be able to sue for punitive and other damages even while pursuing a separate workers’ comp claim against the manufacturer, which would be treated as a non-employer third party that bore responsibility for the accident.
The benefits available under workers’ compensation can include medical treatment and, in some cases, a portion of wages lost while the victim is unable to return to work while recovering from the injuries that have been sustained. It might be advisable for victims to have the assistance of an attorney throughout the process.