When releases do not work: Employees and Workers CompensationPosted: November 13, 2013
State Law prohibits releases for employees if they are covered by Worker’s Compensation.
Prior to the creation of Worker’s Compensation, if an employee was injured at work he had to sue his employer and prove the employer was negligent to recover for his injuries. This created problems for both parties. Injured employees went bankrupt attempting to win a suit and employers injured employees rather than keeping workplaces safe. It was cheaper to fight a lawsuit then make a workplace safe.
With the creation of worker’s compensation the employers and employees both gave up and received benefits. Basically, in return for not suing the employer the employee receives medical care and some of their lost wages.
An employee gives up the right to sue the employer if they accept worker’s compensation benefits. The employer is required to carry worker’s compensation on employees or they can suffer fines or damages levied by the state or if sued by the employee additional damages over what are owed.
Colorado Statutes state that if you accept worker’s compensation you give up other rights to sue.
C.R.S. §§ 8-41-104. Acceptance as surrender of other remedies
An election under the provisions of section 8-40-302 (5) and in compliance with the provisions of articles 40 to 47 of this title, including the provisions for insurance, shall be construed to be a surrender by the employer, such employer’s insurance carrier, and the employee of their rights to any method, form, or amount of compensation or determination thereof or to any cause of action, action at law, suit in equity, or statutory or common-law right, remedy, or proceeding for or on account of such personal injuries or death of such employee other than as provided in said articles, and shall be an acceptance of all the provisions of said articles, and shall bind the employee personally, and, for compensation for such employee’s death, the employee’s personal representatives, surviving spouse, and next of kin, as well as the employer, such employer’s insurance carrier, and those conducting their business during bankruptcy or insolvency.
Georgia Statutes state:
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11 (2013)
§ 34-9-11. Exclusivity of rights and remedies granted to employee under chapter; immunity granted to construction design professionals
(a) The rights and the remedies granted to an employee by this chapter shall exclude all other rights and remedies of such employee, his personal representative, parents, dependents, or next of kin, at common law or otherwise, on account of such injury, loss of service, or death; provided, however, that no employee shall be deprived of any right to bring an action against any third-party tortfeasor, other than an employee of the same employer or any person who, pursuant to a contract or agreement with an employer, provides workers’ compensation benefits to an injured employee, notwithstanding the fact that no common-law master-servant relationship or contract of employment exists between the injured employee and the person providing the benefits, and other than a construction design professional who is retained to perform professional services on or in conjunction with a construction project on which the employee was working when injured, or any employee of a construction design professional who is assisting in the performance of professional services on the construction site on which the employee was working when injured, unless the construction design professional specifically assumes by written contract the safety practices for the project. The immunity provided by this subsection to a construction design professional shall not apply to the negligent preparation of design plans and specifications, nor shall it apply to the tortious activities of the construction design professional or the employees of the construction design professional while on the construction site where the employee was injured and where those activities are the proximate cause of the injury to the employee or to any professional surveys specifically set forth in the contract or any intentional misconduct committed by the construction design professional or his employees.
(b) As used in subsection (a) of this Code section, the term “construction design professional” means any person who is an architect, professional engineer, landscape architect, geologist, or land surveyor who has been issued a license pursuant to Chapter 4, 15, 19, or 23 of Title 43 or any corporation organized to render professional services in Georgia through the practice of one or more such technical professions as architecture, professional engineering, landscape architecture, geology, or land surveying.
(c) The immunity provided by this subsection shall apply and extend to the businesses using the services of a temporary help contracting firm, as such term is defined in Code Section 34-8-46, or an employee leasing company, as such term is defined in Code Section 34-8-32, when the benefits required by this chapter are provided by either the temporary help contracting firm or the employee leasing company or the business using the services of either such firm or company. A temporary help contracting firm or an employee leasing company shall be deemed to be a statutory employer for the purposes of this chapter.
Illinois law states:
§ 820 ILCS 310/5. (Text of Section WITH the changes made by P.A. 89-7, which has been held unconstitutional) [Exclusive remedy against employer; third party liability]
Sec. 5. (a) There is no common law or statutory right to recover compensation or damages from the employer, his insurer, his broker, any service organization retained by the employer, his insurer or his broker to provide safety service, advice or recommendations for the employer or the agents or employees of any of them for or on account of any injury to health, disease, or death therefrom, other than for the compensation herein provided or for damages as provided in Section 3 of this Act [820 ILCS 310/3]. This Section shall not affect any right to compensation under the “Workers’ Compensation Act” [820 ILCS 305/1 et seq.].
No compensation is payable under this Act for any condition of physical or mental ill-being, disability, disablement, or death for which compensation is recoverable on account of accidental injury under the “Workers’ Compensation Act“.
Consequently the battle in worker’s compensation cases is whether or not someone was an employee. Several people are automatically excluded; first independent contractors are not employees. Interns are probably a revolving area of the law, and are probably moving close to being called employees. Several recent federal regulatory changes have required more education for interns and several lawsuits have resulted in interns receiving pay. If interns are paid, then they are employees covered under worker’s compensation.
Interns that have been injured and not covered by worker’s compensation are prevented from recovering because of state law, not because of unequal bargaining power.
The prohibition against lawsuits does not extend to malfunctioning equipment or any third party that might have caused the injury. An example would be an employee working on a road that is hit and injured by a car. The employee’s worker’s compensation would cover his lost wages and medical bills. The injured employee would still sue the driver of the car. However the worker’s compensation insurance company would have the right to recover any damages first before the injured employee based on its subrogation rights.
Simply put, an injury on the job provides guarantees not lawsuits. Those guarantees vary by state, but generally it means 100% of the injured employee’s medical bills are paid and a percentage of their income is replaced. If necessary additional retraining and/or long term disability if the injury is severe enough or permanent.
Employers don’t have to worry about being sued and employees do not have to worry about any defenses to their claims. Statues state that Assumption of the Risk is not a defense to a worker’s comp claim. (C.R.S. 8-41-101 (2013))
8-41-102. Liability of employer complying
An employer who has complied with the provisions of articles 40 to 47 of this title, including the provisions relating to insurance, shall not be subject to the provisions of section 8-41-101; nor shall such employer or the insurance carrier, if any, insuring the employer’s liability under said articles be subject to any other liability for the death of or personal injury to any employee, except as provided in said articles; and all causes of action, actions at law, suits in equity, proceedings, and statutory and common law rights and remedies for and on account of such death of or personal injury to any such employee and accruing to any person are abolished except as provided in said articles.
There is no litigation between employers and employees any more. Now that type of litigation resolves around whether or not someone was an employee. If you are an employer, make sure every person understands that situation and you can prove it, either in writing or some other way. You also must be able to prove that someone is not an employee according to the law. Just saying someone is not an employee is not enough.
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