The ‘exclusive remedy’ doctrine and its exceptions

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2015 | Workers' Compensation

As this blog has mentioned before, in Arizona, a worker’s “exclusive remedy” against his or her employer for injuries that he or she incurred while on the job is workers’ compensation. While this will pay for medical expenses and a portion of a person’s lost income, workers’ compensation will not pay for other non-economic items like emotional distress or pain and suffering.

Nevertheless, under the exclusive remedy rule, a worker will have to be satisfied with his or her workers’ compensation benefits, because Arizona law prohibits him or her from suing his or her employer in court following a workplace accident. In effect, the worker trades off his or her right to sue for some guaranteed compensation that he or she should get through the workers’ compensation system.

Although this system seems to make some sense, the problem with it is that many times, workers’ compensation payments are simply not enough either to cover all of a victim’s losses or satisfy the demands of basic justice. Many employees in Arizona therefore may want to try to sue their employers rather than take workers’ compensation.

Under the workers’ compensation statutes, an employee is only allowed to sue his or her employer if the employer engaged in “willful misconduct,” which means that the employer was actually trying to hurt the employee. While this might not seem like much of a loophole in the law, employees may also be able to sue in other situations, such is when his or her employer also designed or manufactured the equipment that hurt the employee.

Workers’ compensation can be difficult to understand, but with the help of the right people, it can prove to be an invaluable remedy for workers and their families.