As part of the Grand Bargain, we have in the workers’ compensation system a process known as the exclusive remedy. What has been traded for is a quick and easy way to address injuries received in the occupational space. Consequently, we have a system that takes us out of the court system to receive proper benefits for those injuries. Exclusive remedy is doctrine and in return, employees cannot sue their employer for damages.
There are exceptions, such as willful neglect on the employer’s part or if the employer does not carry a workers’ compensation insurance policy. This doctrine protects both the injured employee and the employer. While there are instances where this might be “fair” this principle does serve the 2.6 million individuals injured annually, quite well. Pros include simplicity, efficiency, and guaranteed benefits. If you are an injured employee, the Cons would appear to be are the benefits sufficient and losing your right to sue in civil court.

There is a recent case where this principle appears to be working against the interests of the injured employee: the elementary teacher shot by a student. The injured employee was hospitalized for several weeks, and it is my understanding is continuing to recover. The injured employee is apparently refusing payment of the hospital bill and salary provided by the workers’ compensation coverage.

Overall, the exclusive remedy doctrine is a complex and important part of the workers’ compensation system. It is important to understand the doctrine and its implications if you are injured on the job.

In 2022, there were 2.6 million workplace injuries in the US. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that there were 392 workplace homicides in that same year. There needs to be a common perspective for all of these events that occurred, and this serves as a clinical basis for the exclusive remedy doctrine.

While not always “fair”, can you imagine the delay in care and receipt of compensation in a system where there are an added 2,600,000 cases in the court system each year? This would be a case where the motto of my favorite Vulcan comes into play: the benefit of the many outweighs the needs of the few or individual.