Term Of The Day – Exclusive Remedy Doctrine
The Exclusive Remedy Doctrine makes Workers Compensation claims a no-fault process.
The Workers Compensation insurance provided by an employer will cover the employee no matter who is at fault or even if the incident was purely an accidental occurrence. An injured employee’s benefits may be decreased if they did not used a supplied safety device. The reductions are extremely rare.
The no-fault keeps the employer from denying the claim if it was the employee’s fault. The employer benefits as the employee cannot sue the employer if they were negligent for some reason.
Employees and their attorneys have tried to pierce this veil of no-fault insurance coverage and sue the employer as if the accident was covered by liability insurance. The courts have stuck to the spirit of the doctrine for the most part.
An insurance carrier cannot write business in a state where lawsuits are allowed that circumvent the Workers Comp insurance structure. The insurance carrier does not collect premium as if liability suits would be allowed against their insureds. There have been a few incidences where a liability suit can be brought against an insured even if the accident was covered by Workers Compensation.
The reaction of many carriers is to immediately cease writing coverage in that state or to increase premiums dramatically.
Recently, the West Virginia Supreme Court has allowed such a lawsuit. I am not sure if this would counteract all of the good work that Governor Manchin and the WV Department of Insurance have done to provide a free and open market for Workers Comp insurance.
2019 Update – The courts have allowed a few challenges to Exclusive Remedy. The doctrine stood the test of time and now keeps the jurisdiction of an industrial accident in the workers’ compensation courts.
2021 update – with the new rush of COVID-10 claims, the Exclusive Remedy doctrine of workers comp will likely be challenged numerous times in the future.
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