I have a Workers Compensation case open and it is going on 2 years in December. I’ve had many tests done and my last resort is surgery. The accident was from a fall over some boxes on the floor at work. Can I file a personal injury claim?


Ordinarily, an employee’s rights against his or her employer for on-the-job injuries lie solely under the workers’ compensation law—i.e., when the “conditions of compensation” are present (Lab.C. § 3600), the employer is immune from civil damages liability because workers’ compensation is the injured employee’s “exclusive remedy.” [Lab.C. §§ 3600, 3601, 3602(a)]. Workers’ compensation is basically a “no fault” system of redress for work-related injuries—i.e., benefits are paid to injured employees without proof of employer liability. The statutory scheme is intended to provide a “quick, simple and readily accessible method of claiming and receiving compensation.” [Marsh & McLennan v. Super.Ct. (Silvestri) (1989) 49 C3d 1, 6, 259 CR 733, 734–735; see Claxton v. Waters (2004) 34 C4th 367, 373, 18 CR3d 246, 249–250]. However, the workers’ comp exclusive remedy bar is confined to employee claims predicated on physical or disabling emotional injury. Thus, an action at law is permitted for lost wages, commissions, retirement benefits, injury to reputation and other purely “economic losses.” [Piscitelli v. Friedenberg (2001) 87 CA4th 953, 986–988, 105 CR2d 88, 111–113—employee can pursue civil suit against employer for fraud; Davaris v. Cubaleski (1993) 12 CA4th 1583, 16 CR2d 330].

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