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The Workers’ Compensation Exclusive Remedy Doctrine

By Evan L. Kaine

Like any law related topic, there are a number of factors that can alter the filing of a lawsuit and its outcome. This is no different for a workers’ compensation claim.  In fact, many injured employees believe that workers’ comp cases are cut and dry – the employer should pay if an employee has been injured or killed on the job.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case every single time. Under Georgia law, the Georgia Exclusive Remedy Doctrine can complicate, or even prohibit, workers’ compensation cases.

The Exclusive Remedy Doctrine

The Exclusive Remedy Doctrine can be found in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11, which essentially states that an employee’s rights to pursue a claim for personal injuries or death against their employer is barred under Georgia law.  However, despite this law, an employee can still pursue a claim for bodily injuries or death against a liable third party.

It’s not all bad news! Employees maintain their rights to receive workers’ compensation benefits from their employer (or the employer’s insurance agency) for injuries that were suffered while on the job.  The distinction here is that the Georgia workers’ compensation system is the only option for an injured worker to receive compensation from their employer.

For employees who find themselves in this situation, it means two things. On the positive side, the employee does not have to prove negligence. The employee could even be partially at fault and still receive workers’ compensation benefits.  However, the employee is limited to the benefits that are available under the Georgia workers’ compensation system. More often than not, these benefits are typically less than the compensation an employee would typically receive via a properly handled personal injury case against a negligent third party.

Exceptions: Injured on the Job, but Can Still Sue

The key exception to the Exclusive Remedy Doctrine is when a third party “tortfeasor” is responsible for an employee’s injury. For example, an employee who is required to operate a vehicle as a part of his or her job and is involved in a car accident that was caused by another individual, that employee can receive all of the benefits under a workers’ compensation claim, via their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, and also pursue a case for personal injury against the individual who caused the accident.

If you have been injured on the job, you should speak with an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation cases. At Kaine Law, we want to help those who have been injured, as well as help them understand their legal rights from start to finish. To schedule your free consultation regarding a workers’ compensation claim, please contact our office today.


Published February 27, 2018


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