General Rule: No, you can’t sue your employer outside of the workers’ compensation system if you’re injured at work.
Why? Because, back when the California legislature was developing the workers’ compensation scheme, there was a “give and take” of employees and employers. The employees got to have a more efficient system that was designed to deliver benefits to the injured workers faster than what would happen in a civil suit. In fact, the workers’ compensation system is supposed to be a benefits delivery system. In exchange, employees had to give up their right to sue in civil court. This is why workers’ compensation is considered an “exclusive remedy” for work injuries, meaning that you can only file a workers’ compensation “suit” through the administrative process at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. Having said that, like most rules, there are exceptions.
What are some exceptions to the “exclusive remedy rule” that would allow you to sue your employer civilly for a work injury?
Some exceptions are when the injury would also be otherwise covered by either the California or Federal Constitution. One of the clearest examples is if you are claiming a stress-based workers’ compensation injury for sexual harassment or discrimination. Any discrimination based on a protected class (such as sex, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, etc.) is something that you can sue for separately in civil court.
So, now what? You’re injured and you need benefits, so what do you do?
File a claim! This will be with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board as opposed to civil court, but don’t let too much time pass by because it’s important that the statute of limitations doesn’t run before you get your paperwork filed. If you have questions about whether you still have time to file your claim with the WCAB, please feel free to contact me. I’m a specialized workers’ compensation lawyer located in Los Angeles. This is completely free of charge!
You can reach me at 424.388.1001 or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.