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Lawmakers look to clarify understanding of “deliberate intent” in workers’ comp cases

In out last post, we began speaking about the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule, which ordinarily prevents workers from suing their employer in court when they are injured on the job. There are good reasons to limit when employees can sue their employer for injuries, and these are ultimately rooted in the basic compromise workers make by participating in the workers’ compensation system.

As we noted, there are two potential situations where state statute recognizes that an injured worker may sue their employer: cases where the employer deliberately intended to harm the employee and cases where the employer knowingly exposed workers to an unsafe condition which violated established safety standards. In practice, it has been very difficult for injured workers to prevail on a deliberate intent claim, which has led to calls for change. 

The way deliberate intent is interpreted, though, may soon be clarified due to a bill currently under consideration in House. The bill establishes a five-part test identifying when a deliberate intent claim exists. Plaintiff’s who are unable to provide adequate evidence to support each element do not have a valid claim.

In addition to the five-part test, the bill also includes language that is supposed to make it easier for judges and juries to determine whether an employer had knowledge of an unsafe condition, as well as language defining a serious injury as causing a minimum disability rating of 13 percent permanent, partial.

In our next post, we’ll explore the five-part test and offer some comments on the issue of disability determination. 

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