Exclusive Remedy Doctrine
Tennessee's workers' compensation laws control when there is a work place injury arising out of the employment relationship. See T.C.A. 50-6-101-108. Generally, employers are obligated to pay and employees are obligated to accept the scheduled monetary compensation as is provided in the relevant statutes. It is a no fault system, meaning the only real question to ask is whether the injury or death occurred in the course of employment - not if anyone was at fault or negligent. If so, the employee's only option for receiving compensation is to proceed under the workers' compensation laws. It is, therefore, the employee's exclusive remedy. See e.g., Swindle v. Goodlow, M2019-00529-COA-R3-CV. In other words, an employee cannot file a lawsuit against an employer for personal injury in circuit court or general sessions. The employee must file a workers' compensation claim.
Why is this important? Workers' compensation claims proceed in a system separate from the circuit and general sessions courts, with their own judges and procedure. The damages are directed by statute- generally providing payment only for medical care and lost wages. Attorney's fees for the claimant are also capped by statute. A traditional lawsuit for personal injury, such as would be filed in circuit court, would likely include damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, etc., and other so called noneconomic damages. These noneconomic damages are not available to a claimant under Tennessee's workers' compensation laws.
For more information on workers' compensation benefits, please visit: https://www.tn.gov/workforce/injuries-at-work/injured-workers/injured-workers/benefits.html
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