Do You Know the Rule? Texas ‘Exclusive Remedy’ Rule vs. ‘Exclusive Jurisdiction’ 

25 Jun, 2024 Chris Parker

                               

Mexia, TX (WorkersCompensation.com) -- People occasionally confuse the two issues, but the exclusive remedy provision of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act is not the same as the exclusive jurisdiction provision. 

Exclusive Remedy 

Under the exclusive-remedy provision, recovery of workers' compensation benefits is the only remedy an employee has for a work-related injury when he or she is covered by workers’ compensation insurance through the employer. 

Specifically, Texas law provides as follows:  

Recovery of workers' compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy of an employee covered by workers' compensation insurance coverage or a legal beneficiary against the employer or an agent or employee of the employer for the death of or a work-related injury sustained by the employee 

TEX. LAB.CODE ANN. § 408.001(a). 

This means that, if the employee wants to sue the employer for negligence, he’s out of luck. The Division of Workers’ Compensation, or a court, will generally dismiss the case. See, e.g., Garza v. Exel Logistics, Inc., 161 S.W.3d 473 (Tex. 2005) (stating that the employer could assert the exclusive-remedy defense to claims by a temporary employee if it was covered by workers' compensation insurance) 

The exclusive-remedy provision is an affirmative defense. Thus, the party asserting it must raise the issue when asking the court to grant it summary judgment, or else resolve the issue at trial. 

The purpose of the provision is to incentivize employers to obtain workers’ compensation coverage by granting them immunity from tort lawsuits. 

Exclusive Jurisdiction

Exclusive jurisdiction is another animal altogether. Under that rule, if the legislature has vested an agency with exclusive jurisdiction to hear a dispute, the courts have no power to hear the case until all administrative proceedings are complete.  

The WCA vests the Insurance-Division of Workers' Compensation with exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether a claimant is entitled to workers' compensation benefits. See American Motorists Ins. Co. v. Fodge, 63 S.W.3d 801 (Tex. 2001). 

Under the exclusive jurisdiction provision, a claimant in a workers’ compensation case or an employer must exhaust all administrative remedies before seeking judicial review of the agency's action. 

This means that until the claimant or employer has used up all his administrative remedies, the trial court lacks authority to hear the case and must dismiss the claim. 

The purpose of exclusive jurisdiction is to give the administrative agency – in this case, the Division of Workers' Compensation -- the chance to resolve disputed fact issues and apply its expert knowledge of the law before a court hears the case. 

The issue of exclusive jurisdiction is typically more clearcut than an argument that the exclusive remedy provision applies. In the latter case, there are often issues of whether the claimant was actually an employee of the company where he was injured or whether an exception applies (such as where the injury was caused by the employer’s intentional act or gross negligence).  


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