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In what is known as the "compensation bargain," California's workers traded the right to sue an employer for damages in the tort or civil law system for benefits in a "no-fault" administrative law system. In 1911, California first provided for voluntary workers' compensation disability benefits (Roseberry Act). Then in 1913 a compulsory act was enacted (Boynton Act).  The Workman's Compensation Insurance and Safety Act of 1917 established the basic workers' compensation law. There have been many changes since then but the basic benefits remain.

Generally, "the right to recover such compensation is...the sole and exclusive remedy of the employee or his or her dependents against the employer."  Labor Code §3602. Exceptions are governed by Labor Code §§3602, 3706 (uninsured employer) and 4558 (power press exception).

"The purposes of the Act are several. It seeks (1) to ensure that the cost of industrial injuries will be part of the cost of goods rather than a burden on society, (2) to guarantee prompt, limited compensation for an employee's work injuries, regardless of fault, as an inevitable cost of production, (3) to spur increased industrial safety, and (4) in return, to insulate the employer from tort liability for his employees' injuries." S.G. Borello & Sons v. DIR (1989) 48 CA3d 341

See, too, Reforms and Civil Suit Against Employer

Label Item Links Comments
Labor Code Exceptions to exclusive remedy rule

Failure to have workers' compensation insurance

"employer's knowing removal of, or knowing failure to install, a point of operation guard on a power press, and this removal or failure to install is specifically authorized by the employer under conditions known by the employer to create a probability of serious injury or death."
LC §3602

LC §3706

LC §4558
Practice Tips     
A study of the history and transformation of the California Workers' Compensation system and the impact of the New Reform Law, Senate Bill 899

California Workers’ Comp Centennial: Thought Leaders Speak the Truth About the Social Bargain and Constitutional Goals

Study of the history 


WC Centennial: Questions

Magazine Articles The History of Workers' Compensation: Part 1 by Tracy Watson

The History of Workers' Compensation: Part 2 by Tracy Watson
History 1

History 2
From antiquity to the present

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