Dr. Christoph Fingerle, Fachanwalt für Arbeitsrecht

Compensation by Employer in Case of Personal Injury to the Employee - Liability Privilege under the Law of the Statutory Accident Insurance

In the case of accidents at work and commuting accidents of employees, the employers' liability insurance associations act as the carrier of the statutory accident insurance for personal injury. Any liability on the part of the employer company is largely limited, but may nevertheless exist.

Facts and circumstances

An employee suffered an accident on her employer's premises shortly before starting work at around 7:30 a.m. She slipped and broke her ankle. The accident was covered by the employers' liability insurance association; the employee received an injury benefit. She also demanded compensation for pain and suffering and material damage from her employer.

Reasons for the decision

The Federal Labor Court dismissed the employee's action in the last instance (ruling of November 28, 2019 - file no. 8 AZR 35/19).

A statutory liability privilege applies in favor of the employer against a claim for damages by an employee due to an occupational accident regulated by the employers' liability insurance association in which the employee suffered personal injury. The employer is only liable if he caused the accident intentionally or in the case of a so-called commuting accident. A "double wilful intent" is required for the intentional causation of the accident. The intention of the injuring party must not only relate to the act of injury but also to the success of the injury.

The employer had not intentionally caused the accident, which was not a commuting accident but occurred on the company premises.

Notes for practice

For personal injury resulting from accidents at work and commuting accidents, employees have solvent and thus reliable service providers in the statutory accident insurance institutions (Berufsgenossenschaften). The benefits of the statutory accident insurance are financed by the employer companies on a cost-sharing basis. It is therefore appropriate to exempt employers from liability in these cases, with the exception of wilful intent.

Nevertheless, it is urgently recommended that employers, and in particular their legal representatives, observe the provisions of technical occupational health and safety at work without fail and monitor and enforce compliance with them in the company. If - as an exception - a case of intentional damage exists, both the natural persons acting intentionally and the company as a legal entity are liable. If and to the extent that the statutory accident insurance institutions provide benefits to the injured employees, the employees' claims for damages are transferred to the statutory accident insurance institutions.

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