Do Workplace Violence Injuries Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Employees can be a victim of workplace violence that leads to injuries. Such injuries can mean lost time from work, medical expenses and permanent injury. Workplace violence is often sudden and out of your control. If injured at work because of an assault by a customer or co-worker, the injured worker can qualify for workers’ compensation or may be allowed to bring a personal injury case. Determining what type of case a workplace injury due to violence is depends on the situation.
In determining if a workplace violence act qualifies for workers’ comp benefits, the reason for the assault must be in the scope of employment or stemming from work-related duties. For example, if an employee believes their coworker is not doing their job correctly and confronts the coworker about it, and the argument escalates leading to a fight with injuries, this would be a workplace injury that may qualify for workers’ comp benefits because the two employees were arguing over a work-related topic. In this scenario, the reason behind the workplace violence act was related to the work itself.
An example in which a workplace violence act would not qualify for workers’ comp benefits occurs if two employees get in a fight because of personal reasons such as one coworker started dating the other coworker’s ex-girlfriend. Because the fight started over a personal matter it is not work-related, this fight would not qualify as a workers’ comp claim. However, the fight may qualify as a personal injury case outside the workers compensation system. The main takeaway is that to receive workers’ compensation benefits for a workplace violence injury situation, the reason behind the workplace violence act must be work-affiliated.
With that said, there are some instances in which a workplace violence act would not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, even if the disagreement started because of work-related topics. If a workplace violence act is premeditated (thought out or planned beforehand), it does not qualify for workers’ comp benefits. So, if two employees got in a verbal argument one afternoon over a work issue; the next day the employees decided to meet at a specific time and fight it out, this would be a premeditated workplace violence act because the employees came to work planning to fight so the injury cannot be unforeseen. Since after the verbal altercation, there was a cooling-off period, and both employees went home. A second example of a premeditated workplace violence act would be if two employees got in a verbal argument at work and they agreed to fight it out in the parking lot after work. This is a premeditated act that does not qualify for workers’ comp benefits because the employees planned to fight after work.
Another caveat to keep in mind in a workers’ compensation case is that “at fault” does not matter. For example, two employees get in a fight about how to stack boxes of inventory in the warehouse properly, and employee number one punches employee number two in the face. Employee number one breaks his hand because of the punch he threw at employee number two. Even though employee number one was at fault for starting the workplace violence act, he may still be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits for his injured hand, along with employee number two, if employee number two has injuries as well. What is essential in a workers’ compensation case is what happened and why the incident happened.
Workplace violence or altercations do not necessarily mean physical harm or threat either; it could mean mental or verbal abuse as well. However, it is more challenging to prove mental or emotional injury in a workers’ compensation case. Unfortunately, arguments arise in the workplace, and feelings get hurt; however, you cannot sue over hurt feelings.
Every workplace violence act or incident is different and is treated as such. While there are parameters to base whether a workplace violence situation qualifies for workers’ comp benefits, no one workplace violence injury situation is the same. Workplace violence can be scary and can lead to serious injuries, so if you or a loved one is involved in a workplace violence situation, contact our Charleston workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys at 843-720-2800 to schedule a free consultation. To learn more about workers’ compensation, please visit https://www.steinberglawfirm.com/practice-areas/workers-compensation.