Federal authorities cite workplace violence as a major concern for both employees and employers across the country. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 14% of fatal workplace injuries in 2019 were due to intentional attacks by another person.
In addition to fatal attacks, OSHA notes that workers report threats of violence, harassment, intimidation, and other disruptive behavior on the job as forms of workplace violence. The agency also observes that many instances of workplace violence go unreported each year.
If you are the victim of workplace violence, can you file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits? The answer depends on the situation. Even if you cannot recover compensation through workers’ comp, however, you might be able to recover damages from a third party or your employer through a lawsuit.
Injuries Must Arise Out of and In the Course of Employment
Florida workers’ comp statutes allow victims of injuries “arising out of and in the course of employment” to file for workers’ compensation benefits. Courts have dedicated a lot of time to discussing when injuries have the required connection to employment duties to make a worker eligible for compensation. An employee does not need to prove that their employer was negligent, so there is no need to show that negligent security in the workplace caused the injuries.
An injury arising out of and in the course of employment does not simply mean “on the job.” An injury that occurs while you’re at work might not arise out of employment if you were doing something personal or something against your employer’s policies. At the same time, you could be covered while performing work duties away from the workplace, such as while running an errand for your employer.
Workplace violence could arise in the course of a crime such as a robbery, or it could originate with a co-worker, customer, or personal acquaintance of the victim. The relationship can have an effect on whether workplace violence injuries are covered by workers’ compensation.
Arising Out of Employment
Injuries must usually occur in connection with job duties to be covered by workers’ compensation. So if an employee was injured at work when they were attacked by a former dating partner who was out for revenge, that injury might not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits because it arose from the employee’s personal life rather than employment. However, if the attack came from a disgruntled customer unhappy with the employer or even the employee’s conduct, then injuries from the attack should be covered unless the employee unreasonably provoked the attacker.
In the Course of Employment
This requirement is sometimes referred to as “in the course and scope” of employment. For injuries to be in the course and scope of employment, a worker must be injured while they were someplace they were supposed to be as part of the job and during work hours. A secretary attacked while going to the copy machine would be considered to be harmed in the course of employment. The same would be true if the secretary had left the office to buy copy paper under the employer’s orders. However, if the secretary was attacked at a restaurant on her lunch hour or on her way home from work, that injury would generally not be considered in the course of employment.
The Injured Employee Must Not Have Incited the Violence
An employee injured by workplace violence may be required to prove that they did not incite the violence or provoke the attacker to assault them. In some situations, point of view can make a huge difference in determining whether an employee’s injuries should be covered. It is important to ensure that the attorney arguing on behalf of the employee has the full facts available to make the best assertions in favor of coverage and refute arguments raised in efforts to deny coverage.
Risk Factors for Workplace Violence
OSHA reports certain factors that place workers at greater risk of injury from workplace violence. These include:
- Jobs that involve exchanging money with the public
- Working alone
- Working in isolated areas or high-crime areas
- Working in contact with unstable or volatile people
- Providing care services
- Working where alcohol is served
- Working late at night
Some jobs that involve more than one of these factors and therefore put workers at increased risk include customer service agents, delivery drivers, law enforcement personnel, public service workers, and healthcare professionals.
Options for Recovery in Addition to Workers’ Compensation
If an injury due to workplace violence is not covered by workers’ compensation or if the injuries warrant additional compensation, the employee may have other options for recovery depending on the circumstances. A knowledgeable injury lawyer could analyze the situation and review all options for obtaining compensation.
If the employer or an agent of the employer acted with deliberate intent to hurt the employee, then the employee could sue the employer for damages. In addition to the medical and wage benefits available through workers’ comp, they might be able to recover damages for pain, suffering, emotional anguish, and possibly even punitive damages.
It is also certainly possible to file a lawsuit against the attacker. If the violence was caused by a minor, the injured employee might be able to hold parents liable as well.
Get Help with Workers’ Compensation After Injuries Caused by Workplace Violence
Workplace injuries can be devastating in any situation, but when an injury results from violence in the workplace, employees suffer emotional trauma as well. While workers’ compensation benefits cannot directly compensate you for the pain and suffering you’ve endured, your situation makes it all the more essential to obtain the medical and wage benefits that you are entitled to receive.
An experienced workplace injury attorney can help you pursue the best methods for obtaining compensation based on the unique circumstances of your case. To speak confidentially with an attorney at the Maus Law Firm to find out what may be possible in your situation, contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation.