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Workers’ Compensation for Workplace Fights and Harmful Incidents

What happens if you become injured from a workplace fight? Are you still entitled to workers’ compensation? As with many other legal issues, the answer is, “It depends.” Whether or not you still qualify for workers’ compensation for your injuries depends on the circumstances surrounding your case.

Workplace Violence is Common

Workplace assaults happen more often than many people realize. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly 2 million workers in America report being victims of workplace assault every year. If you have suffered injuries in a workplace assault or fight, you are not alone.

Seeking Compensation for Work Injuries Due to a Fight

Under Workers’ Compensation laws, you may or may not be entitled to compensation for injuries caused by a fight on the job. Just because a fight happened at work, does not mean the injuries will be covered. As with other workers’ compensation claims, you must prove that your injury or illness took place on the job. Specifically, the Workers’ Compensation Act provides that you may seek workers’ compensation when the injury arises out of and in the course of the employee’s employment to be compensable under the Act.

The Act also states that workers’ compensation benefits “shall not include injury caused by the willful act of a third person directed against an employee for reasons personal to such employee.” Additionally, the Act states that “the attack must be work-related rather than for personal reasons, in order for the injury to be compensable.” In other words, you can only recover workers’ compensation for injuries caused by fights at work when:

  • The injured worker did not start the fight or the altercation
  • The basis of the fight centered around the job or the workplace

The Difference Between Work Matters and Personal Matters

The line between work matters and personal matters is often blurry, so the second factor can be difficult to prove. For example, if two people get into a fight over something one employee’s girlfriend said or did, this fight would not be related to work, and the injuries would likely not be compensable through workers’ compensation. However, if one employee was jealous that another employee got an extra vacation day or a pay raise that he did not get, and insults his co-worker, the ensuing fight would likely be considered an on-the-job fight.

Courts Evaluate These Types of Claims on a Case-by-Case Basis

Workplace fights are one of the more complex areas of workers’ compensation laws. Courts look to each individual case to decide who provoked the fight and to determine the root cause of the fight. For example, in one recent case, a court denied workers’ compensation coverage after a dispute arose when one employee constantly asked to share the other employee’s food. The employee slammed the employee into a wall breaking his leg. The court determined that this was a personal issue and denied coverage.

On the other hand, a court can rule that injuries stemming from personal animosity are compensable if they arise from reasons related to an employee’s performance. For example, an employer told an employee to go home after she got into an argument with a customer. She refused, and the employer called the police. As the police escorted her off of the premises, she alleged that the employer punched her in the face, causing an injury. The court determined that workers’ compensation covered the injury because the alternation arose from reasons related exclusively to the employee’s job performance.

What Happens if a Customer Attacks Me While I am at Work?

We have seen a number of incidents in the news that involve a disgruntled customer attacking an innocent employee who is on the job. When a customer assaults you and causes you injuries while you are at work and the assault is related to your job, you will likely qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. For example, during Black Friday sales, if you told a customer that he needed to wait in a line before getting a certain in-demand product, and the customer punched you, your injuries would be covered by workers’ compensation.

What if I am Not at My Workplace When I am Injured in a Fight?

You may be concerned that you will not be eligible for workers’ compensation if you were injured in a fight off the premises of your workplace. For example, if you are a business person who traveled to a customer’s workplace in another state and you were injured in a fight, will you still qualify for workers’ compensation? The answer depends on whether or not you were engaged in your employer’s direction at the time of the assault.

For example, if you were at a hotel and were eating alone at the hotel restaurant when you were assaulted, you would likely not qualify for workers’ compensation. However, if the fight happened due to a skirmish with your co-worker or with a potential customer who was eating with you, you could argue that the attack arose within the scope of the work that required you to be there. If you were working for your employer at his or her direction, you could be entitled to compensation for fights that happen at the following places:

  • Travel to another job site
  • Travel to a client’s office
  • Travel to a warehouse
  • Travel to a store to obtain supplies
  • Travel to a customer’s workplace
  • Travel to a government agency for your employer

Let Us Advocate for Your Right to Workers’ Compensation after a Workplace Fight

When employers see any wiggle room on paying out workers’ compensation, they will often deny your claim outright. If your employer is refusing to pay workers’ compensation for injuries caused by a work-related fight, you need the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. Contact the skilled lawyers at Smith Hulsey Law today to schedule your free initial consultation.

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