Assaults, threats, homicides, and other violence within American workplaces are all too common. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statics uncovered 23,000 significant injuries that occurred from assaults at work in 2013. Healthcare and social service workers are the most at risk, considering more than 70 percent of the assaults occurred in those industries.
In 2010, the Census for Fatal Occupational Injuries found there were 518 workplace homicides. Seventy-eight percent of these deaths occurred because of shootings, many of which killed multiple people. The assailants were sometimes coworkers, robbers, or a personal acquaintance of one of the victims.
Most people do not consider violence when they head to work every day. We think of that as an issue for police officers or other law enforcement professionals. But the average American is at risk for getting hurt at work because of being attacked by a customer, fellow employee, or intruder.
When someone is hurt or killed on the job because they were attacked, the question arises as to whether that injury is covered by workers’ compensation.
The answer is that it depends.
In some situations, the injured party or their family might be required to use the workers’ compensation process to recover from the incident. If other circumstances, the victim or their family have the right to sue the parties allegedly at fault for the injury or death because it was not covered by workers’ compensation.
What Is Worker’s Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is an insurance system that allows employees to financially recover for medical expenses and lost wages if they’re hurt while on the job or become sick because of their work. Employers purchase this type of insurance. Georgia requires any business that employs at least three people, including regular part-timers, to buy this type of insurance and make it available to all of the employees.
Through this system, workers are entitled to medical care and are not stuck with expenses related to sickness or injury from their job.
What Does it Cover?
Workers’ compensation covers any type of injury sustained within the scope of the person’s employment. This means an injury or sickness a worker has because of their job will be covered so long as they follow the procedural rules.
Much of what is covered by workers’ compensation insurance are injuries caused by accidents, such as a worker slipping and falling. Other common injuries occur because of repetitive motions, like knee issues from consistently walking and lifting heavy objects or shoulder injuries from performing a repetitive arm movement.
Is Workplace Violence Included?
Whether or not violence is covered by workers’ compensation depends on how it arose. If it is clear that violence is a risk common within that profession, such as if the victim is a cop, then workers’ compensation insurance applies. A criminal defense attorney who works for a firm may get attacked by a client while questioning them about their past activities. This could also be considered as having arose from an employee performing their duties and therefore work related and covered by workers’ comp insurance.
However, there may be times when an employer is attacked by a coworker, robber, or customer and it is not considered work related and not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Simply being at work when an injury takes place is not enough to make it a workers’ compensation claim. There must be a causal connection between the work and the injury.
For instance, a Georgia Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that a person’s murder by a coworker did not arise out of his job duties, Business Insurance reported. Nickifor Zephyrine worked in a warehouse where there was not an increased risk of injury, attack, or criminal activity because of the location or type of work. The murder did not arise out of a work-related dispute or accident.
Because it was not work related in any way, it only took place at the work location, the murder was not covered by workers’ compensation insurance and Zephyrine’s mother was not barred from suing the employer and other parties based on negligently hiring someone with a criminal record.
What Do I Do If I Am Attacked at Work?
If you are attacked by anyone while working, you should report it to your employer or a supervisor immediately. A record should be made of when and where the injury occurred and under what circumstances – including whether it was a co-worker, customer, or intruder who hurt you. If other employees witnessed the event, make sure you have their names and contact information.
Get medical treatment right away. Even if you believe your injuries to be minor, you want to see a physician and have a record of being examined, diagnosed, and treated. If your doctor gives you instructions, such as rest or a prescription, follow these carefully.
Speak With an Attorney Right Away
Workplace violence raises a lot of issues. Is violence a part of the job? Do employers need to better protect their employees? Will workers’ compensation cover the violence-related harm? Can employees sue those they believe are responsible for their injuries?
In some situations, it benefits employees for their injuries to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. They are guaranteed medical care, will be able to take time off if necessary, and will be reimbursed for medical expenses. It even covers long-term disabilities.
But in other cases like that of Maria Sturgess, the mother of Nickifor Zephyrine, workers’ compensation does not bring the victim justice. It does not hold the guilty parties responsible and it does not compensate someone for their pain and suffering.
If you are not sure whether your injuries due to workplace violence are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, contact an experienced legal representative right away. An Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney can advise you on your rights, such as whether you can sue or are barred from suing the parties you believe are at fault for your injury.
Call Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. or contact us online for a free case consultation.