Whether you work at a construction site or in an office, you’re probably aware that you might be injured or become ill due to your job — and that workers’ compensation benefits are available to cover your medical treatments.
But what if you’re injured as the result of an assault by a co-worker, client or vendor? When a worker is injured on the job due not to an accident but to an intentional act of violence, the rules can become a little less clear.
Tragically, the issue of workplace violence is common. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration reports that almost 2 million U.S. workers report being victims of violence in their workplaces every year, and many additional cases are not reported.
Workplace Assault Liability
Any injuries that were caused to an employee as a result of an assault may only be ascribed to the individual who committed such an act if it is shown that the assault was not work-related and that the employer refused to tolerate it. The fellow employee who performed the act may also be held responsible for any financial losses like medical expenses or lost wages.
In cases where the assailant is unknown, the employer may be held liable for not providing a safe workplace if it can be shown that the employer was negligent in protecting its employees from workplace assaults. For example, if there are no security guards and the presence of one might have prevented the assault at work, you may hold your employer liable. To prove employer liability, it must be shown that the employer knew or should have known about the possibility of workplace assaults and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent them.
Employers can also be held responsible if it is proved that they were involved in the assault in any way. This implies that they may have provoked or egged their workers on to commit the crime, refused to stop the attack even though they were aware it would happen, or due to employer negligence. For example, if an employer failed to correct bullying, they may be held responsible for the assault that resulted.
Florida’s No-Fault System
Florida’s workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system that allows you to receive compensation for physical assault at work even if you are at fault. You do not have to prove that the employer was at fault and that you weren’t eligible for compensation under these circumstances. There is, however, an exception. If you were the initial physical aggressor, you will not be eligible for a workplace assault compensation claim for injuries incurred in a physical fight.
This exception is in place to discourage workplace violence. It is important to note that the exception only applies if you were the aggressor and not if you were defending yourself. If you were defending yourself, you may still be eligible for personal injury claims.
Preventing Workplace Violence
Employers would benefit from preventing workplace assaults. Not only is workplace violence disruptive to business operations, but can also be a liability for the business.
Employers are responsible for leading their employees and should know how to handle any situation that arises in the workplace. There is a chance of violence occurring when there’s bullying, pressure from an abusive boss, or arguments between co-workers; but these can be prevented by making sure everyone follows proper guidelines on how to handle workplace conflict. Workplace violence can be prevented by:
- Promoting a healthy work environment where employees feel valued and respected.
- Encouraging employees to report any incidents of bullying or harassment.
- Providing conflict resolution training for employees and managers.
- Observing how coworkers interact with one another.
Workplace abuse and violence are difficult situations to resolve, especially since there could be several parties involved. Having an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about these types of cases is essential to ensure that everyone is protected under the law.
Hire a Lawyer for Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you or someone you know has been a victim of workplace abuse or violence, contact Kaire and Heffernan, LLC, for a free consultation. We would be more than happy to help you with your worker’s comp claim. We will give the expert legal representation you need to file a claim for assault at work, with the assurance of a fantastic attorney-client relationship.
What Constitutes Workplace Violence?
OSHA categorizes any act of harassment, intimidation, threatening behavior or physical violence that occurs at your place of employment as workplace violence. If you’re injured due to someone’s assault or other violent action against you, you may be entitled to benefits under Florida’s workers’ compensation laws.
Injuries due to workplace violence vary in severity, from minor scrapes or bruises to serious head injuries, stab wounds or even death. Violent acts at a place of employment can affect workers, customers, clients, vendors and visitors.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Workplace Violence
Workers’ compensation insurance typically provides coverage for workplace violence in any work-related attacks. To qualify for benefits, a victim must demonstrate that the attack occurred on the job and while they were engaged in the duties of their job.
In some states, the law addresses the motivation for the attack: It must be related to work, and not personal, for the victim to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
In most cases, victims of work-related injuries can receive benefits even if they bore some responsibility for the injury. If you’re injured on the job, you typically will not be required to show fault on the part of the employer.
However, in the case of a physical assault, an injured person cannot receive workers’ compensation benefits if he or she started the physical aggression.
In Florida, state law provides that if an employee who is covered under workers’ compensation law is hurt or killed by a third party, compensatory benefits are available to the employee or surviving family members. To receive benefits, the victim must have been injured during the course of carrying out work-related duties.
Workers injured in Florida due to a physical assault by a third party also can pursue other legal action — such as a personal injury claim — in addition to the workers’ compensation claim.
Suing Your Employer or a Third Party
If you’ve suffered an injury at work due to an assault, you may have legal remedies under state law, including working with personal injury attorneys to file a lawsuit. Claims can be filed on a number of different grounds related to injuries inflicted by physical violence, including assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Injuries caused at work by a party other than your employer — for example, a co-worker, vendor, customer or visitor to your workplace — can be the basis of a lawsuit against that third party.
In addition, contacting police to have criminal charges filed also may be appropriate. An attorney experienced in both personal injury and workers’ compensation law can advise you on the best course of action.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you’re injured in an assault at work, you should seek immediate medical attention. In a non-emergency situation, you can alert your employer before seeing a doctor. However, if your injuries require emergency attention, see a doctor right away and notify your employer afterward.
Once you have received medical treatment, it’s important to officially notify your employer of the injury, in writing, within 30 days. After you notify your employer, you should receive an application form for workers’ compensation benefits.
If your employer does not report your injury to the workers’ compensation insurer, you can report the injury to the company yourself. Even if you receive benefits through workers’ compensation following an assault on the job, you still may be able to file a personal injury claim for additional harm you’ve suffered.
Have You Been Assaulted at Work?
Workers’ compensation insurance companies may provide benefits following on-the-job assaults, but compensation is not available in every situation. By working with attorneys well-versed in both workers’ compensation and personal injury, you position yourself to collect restitution for any harm you have suffered. For a consultation, please contact Kaire & Heffernan, LLC, at 305-376-7860.
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.