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.
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 877-662-5399.