Does Workers Compensation Cover Assault, Battery, and Other Workplace Attacks?
Does Workers Compensation Cover Assault, Battery, and Other Workplace Attacks?
As usual the answer is not a simple yes or no on whether an attack on you during work hours will be considered compensable under workers compensation laws. In some situations, yes, you can receive workers’ compensation benefits if you were attacked and injured at work. Depending on the situation, most often you are also be able to pursue a third-party claim against the attacker in civil court. Here is some information on workplace violence and workers’ compensation coverage:
What Workers’ Comp Benefits Are Available to Victims of Workplace Violence and Are You Eligible?
First, we will look at eligibility for a victim of workplace violence. Virginia is an “actual risk” state for workers’ compensation claims. This means that in addition to proving you were injured while working, you need to prove that the injury was caused by an actual risk specific to the job, rather than something that could have happened on your own time. For example, workers who handle or carry cash are often at higher risk of being assaulted or attacked for this reason. A bank teller who was injured during a robbery could argue that this risk was inherent to their job.
On the other hand, if an intoxicated customer wanders into a store and randomly punches an employee, it is harder to argue that this risk was inherent to the job. The intoxicated person could just as easily have punched someone on the street or in another public place. It is often important to explore the full details of what happened, how the workplace is set up, and other known risks to the job: location and time of shift etc.
Is Workplace Violence Covered By Workers’ Comp?
There are multiple kinds of workplace violence, and most are subject to the “actual risk” test outlined above. In many cases, if you are attacked by a coworker in the workplace, this is considered inherent to the job. If the other person hits you first and you strike them back, you are still eligible for compensation as long as you can prove that you were only acting in self-defense. Virginia law does prohibit workers’ compensation in situations where the employee is trying to injure another, so if the other party claims that you started the fight, you may need to prove that was not the case. If you were hurt after a coworker started a fight, we recommend speaking to a Virginia workplace law attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights (there may be additional causes of action that can pursued beyond workers compensation when it comes to workplace violence, e.g. hostile work environment lawsuit against the employer).
Workers’ Comp for Injury from Workplace Violence: Sexual Assault
Virginia Code Section 65.2-301 adds specific protections for workers who are sexually assaulted by an employee or coworker. As long as the assault is promptly reported to law enforcement and the risk is related to employment, victims are considered to have suffered an injury as a result of their employment. They are therefore eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, just like other acts of violence, the victim may be able to pursue a third-party claim against the perpetrator in civil and or criminal court.
What workers compensation benefits are available if you are assaulted at work?
If you prevail on the merits of the claim, potential workers comp benefits available to victims of workplace violence include (POINTER: the Commission will only award what someone asks for so if you do not ask for certain benefits you are entitled to, you will not be awarded those benefits):
- Temporary total disability (TTD) provides compensation for lost income when you are unable to work at all due to your injuries.
- Temporary partial disability (TPD) is used if you can still work to a degree, but have to take a lighter-duty job or work fewer hours because of your injuries.
- Permanent partial disability (PPD) is available in some situations where you receive a permanent injury and suffer some loss because of it. This can be an amputation injury, vision loss, or losing the use of some body parts listed on a workers’ compensation schedule. You can only apply for permanent partial disability benefits after you have reached “maximum medical improvement,” or MMI, which means that your doctor has tried every treatment available to improve your condition and believes you will not get any better than you are now. If this is the case, you should receive a permanent impairment rating that will affect how much compensation you receive.
- Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits are available if your injuries leave you completely unable to work at all. It can be difficult to get approval for PTD, but a workplace law attorney can give you the best chance at receiving benefits.
- Lifetime medical benefits may be approved for any injuries you suffered in a workplace violence situation. This includes both physical and mental injuries, so if you develop PTSD from the trauma, you can get therapy and other treatments for as long as you need.
- Death benefits may be provided to a dependent spouse or children if an employee dies due to workplace violence.
How to Get Workers Compensation for an Attack at Work in Virginia
Workers’ compensation claims need to be filed with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission within two years of when the incident occurs. It is essential that you also report the violent encounter to your supervisor immediately after it happens, even if there were other witnesses. Try to report it both verbally and in a written way that you can keep a record of, like an email or text (preferably from a personal email address or phone number that you cannot lose access to). This is to ensure that your employer cannot claim they never received notification of your injuries.
It may seem obvious, but you should also report the violence to the police. Do not assume that your supervisor will call and make a report. Call 911 immediately and explain the situation, then get medical attention for any injuries, even if they seem minor. Many workers’ comp claims are denied because the injured person waited too long to see a doctor, and the Commission decided that their injuries might not be related to the reported injury.
This is only one of many reasons why workers’ compensation claims are denied. A claim can be turned down due to incorrect paperwork, missed deadlines, the employer’s desire to keep their insurance rates low, and numerous other causes. The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to seek help from a Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer. Remember that if you need help with workers’ comp, Lugar Law offers free, confidential consultations so you can learn your options with no obligation.
If I am Assaulted at Work, Can I Get Workers’ Compensation Even If My Boss Wants to Keep the Situation Quiet?
What if your supervisor really does not want to report what happened? This can be an awkward situation, especially if you are afraid of further violence, if your boss or your boss’ favorite employee was the one violent with you. If you do not feel safe openly reporting the incident while you are still at work, you should do so as soon as you leave. Then call a workplace injury lawyer immediately so they can advise you on how to proceed with your workers’ compensation claim.
Similarly, some people are afraid to file a claim with the Commission because they fear retaliation at work, such as being fired or harassed. If your supervisor has said directly or even implied that filing a workers’ comp claim due to your workplace violence injuries would be a bad idea, please contact an attorney. You have a right to seek compensation for your injuries, and a lawyer can advise you on the steps to take to protect yourself and your rights.
If you have any questions or concerns about workers’ compensation and workplace violence, please contact Lugar Law for a free consultation.