Most workplace injuries truly are accidents. You smashed your hand in the heavy machinery. Your chair collapsed under you. You slipped on water in the kitchen. However, a less recognized source of injury could be your fellow coworkers or even customers.
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, “nearly 2 million employees are victims of workplace violence each year.” If you were hurt by another person in an attack or assault at work, can you get workers' compensation?
Workers' Compensations for Workplace Violence
In most states, you can get workers' compensation for workplace violence if the attack was work related. This means you'll have to be able to show that the attack or assault happened while you were performing your job duties.
Some states also require that the motivation for the assault also must be work related rather than purely personal. For example, you're working at clothing store. Your ex-boyfriend comes in and beats you up for leaving him. Some courts may consider this attack purely personal and not eligible for workers' comp.
In a different situation, a customer attacks you when you tell her you can't find her the shoes she wants in her size. In this case, it would be easier to show that you were performing your work duties and were attacked because of it. The attack would be considered work related.
For most work related injury, you can get workers' comp even if the injury was your fault. Workers' compensation is a “no-fault” system. This means you do not have to show that the employer was at fault and you weren't to be eligible for benefits. However, there is an exception.
You cannot get workers' compensation for injuries arising out of a physical altercation if you were the initial physical aggressor.
Applying for Workers' Compensation
If injuries occur from an assault at work, you should not wait to see a doctor. Have the doctor document your injuries and costs of treatment.
Then, notify your employer, preferably in writing, of the injury as soon as possible. States have different statutes of limitations on when you must notify your employer. In Texas, you have only 30 days, but in South Carolina, you have up to 90 days. Once you've notified your employer, your employer will give you claim forms to apply for workers' compensation benefits.
If you've been injured at work, an experienced workers' compensation attorney can help you make a claim for benefits.