Am I Eligible for Workers’ Comp from Workplace Violence?

You might not think workers’ comp covers workplace violence or a fight you were involved in at work, but this is to the contrary. You may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits if you meet certain qualifications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, 20,790 workers in the private sector experienced trauma from workplace violence. Overwhelmingly, 71% were female, and 73% worked in the healthcare and social assistance industry.1 When working with members of the public who have underlying conditions, at Livingston DiMarzio, LLP, our workplace violence lawyers understand that it is difficult to manage people’s and patient’s behavior, and often the incoming attack or violence is unforeseeable. Just because you are not able to prevent it does not mean it is your fault.

What Disqualifies My Case?

When assessing a workers’ compensation case, the injury in question must arise out of and in the course of one’s employment, such as a customer attacked you. If you were injured in an altercation with a coworker on your lunch break, for example, you may not be eligible. If you normally work inside a building but instead your injury occurred while on the road or meeting with someone while conducting official workplace duties, you may still qualify.

An example of a case in workplace violence may include the standard outlined in New Jersey Statutes Annotated 34:15-7.1.2 If a worker was a victim of skylarking and horseplay, or in other words, a victim of another individual who was fooling around or engaging in shenanigans, that worker could be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If the injured victim had themselves engaged in the tomfoolery, it would be difficult to obtain workers’ comp.

Another disqualification could be if an employee was intoxicated at the time of injury. The employer may try to pursue an intoxication defense, arguing that the sole reason for the injury was because the employee was under the influence. For the employer to prove that an employee was intoxicated, blood or urine samples could be provided.

For your workers’ compensation claim to be successful, you and your attorney will need to show that you are not the one that instigated or started the altercation. Even if a coworker or customer verbally provoked you through insults, throwing the first punch would lead to a denial of your benefits. Conversely, if you instigated the fight by provoking someone else, your employer would argue that the injury did not arise from the conditions of your work. There is an understanding that you are allowed to defend yourself following an altercation started by another individual.

Disregarding basic workplace safety or security rules whereas a consequence you were a victim of workplace violence could lead to a denial of your benefits. For example, as a nurse or mental health worker, your employer might have a guideline for what to do if the patient you are treating becomes irritated. You might ignore the warning signs or may even outright contribute towards or provoke the patient to fight with you by being rude, disrespectful, or bullyish. Your employer could use this defense in court, using other coworkers as witnesses of the incident.

What types of work conditions are often present for victims of workplace violence?

Types of Work at Higher Risk of Workplace Violence

  • Workers who deal with money with the public, such as retail workers and cashiers. Often this includes convenience stores, gas stations, and fast-food restaurants.
  • Working with prescription drugs, such as pharmacists and veterinarians.
  • Working with mentally unstable persons – This includes mental health workers in crisis intervention and counseling services, nursing home workers, and healthcare workers.
  • Workers who deliver passengers, or goods – This may include taxi, bus drivers and truck drivers.
  • Those who work alone or in small groups – Think store clerks, or those who own their own business.
  • Working in a low traffic area – Washrooms, storage areas, utility rooms.
  • Working where alcohol is served – This includes food and beverage staff in bars.
  • Working during a period of transitional change – Company strikes, downsizing, even hiring many workers.
  • Working with students
  • Working in law enforcement – Police officers often deal with unruly members of the public.
  • Working unusual hours (late at night or early morning).3
  • Letter carriers can be victims of dog bites4.

Injuries sustained under active shooter situations fall under workers’ compensation. Active shooters may attempt to target banks, schools, and retail stores. If your loved one died during work because of an active shooter, you may be able to recover death or survivor benefits for you and your family.

Domestic Violence

During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers’ compensation systems in New Jersey have adapted towards remote worker injury cases. If you are a victim of domestic violence while working from home, it is unlikely that you can file for workers’ compensation benefits. This is because there is generally no causal connection between the injuries incurred and the workplace or work duties being performed. You may be able to file a criminal case, however.

Teaching Profession

Teaching has become a more dangerous profession during the COVID-19 pandemic. As parents become frustrated with schools requiring children to wear masks 8 hours a day, some take it upon themselves to act, unfortunately. On the first day of school in a California district, a parent attacked a teacher after a mask dispute. The teacher was attempting to protect the principal of the school, who was verbally assaulted by the parent. The teacher sustained lacerations, a face bruising, and a knot on the back of his head.5

Mental Health Workers

Mental health workers are further exposed to situations requiring tact and which could expose them to workplace violence in places like New York City and others around the country. The goal in NYC and other places is to reduce police presence for nonviolent emergency calls. As a result, 32% less people have been transported to the hospital compared to traditional 911 calls involving police, and less people are being killed in mental health-related calls.6 This is being regarded as a success.

Workers’ Compensation Fraud

There are many cases of individuals intentionally injuring themselves and attempting to collect workers’ compensation benefits, claiming the injury occurred in the scope of employment. Not only will this lead to a denial of your benefits if found out, but this is illegal and those who have done so are prosecuted for fraud, which can result in fines and jail time.

Why Choose Us?

Our workplace violence lawyers are committed towards devoting the time and attention needed towards you and your case so that you may live comfortably. We are highly familiar with the eligibilities concerning your case and whether you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

If you or a loved one were a victim of workplace violence, call Livingston DiMarzio, LLP today for a free consultation at (973)-943-4961. If we choose to take your case, you pay nothing until you win.

 

1 “Occupational Violence – Fast Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 22 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/violence/fastfacts.html.

2 “2009 New JERSEY CODE :: TITLE 34 – Labor AND Workmen’s COMPENSATION :: 34:15 :: 34:15-7.1 – HORSEPLAY OR SKYLARKING on Part of Fellow Employees.” Justia Law, Justia, law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2009/title-34/34-15/34-15-7-1/.

3 “Violence and Harassment in the Workplace.” Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, Canada.ca, 14 Aug. 2021, www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/violence.html.

4 Vaughn-Furlow, Becky. “Workplace Violence: Who Is at Highest Risk and What Steps to Take.” Ledger, Mississippi Clarion Ledger, 6 July 2018, www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2018/07/06/workplace-violence-highest-risk-jobs-and-how-protect-yourself/758360002/.

5 Wong, Wilson. “Parent Attacks Teacher after Mask Dispute on First Day of School in California District, Official Says.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 13 Aug. 2021, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/parent-attacks-teacher-after-mask-dispute-first-day-school-california-n1276736.

6 Shivaram, Deepa. “Mental Health Response TEAMS Yield Better Outcomes than Police In NYC, Data Shows.” NPR, NPR, 23 July 2021, www.npr.org/2021/07/23/1019704823/police-mental-health-crisis-calls-new-york-city.

WorkplaceLawyers.com is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.

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