There are circumstances under which a workplace altercation-related injury entitles you to file a South Carolina workers’ compensation claim. You don’t have to prove your employer was at fault to collect benefits, and your employer may not fire you or retaliate against you for filing a claim.
Receiving Benefits for Workplace Violence
The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) reports that almost two million Americans are assaulted at their workplaces annually, and the fourth leading cause of death on the job is homicide. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workplace violence takes different forms:
- Physical fights
- Sabotage of equipment
- Sexual abuse
- Use of weapons
- Intimidation, stalking, and harassment
- Assault in the process of theft
- Verbal abuse or threats
OSHA recommends steps you can take to avoid/prevent being injured by violent behavior on the job:
- Report suspicious or threatening behavior to your boss.
- Know your employer’s guidelines for addressing workplace violence.
- Avoid keeping/transporting large amounts of money; don’t make deposits/withdrawals alone.
- Familiarize yourself with the location and use of warning/alert devices in the workplace.
- Avoid taking sides in arguments between co-workers.
- Don’t allow personal issues to affect your behavior on the job.
Types of Compensable Injuries
Showing that an injury suffered in an on-the-job fight is compensable is more difficult than proving the validity of most other workers’ comp claims. In order to collect benefits for an injury suffered on the job, you must prove that:
- You sustained your injury in the normal course of performing your duties.
- You didn’t injure yourself intentionally.
- You weren’t doing anything illegal at the time of your injury.
- You weren’t impaired by drugs or alcohol when you were injured.
Your employer’s insurance company will look for ways to deny your claim in order to save money. Its adjusters and attorneys are paid to dispute your contention that your fight arose in the normal course of your work, but you could prevail with the help of an experienced lawyer. Some examples of potentially compensable claims are:
- While working, you unintentionally do/say something that hurts/offends a co-worker who then intentionally retaliates against you physically.
- A co-worker with whom you have an off-the-job acquaintance/relationship is angry with you and intentionally injures you while you’re working.
- At work, you deal with the public and sometimes have to ask people to abide by certain company policies, regulations, or procedures. A customer gets angry with you for doing so and assaults you physically.
- Your sales job requires you to travel, visit other businesses, or stay in hotels/motels. At a site you visit for work purposes or in a place where you spend the night, you’re assaulted by an employee, customer, or criminal intruder.
- You’re a cashier who handles money on the job, and a thief injures you in the process of a robbery.
Any one of the scenarios above might lead to a compensable workers’ comp claim as long as you prove that you didn’t initiate the physical contact. If it can be shown that you threw the first punch, however, then the insurance company will dispute your claim and say you intentionally put yourself at risk of physical injury. Furthermore, you could have trouble proving that an injury sustained off the job was the result of work-related violence. You might not be entitled to benefits if, for example:
- You have a verbal argument at work with someone who intentionally runs your car off the road on the way home.
- You’re a traveling salesperson who stops at a bar for drinks after the day’s last appointment and is assaulted there.
- You’re injured on a lunch break or in the parking lot before or after work, rather than in the process of doing your job.
The complexity of proving a compensable workplace violence injury case makes the services of a lawyer necessary to maximize your chances of a successful claim.
Have You Been Injured On The Job?
If you've been hurt at your job you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your free consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.