You may assume workers compensation coverage applies only injuries associated with slips, trips, and falls in the workplace. However, this insurance covers much more -- and with recent increases in the rates of workplace violence, knowing when your employer is required to take steps to protect you and coworkers from potential physical danger can be crucial. Read on to learn more about the situations in which your employer may be liable for employee (or customer) actions that cause other employees injury, as well as what you should do if you find yourself on the mend from a debilitating injury deliberately caused by a customer, coworker, or supervisor.
What injuries are covered by workers compensation?
Workers compensation is a type of insurance coverage carried by employers and intended to compensate employees for any medical costs, lost wages, or other expenses associated with an on-the-job accident. Workers comp can cover injuries ranging the gamut from an infected papercut to a gunshot wound, as well as just about anything in between. If your injury didn't take place at your work site, but while you were traveling for work (or to a new work site), it should still be covered. The only large swath of injuries excluded from workers comp coverage are those that take place during your normal morning or afternoon commute, unless you were traveling to a different location than your normal one.
Are employers responsible for violent actions committed by employees or customers?
Since 1970, the federal government has prescribed a number of health and safety regulations for employers through its Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). These OSHA regulations primarily govern safety from mechanical issues or equipment failure -- like ensuring that those who regularly work at or above certain heights have the requisite safety equipment, requiring hard hats and other protective equipment in areas with falling or flying objects, and other physical safety issues.
However, some OSHA regulations are more broadly interpreted, and employers who ignore threats of violence or other potential red flags that indicate an employee or customer could pose a physical danger to other employees could be committing a violation. Many state governments have also implemented laws and regulations targeted toward reducing violence in the workplace. If your employer was (or should have been) aware of a danger and did nothing to prevent it, it may be responsible for not only workers comp coverage for your injuries, but also liable under personal injury or wrongful death law.
What should you do if you've been injured by a violent customer, coworker or supervisor?
Your first step should be to file a workers compensation claim with your employer. Your employer will then transmit your information to its workers comp carrier to open a claim. After this, you'll be able to receive checks for any lost wages you've experienced while out of work. You should be able to have your medical bills forwarded to the workers comp carrier for direct payment.
If you feel your employer could have easily prevented your accident, you may also want to file a personal injury lawsuit to help recover additional costs. Although personal injury lawsuits are often barred in cases where the claimant is receiving workers comp for the same injury, most states will allow this lawsuit to proceed if your employer engaged in deliberate conduct or negligently failed to take action to protect you and other employees.
Depending upon the circumstances of your injury, you may also want to report this incident to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Representatives from this organization may visit your work site and speak to your employers to help implement measures that will prevent similar incidents in the future. Although OSHA fines collected don't always go to the individuals impacted, the threat of such fines is often enough to force compliance from even reluctant employers. For more ideas, click here for info.