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Can You Receive Disability or Workers Comp if Your Injuries Came from Workplace Violence?

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Most workplace injuries are accidental. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the three leading causes of work-related injuries treated in emergency rooms are contact with objects and equipment, overexertion and bodily reaction, and slips, falls and trips without a fall. However, intentional injuries such as those caused by workplace violence are not uncommon; the CDC found that over 20,000 workers nationwide experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence in 2019. Great strides have been made in recent years to curb the prevalence of workplace violence, but it is still much too common. If you suffered an injury on the job due to workplace violence, a New York workplace violence attorney can help you begin your road to recovery through a workers’ compensation or Social Security disability claim.   

What Is Workplace Violence? 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at a work site. It can include both physical abuse and verbal abuse. According to OSHA, workplace violence was the third-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States in 2019, accounting for 761 deaths

There are four primary forms of workplace violence

  1. Criminal intent: Occurs where the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship to the business or its employees and is usually committing a crime in conjunction with the violence (e.g., robbery, shoplifting, trespassing)
  2. Customer/client: Occurs where the perpetrator is either the recipient of or object of service provided in the workplace by the victim/staff member. This form of workplace violence is particularly common in the healthcare industry. 
  3. Worker-on-worker: Occurs when the perpetrator commits an act of violence against a coworker in the same workplace. It is often motivated by work-related disputes or professional jealousy or as a result of the victim being perceived as “lower on the food chain” by the perpetrator. 
  4. Personal relationship: Occurs where the perpetrator has a relationship with the victim outside of work that spills over into the work environment 

Certain workplaces and occupations are also at a higher risk for workplace violence than others. The CDC identifies the following as risk factors for workplace violence: 

  • Contact with the public 
  • Exchange of money
  • Delivery of passengers, goods, or services
  • Having a mobile workplace, such as a taxicab or police cruiser
  • Working with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social service, or criminal justice settings
  • Working alone or in small numbers
  • Working late at night or during early morning hours
  • Working in high-crime areas
  • Guarding valuable property or possessions
  • Working in community-based settings 

If any of these factors apply to you, you may be at a higher risk of suffering workplace violence. However, you are not without legal recourse if you suffer a workplace violence-related injury. A New York workplace violence attorney can help you evaluate your options. 

Workers’ Compensation for Workplace Violence

Workers’ compensation is designed to provide a fixed set of benefits to individuals who suffer work-related injuries. The key inquiry in any workers’ compensation claim is whether the accident and injury at issue can truly be considered work-related. Accidents and injuries generally are considered work-related when they arise out of or are within the scope of the employee’s duties. For example, a forklift operator who suffered an injury when his forklift tipped over likely would qualify for workers’ compensation, as the accident and resulting injury arose directly out of his work duties. On the other hand, assume that the same forklift operator suffered an injury in an accident, but the injury was due to a car accident while commuting to work. The worker likely would not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in that scenario, as the accident was unrelated to his work duties. 

Workers who suffer injuries due to workplace violence may qualify for workers’ compensation if they can show that the violent act and resulting injury occurred within the scope of their employment. But this may be difficult, as intentional torts (such as those that occur with workplace violence) generally are not covered under workers’ compensation. However, you may be able to pursue workers’ compensation if the workplace violence was due to a work issue — for example, where one worker punches another worker in the face when the first worker finds out that the second worker has been promoted over him. 

These incidents are intensely fact-specific; as such, you should contact a New York workplace violence attorney before beginning a workers’ compensation claim based on workplace violence. 

Social Security Disability for Workplace Violence 

While pursuing a workers’ compensation claim may be difficult for injuries caused by workplace violence, another option for recovery is through the Social Security disability system. Disability benefits are available for individuals who suffer an impairment that prevents them from working and that is expected to last for at least 12 months or to result in death. A severe incident of workplace violence — for example, a spinal injury at the hands of a coworker that results in partial or total paralysis — may qualify the sufferer for disability benefits if he or she can show that the impairment is totally disabling. For individuals whose workplace violence-related injuries are excluded from workers’ compensation, a Social Security disability claim may be a better option. However, workers who are already receiving workers’ compensation benefits when they apply for Social Security disability benefits may have any disability benefits they are awarded reduced. 

Begin Your Road to Recover with the Help of a New York Workplace Violence Attorney

If you have suffered an injury due to workplace violence, you may be able to pursue a workers’ compensation or disability claim, but your claim may be more complex than average. To maximize your chances of success, please contact a New York workplace violence attorney at Turley, Redmond & Rosasco by using our online form or by calling us at 877-693-2529 (New York City), 516-745-5666 (Garden City), 631-582-3700 (Ronkonkoma), or 631-399-0400 (Shirley/Riverhead).

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