Workplace violence is more common that most people realize. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that almost 2 million workers in the United States become victims of violence in the workplace each year. This includes intimidation, harassment, threat of physical violence, actual physical violence, or any other disruptive, threatening behavior that happens at work.
Workplace violence can range from verbal abuse to threats to assault – even homicide (which is the fourth leading cause of occupational fatalities in the U.S.). It also isn’t only confined to co-workers. It can involve and affect customers, employees, visitors, and clients. In 2014, there were 4,679 workplace fatalities in the U.S. and 403 were homicides that occurred in the workplace. It is a growing problem and a major concern of employees and employers across the country.
Can You File a Criminal Complaint Against a Co-worker
Yes – and you should. If you are the victim of a workplace assault contacting the police is one of the first things you should do so you can file a complaint against your attacker. Often, assaults that occur in the workplace have several witnesses such as customers or coworkers so providing probable cause in order to get an arrest for your attacker is not a problem.
When you talk to the police, you want to make sure that you convey to them that you did not provoke the attack. A heated verbal exchange is typically not considered to be sufficient provocation for an assault. Threats of death or imminent injury are usually what is required to be considered provocation. In such instances an attacker can claim that they struck out in self-defense.
If you are the victim of a workplace assault you may be eligible to receive restitution from your attacker. The attacker could receive probation and the judge may order that they pay for damages as a condition of their probation. This compensation is not made directly to you, the victim, but instead it is routed through a fund that is sourced by the county, state, or some other source. If the attacker misses a payment it could place them in violation of their probation which could get them arrested.
Can You File Worker’s Compensation
Yes. Under worker’s compensation laws, if you are injured due to a workplace assault you are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. This means that any related expenses such as therapy, medical, prescriptions, bandages, and out of pocket expenses as well as a portion of your lost wages (about two thirds) will all be paid to you during your treatment and recovery.
There are a wide range of injuries that you can sustain, depending on the severity of the assault, you could get anything from a black eye, bruises, and cuts to more significant injuries like a concussion, broken bones, and life threatening injuries.
In order to initiate your worker’s compensation claim you need to first file a “first report of injury” with your employer. This form requires specific information including the date, time, cause, and details of the incident and your injury. If you must be immediately hospitalized as a result of your injuries, you will be able to fill out the form when you’ve been stabilized.
From there, your worker’s comp claim will proceed just like it would if you’d had an accident on the job or were injured in a way that did not involve an attack. If medical treatment is required, you will be able to go to the doctor, a therapist, or whatever care you need.
Can You Sue Your Employer
In some cases, yes. Most of the time a job related injury is covered by the worker’s comp insurance that the employer carries. There are certain conditions, though, where an employee who has sustained injury due to workplace violence can claim their worker’s compensation benefits but can also file a third party civil action against their employer.
Your employer has a legal obligation to protect you and all of their employees from physical injury and undue harm while at work. Making a reasonable effort to keep individuals who have a known history of violent or aggressive behavior out of the workplace is one of your employer’s responsibilities. This can be accomplished by checking references, running criminal background checks, firing or disciplining workers who exhibit violent or aggressive tendencies, and administering drug tests.
When your employer fails to take these reasonable protective actions and as a result you sustain injury, you may be eligible to file a third party lawsuit against them. You will have to prove that your employer was indeed negligent in protecting you and that their actions constituted a wanton disregard for your personal safety or gross negligence.
If you are the victim of workplace violence, you may be entitled to additional compensation. At Paul Giannetti, Attorney at Law, we are here to help. Call today and speak to one of our friendly, compassionate representatives and schedule your free consultation to find out how we can help you. Don’t suffer needlessly, let us help.
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