Is workplace violence covered by workers’ compensation?
Workers Compensation - July 19, 2022
Generally, injuries caused by workplace violence should be covered by workers’ compensation. If an employee is harmed at work while doing their job, workers’ comp must provide compensation for their injuries. That means acts of violence that occur in the workplace while under the scope of employment should be covered by workers’ compensation.
However, there are a few nuances to this rule. Keep reading to learn when violence may not be covered under Illinois workers’ comp.
You should be covered under the Illinois workers’ compensation act
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act protects any employee, contractor, or worker who is injured while performing their job duties. The worker must file under the law and provide information about the allegation.
Injuries that occur outside the workplace are also covered if they happen while the employee is completing work-related tasks. This can include workplace violence if you’re injured at work from violence perpetrated by coworkers, supervisors, managers, or other leaders.
You can’t sue your employer directly in Illinois…
Workers’ comp laws were designed so that employees could be compensated without suing their employers. This covers the employees while also reducing the number of lawsuits filed against employers.
Considering this, you can’t sue your employer for workplace violence because workers’ comp already covers any and all injuries that occur in the workplace. So, if you’re injured as a result of accidental workplace violence, then filing a workers’ comp claim is your best (and often your only) bet.
…Except in very specific circumstances
With every rule comes an exception. The following specific circumstances allow you to pursue litigation against your employer with the help of a skilled Joliet workers’ compensation lawyer:
Not an accident
Workers’ comp only covers accidental injuries, defined as injuries that occur under unexpected and unforeseen circumstances. If a coworker decides to shoot you during a disagreement, that would still be considered “accidental” because it was unexpected and unforeseen to you and your employer. Unless your employer encourages a coworker to harm you, then the violence is not the employer’s fault, so you can’t sue them.
Not arising from employment
If workplace violence occurs and harms a customer, then that customer can sue the employer because that violence didn’t arise from employment, as they are not an employee.
Not covered by workers’ compensation
If workers’ comp denies compensation for the injury for whatever reason, then you may sue your employer. Workers’ comp exists to provide compensation for work-related injuries, not to take your boss to court, but if workers’ comp fails to compensate you, then you may have to move on to suing your employer for damages.
Recent workplace violence case: rodriguez vs. frankie’s beef/pasta and catering
In 2012, there was an Illinois case known as Rodriguez v. Frankie’s Beef/Pasta and Catering that involved workplace violence. This case is often used as an example of legal options regarding workplace violence.
In this case, an employee named Alma Rodriguez got into an argument with a coworker over a job position while at work, and was shot and killed by the coworker. The estate of Rodriguez tried to sue the employer, Frankie’s Beef/Pasta and Catering. The lawsuit accused the employer of negligent hiring and retention of the aggressor. Basically, they sued because the employer hired someone with a violent persona and allowed the violent person to work there.
The court determined that the estate could not sue the employer for those things because the violence occurred as a result of and regarding employment, meaning it was something covered under workers’ comp. The decision went on to establish that the estate’s only legal option was to file under workers’ comp.
Since this workplace violence-related death occurred within the scope of workers’ comp, the law states that the estate, or anyone in this situation, could not file a separate lawsuit on top of workers’ comp.
Hurt at work? let us help.
Dealing with an injury is stressful enough. You shouldn’t have to navigate the confusing world of workers’ comp law by yourself on top of that.
Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates has a team of experienced Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers who can help protect your rights and fight for justice if you’ve been injured. Call us at (800) 985-1819 today to schedule your free case consultation with a Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates lawyer.