Legal Remedies for Injuries Caused By Co-Workers

If you are injured by a co-worker, you have two options to recover compensation -- a workers compensation claim, or a personal injury lawsuit -- depending on the circumstances.

The vast majority of workplace injuries are covered by workers' compensation. These workplace injuries can be caused by anything or anyone and at any time, even a fellow co-worker. Under workers' compensation laws, the cause of the accident is less important than the fact that it occurred during the course of work.

If you get hurt on the job, it is important that you understand your state's workers' compensation insurance system, since it may be your only means of receiving compensation for your work-related injury. In this article we'll look at a workers' comp claim in the context of an injury caused by a co-worker, as well as your options for a personal injury claim for cases not covered by workers' compensation.

Work-Related Injuries

A workplace accident is usually defined as an unexpected, work-related incident that causes a loss or injury. An incident is work-related if it arises out of and in the course of employment. Oftentimes, these workplace accidents are caused by co-workers.

If you are injured by a co-worker, and the injury is the result of a work-related incident, you should follow these steps:

Notify Your Employer. Whenever an injury occurs on the job, you should immediately notify your employer. The employer will make notes, call the appropriate authorities, and inquire into whether you need immediate medical care. Not only will this assist you in receiving treatment, but it may prevent other employees from becoming injured in the same way.

Document Your Injuries. Next, document the facts and circumstances of the injury while they are fresh in your mind. Also document any pain you feel, how the injury limits your work productivity, and any medications you are taking as a result. You might be called upon to testify about all of these things long after the injury-causing event occurred. If you do not have some sort of record to refresh your recollection, you might forget key details, and that can have a negative effect on your claim.

Most likely, your company's human resources representative will record the events by interviewing all witnesses and involved parties. Make sure to obtain a copy of this record for your use in court or settlement negotiations.

Make A Work Injury Accident Report. Many states and employers have their own claim forms which you will need to fill out in order to request workers' compensation benefits. If your employer does not give you a claim form, get one from your state's workers' compensation board.

The workers' compensation claim form will ask you for your personal information, as well as information about the accident. Typically, the accident report will ask you to include:

  • The nature of the injury, including every body part affected by the injury
  • How the accident occurred
  • People who were involved
  • Date, time, and location of the accident, and
  • Medical treatment you have undergone.

After you fill out this form, give it to your employer. Make sure to keep a copy for yourself.

If you do not report your injury within a certain amount of time, usually within 30 days, you may lose your right to collect workers' compensation benefits.

Civil Claims for Non-Work-Related Injuries

Employees are generally not covered by workers' compensation if their injuries were caused by a co-worker who was not engaged in a non-work-related activity. Typical situations in which workers' compensation will not apply include:

  • Lunch Breaks. Generally, workers' compensation does not cover an employee for injuries sustained while the employee is on lunch break.
  • Altercations Between Employees. If a co-worker intentionally harms you, and the altercation did not involve a dispute over a work-related issue, the injury may not be compensable by the workers' compensation system. For example, if you and a fellow co-worker get into a fight at work because the co-worker took your significant other to a rock concert over the weekend, the injury that results will probably not be covered by workers' compensation.
  • Horseplay. Horseplay is an injury that results from “goofing off.” Typically, horseplay is not covered by workers' compensation. However, if the you did not participate in the horseplay, or if horseplay is typically acceptable in your field of work or by your employer, you may still be able to recover workers' compensation benefits.

In these situations, however, you will still be able to sue your co-worker (and possibly your employer) in civil court via a personal injury lawsuit.

Civil liability for injury includes harm stemming from intentional acts, where the co-worker intentionally harmed you, and negligence, where your co-worker did not exercise reasonable care when they harmed you, but the act was not done on purpose.

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