New York Appellate Court Discusses Compensation for Workplace Assaults

From office buildings to construction sites, sometimes tension runs high at the workplace. It is not uncommon for an employee to suffer serious injury in a physical altercation with a coworker, customer or some third party.

Normally, on-the-job injuries are compensable through the New York workers' compensation system. But what about injuries that stem from a workplace assault? As made clear in a recent New York appellate court ruling, the availability of worker's comp benefits depends largely on the nature of the incident.

Details of a Recent Case

The claimant was working as a clerk for the New York State Department of Law in September of 2009 when she was involved in a fist fight with another passenger on a shuttle bus. After work, the claimant was exiting the bus in a satellite parking lot where her car was parked. The other passenger became frustrated that the claimant was not exiting fast enough. A fight broke out, and the claimant was injured. She sought workers' compensation, but the New York Workers' Compensation Board denied her request, citing that the injuries did not arise out of her employment.

The case progressed until an appellate division of the New York Supreme Court ruled on June 21, 2012 that workplace assaults are not compensable through workers' compensation if they are "motivated by purely personal animosity." The court was swayed by testimony to the effect that the claimant had never before met her attacker, indicating that the assault arose from personal hostilities unrelated to her job.

Work-Related Assaults Compensable, Purely Personal Altercations Not

Although the claimant's claim was barred, workers' comp can be available to victims of workplace assaults. Violence that happens at the workplace that is completely personal - it has nothing to do with work - cannot be the subject of a workers' compensation claim. However, assaults that are work-related can be the basis for a successful workers' compensation claim.

So what kind of workplace assaults would be compensable? Image two mechanics working together got in a fight over a wrench and one of them suffered injuries; a workers' comp claim would be proper. Or, say a hospital worker suffered injury in an attack by an out-of-control patient. Any physical altercation that is work-related (came about due to some aspect of the job) can properly be the subject of a workers' compensation claim.

Call a Workers' Compensation Attorney to Build Your Case

The line between worked-related violence and a purely personal assault is not always clear. It you've been injured in an assault at work, your right to compensation could depend on a persuasive presentation of the operative facts. If you have suffered injury in a workplace assault, talk to a workers' compensation attorney today to start making a strong case for the benefits you need.