Can I Sue for a Work-Related Injury Caused by Violence?

Can I Sue for a Work-Related Injury Caused by Violence?

After suffering workplace violence, you may be wondering – can I sue for a work-related injury? Typically, if you get injured at work, you cannot sue your employer due to workers’ compensation laws. However, there are situations where you may sue your employer if he or she was negligent in hiring, retaining, or supervising employees, or under vicarious liability laws. Moreover, in some cases, you may also sue a coworker or a third party who caused your injury.

Miners working at a mine wearing helmets and holding tools.

Examples of Work-Related Injuries Caused by Violence in Illinois

Workplace violence refers to any form of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other disruptive behavior that takes place at work. This can have a serious impact on the victims, causing physical or emotional harm. Workplace violence can result in physical injuries like falls, abrasions, or gunshot wounds, as well as psychological injuries. Work-related injuries may include psychological injuries resulting from witnessing a violent event, experiencing threats of violence, or suffering a physiological reaction like a heart attack caused by stress. Innocent bystanders who are injured or experience emotional distress may also be victims.

Common Causes of Violence in the Workplace

Various factors can lead to workplace violence:

  • Employee altercations: Quarrels or disagreements between coworkers, whether they are personal or work-related, can result in workplace violence. This type of violence is more likely to affect managers and supervisors.
  • Criminal incidents: Acts of theft or destruction at the workplace can be categorized as workplace violence.
  • Conflicts between customers and employees: When a verbal disagreement or argument between a customer and an employee turns physical, it is considered workplace violence.
  • Domestic violence: If a worker’s partner or spouse brings violence from their personal life into the workplace, resulting in physical harm to the employee, it is also considered workplace violence.

Some workers are more vulnerable and face a greater risk of workplace violence, such as those who exchange cash with the public, deliver passengers or goods, work alone or in a small group, work late at night or early morning, work in high-crime areas, or have contact with the public. This includes cashiers, healthcare workers, visiting nurses, taxi drivers, and retail workers.

Workers’ Rights and Legal Remedies in Illinois

Employees have the right to a safe workplace free from violence. If you experience workplace violence, there are three options to pursue compensation, depending on the circumstances.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits

If you suffer injuries while on the job or fulfilling job duties, you may have a reason to file a workers’ compensation claim. However, proving whether your injuries originated from your employment can be difficult, and must be determined by the facts of each case. Workers’ compensation lawyers can determine if you can claim workers’ compensation. You should know what mistakes to avoid when filing a workers’ comp claim, and if you are injured at work off the clock, you may still be eligible for workers’ compensation, provided there is a link between your injuries and your work duties.

Third-Party Lawsuit

If you were injured by someone who is not a part of your business organization, you have the option to pursue a third-party claim against that person. You can take legal action against the individual who caused the violent act, such as a stranger, ex-employee, visitor, customer, contractor or any other person your employer does not employ, you may have the right to file a third-party claim.

Rights of Employees to a Safe Work Environment

All employees have the right to work in a safe environment, and their employers’ legal obligation is to provide them with working conditions free from known hazards. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers must take reasonable measures to prevent violence and ensure proper safety standards are met to avoid injuries. Failing to do so could result in regulatory authorities imposing fines and penalties, as well as an increase in workers’ compensation claims. Employers must understand and fulfill the legal responsibility to maintain a safe workplace. This can help them minimize claims, comply with relevant regulations, and create a work environment where employees can be productive and engaged.

If Your Injury Was Due to Workplace Violence, Can You File for Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that can cover medical expenses and lost wages for injured employees. If an employee sustains an injury during their work, they might be qualified for workers’ compensation benefits. This program safeguards the employer from accountability for the damages of injured employees through lawsuits and helps the employee with the financial burden of injury-related expenses.

A valid workers’ compensation claim does not require proving fault. To be eligible for a workers’ comp claim, the injured employee must be working within the scope and course of their employment when workplace violence occurs.

Avenues for Suing in Work-Related Violence Cases

While you can’t typically sue your employer for workplace injuries, you may have multiple avenues for pursuing compensation if you are assaulted at work. Your rights in cases of assault and battery at work may include:

  • Apply for workers’ compensation, depending on the circumstances.
  • File a lawsuit against your employer.
  • Sue the individual responsible for the assault.
  • Report the assault to the police.
  • Make a report to your company’s human resources department, which is responsible for ensuring a safe work environment. The offender may face disciplinary action as a result.

Your rights for assault and battery cases at work depend on several factors. The severity of your injuries, whether the offender was a customer or employer, the actions and intentions of those responsible, and whether they acted at the employer’s direction can play a role in what rights you have.

What Are the Requirements for a Successful Lawsuit After a Workplace Injury Caused by Violence?

After a workplace injury caused by violence, you may be able to sue either your employer or the person who caused your injuries. The requirements for a successful assault at work lawsuit depend on the circumstances.

Suing a Coworker or Third-Party

In Illinois, a person can be charged with assault if his or her conduct creates a reasonable fear of receiving battery in another person. Battery applies when someone intentionally causes bodily harm to another individual without legal justification and through any means. If someone has caused you to suffer an injury while meeting these requirements, you may have the right to sue him or her for assault or battery. This option is more likely to be exercised if third parties your employer does not employ injure you. In such a case, your employer is not responsible for the accused person’s actions.

Suing an Employer

There are two situations in which an employer can be held liable for an employee’s assault:

Negligence in Hiring, Retaining, or Supervising the Employee

If an employer fails to exercise reasonable care in hiring, supervising, or retaining an employee who could pose a threat to others, they may be liable. To hold them accountable, the plaintiff must prove that the employer knew or should have known the employee posed a risk of harm, and the plaintiff suffered harm at the hands of the employee.

Employers may be liable for negligent hiring, retention, and supervision, depending on the circumstances of the violent act. Negligent hiring occurs when an employer fails to perform a criminal background check on an employee, and a background check would have revealed that the employee had recently been convicted of domestic violence. Negligent retention, occurs when an employer ignores complaints about an employee, who has been physically abusive to co-workers. Negligent supervision occurs when an employer disregards a company’s policies put in place to ensure workplace safety.

Vicarious liability

Employers are generally not responsible for the wrongful acts of their employees. For example, if a department store clerk assaults a customer, the store would not be held liable unless it had prior knowledge that the clerk was dangerous. This is because assaulting people is not a part of the duties that an employer expects from its clerks.

However, in some cases, an employer may expect its employees to act with or threaten force. In such situations, the employer may be indirectly responsible for the actions of its employee.

Vicarious liability applies only when the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment, the actions were in furtherance of the employer’s legitimate business objective, and someone was injured as a result of the employee’s actions.

In most cases, vicarious liability will not apply when an employee assaults a co-worker, because assaulting co-workers does not fall within the ordinary scope of most people’s jobs. However, in some jobs, physical force is a part of an employee’s job, such as security guards, nightclub bouncers, or professional athletes.

Even if force is within the scope of an employee’s job, it is not an excuse for assault. If an employee uses excessive force, the employer may be liable.

author-bio-image author-bio-image
David W. Martay

David W. Martay, a partner at Martay Law Office in Chicago, IL, is a top-rated workers’ compensation lawyer who represents injured employees throughout the state. Known as a highly-skilled advocate for his clients, David has recovered millions for victims of workplace accidents.

Years of Experience: More than 25 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active

Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association

author-bio-image author-bio-image
David W. Martay

David W. Martay, a partner at Martay Law Office in Chicago, IL, is a top-rated workers’ compensation lawyer who represents injured employees throughout the state. Known as a highly-skilled advocate for his clients, David has recovered millions for victims of workplace accidents.

Years of Experience: More than 25 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active

Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association