If you’ve been assaulted at work and suffered an injury, you may be covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Like many workers’ comp injuries, it depends on whether you can show that the attack arose out of your employment.
In a workers’ compensation case, a worker may suffer a random attack from someone he knows or doesn’t know. A random attack is compensable (covered) if the employment situation generates a risk of assault to the claimant. An injured worker may prove an assault arose out of his employment if he can prove the job subjected him to greater risk of assault – even if he knew his assailant – as long as no evidence suggests the motivation for the assault was personal.
In Virginia (and in most states), if the assault was solely based on a personal disagreement, then it can be difficult to have it covered by workers’ compensation insurance. There are many different situations that arise at work that could be considered personal or unrelated to work. The case of King v. DTH Contract Services (2019), is helpful in understanding the current state of the law in Virginia. In this case, a former co-worker of Mr. King stabbed him in the face while he was working alone as the overnight attendant at a rest area for DTH Contract Services (the employer). The assailant’s motives were never known and the claim was initially denied by the VWCC (Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission) because Mr. King did not prove that his injury arose out of his employment.
Fortunately for Mr. King, the Virginia Court of Appeals reversed this decision and ruled in his favor. They held that a worker that is the victim of an assault may prove an injury arose out of his employment if he proves that the job subjected him to a greater risk of assault, as long as no evidence suggests the motivation for the assault was personal. If the motive is “unknowable”, the assumption is that the motive was not personal and the claim would be covered.
Of course, this does not cover all situations. Cases like these usually come down to the specific facts of the case. Hopefully, you will never have to deal with this type of situation.
These statements are for general information purposes only and not considered specific legal advice. Mr. Shoen would need to meet with you individually to ensure client confidentiality and would need additional information not provided in this article. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult an attorney directly for legal advice.