Don’t throw the first blow if you want to collect
There’s an old saying: “Tolerate an insult, and you invite an injury.” Unfortunately, you may need to tolerate a few insults if you want to claim workers’ compensation over injuries caused by workplace violence.
Here’s what you need to know about claiming workers’ comp after a fight with a co-worker, customer or client:
In California, the initial physical aggressor can’t collect benefits
If you and your co-worker get into a verbal altercation, you need to keep your hands to yourself unless your co-worker begins something physical first. Otherwise, you could find yourself barred from collecting any kind of compensation from workers’ comp over the incident.
For example, maybe your co-worker hurls a few racial epithets your way one day. You respond by throwing whatever you’re holding right at them, and they respond with blows to your head. You’re injured — but you may not be entitled to workers’ comp. They initiated the fight, but you started the actual violence.
Not every form of physical contact is actually an act of aggression
Sometimes, of course, the issues aren’t so clear-cut.
For example, imagine that you accidentally bump into a co-worker while you’re moving some inventory around. Unfortunately, that particular co-worker is someone you’ve had issues with in the past, and they respond to that bump with swinging fists. You’re seriously injured and end up needing surgery and significant time off. While you made first contact, it would be hard to say that you were the “initial aggressor” over an accidental bump.
Similarly, it’s not uncommon fo two people who have been in a fight to blame each other for starting it — and there may be little evidence to prove who was the actual aggressor.
Dealing with a complex workers’ compensation claim can be very difficult on your own. An attorney is in the best position to advocate for your rights and get you the benefits your deserve.