If You’re Injured by a Coworker, Do You Have Legal Options?

Male patient in surgery room

Workers compensation insurance can typically pay for injuries caused by coworkers, but there are many factors at play. The context of the moment before the injury, the exact nature of the coworker’s behavior, the conditions of the workplace itself and other elements can all affect whether workers’ compensation is available or if another source of damages recovery must be used.

Since these issues can get quite complex, getting hurt by a coworker can sometimes require the expertise of a workers compensation lawyer to decipher the factors at play and determine how the injury victim can best go about seeking restitution. What follows are just some of the aspects they must consider.

Examining Whether the Injury Was Work-Related

If the injury victim and coworker were engaged in work at the time, the injury should be covered by worker’s compensation. The aim of workers compensation is to provide a “grand bargain” where all work-related injuries are covered in exchange for immunity from civil action, so the nature of the injurious incident typically does not come into play as long as it is work-related.

Therefore, even if a coworker could have possibly avoided the incident, the workplace ultimately assumes liability under their workers’ comp policy. This coverage is nullified, though, if the circumstances were not technically work-related.

For example, if an altercation arises over a personal dispute over the weekend related to non-work related matters, the resulting injury would be the result of a non-work-related issue. However, if the dispute arose from something directly related to work duties, such as who got to use the only meat slicer first, then the injury may potentially be covered under workers’ comp.

Other instances that could count as non-work-related include injuries that happen during clock-out breaks and injuries that happen as a result of employee horseplay, such as using office chairs and brooms to joust one another. While workplace conditions may have enabled the injury to happen, damages may have to be recovered from a source other than the workers’ compensation policy.

What to Do if Injured by a Coworker

No matter whether or not you think your injury could have been work related, you should still go through with the following steps:

  • Notify a supervisor or manager immediately. Workers’ comp claims require immediate notice in order to correct the possible danger and take steps to treat your injury.
  • Document your injury. Take a picture of the injury sites as well as a picture of any objects or environmental hazards involved. You should also document in writing the non-visible aspects of an injury, including the pain you feel, how your mobility is limited and medical treatment, like pain medication, you have received. You will need clear details later on to document your claim, and the last thing you want is inconsistencies, so write everything down while it is still fresh.
  • File a work injury accident report. Your job should have accident claims forms on site and you can request them from your local workers’ compensation board, as well. Try to be as specific as possible with dates, details, the timeline of the incident, anyone involved, the nature of the medical treatment and any other relevant details. Keep a copy for your own purposes.

Make sure you report your injury and file your claim as soon as possible. Some workers’ comp plans require you file in as little as 30 days since the injury occurred.

If you have any possible concerns about your claim or are facing a possible claim denial, you can benefit from the guidance and advice of an experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer. Contact the Law Offices of Peter Davis now if you wish to receive a free consultation regarding your claim.