Q: One of our employees was assaulted and injured by another coworker in our workplace. Is this compensable under California workers’ compensation?
A: If the employee was injured at work, it is likely that the claim is compensable based on the facts of the situation leading up to the assault. An employee who is assaulted at work by a coworker may elect to file a workers’ compensation claim, file an internal complaint, report the assault to the police, or pursue a civil lawsuit.
Whether the workers’ compensation claim (or any other claim) will be successful depends upon the facts, such as whether the injured employee was the initial physical aggressor. In such cases, typically employers are not liable under California’s workers’ compensation law for injuries that arise out of an altercation in which the injured employee is the initial physical aggressor.
It is your responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace. Be sure to get statements from all parties involved in the altercation and thoroughly investigate the situation. Document your findings thoroughly.
Regardless, after an injury occurred in the workplace, you must:
- Provide a workers’ compensation claim form (DWC-1) to the employee within one working day after a work-related injury or illness is reported.
- Return a completed copy of the claim form to the employee within one working day of receipt.
- Forward the claim form, along with the employer’s report of occupational injury or illness, to the claims administrator within one working day of receipt.
- Within one day of receiving the claim, authorize up to $10,000 in appropriate medical treatment.
- Provide transitional work (light duty) whenever appropriate.
- Give notice of workers’ compensation eligibility within one working day of the crime (assault) that happened at work.
It is not for you to determine whether the injury will be covered under workers’ compensation insurance. Rather, the claims administrator will determine whether the injury is covered.
It is always a good idea to discuss complex claims and the facts leading to these situations with your insurance broker. Ask your broker for suggestions to strengthen your risk management prevention programs.
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Read more about workers’ compensation and the process on the State of California, Department of Industrial Relations’ website. Read more about workplace assaults and Cal/OSHA Guidelines for Workplace Security.
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