Workers’ Compensation covers medical expenses and lost wages for employees who become sick or injured due to a workplace accident. But what about cases of workplace violence, where the injury isn’t an accident? Determining if Workers’ Compensation provides indemnification for workplace violence isn’t cut-and-dry and requires careful evaluation of the insurance contract, state laws and the circumstances surrounding the violent act.
Workplace violence is most often thought of as blatant physical violence or attack. But, according to OSHA, it goes beyond that to also include the threat of violence, verbal assault, harassment, and intimidation with injuries ranging from both physical and mental. Over 2 million Americans are victims of workplace violence each year, and experts report that it is on the rise due to the increased stress brought on from the COVID-19 pandemic—job losses, vaccine mandates, mask requirements, grief or anger over lost loved ones, etc.
There are a few things to consider when Workers’ Compensation and workplace violence intersect:
- The terms of the existing policy. Any vagueness often favors coverage.
- Laws and legal precedence in the state where the incident took place. States may define workplace violence “injuries,” for example, differently, based on past court rulings.
- The role the injured person played in the event. Did the person instigate the violence in some way or were they purely a victim? If they were part of the violence, was it in defense?
- Can it be shown that the loss occurred in the scope of employment and while the employee was working?
- History of violence prior to the reported claim. Did the person responsible for the violence have a history of misconduct? Was there any verbal or threatened violence prior to a physical attack? Did the employer address any prior issues, or did they ignore them or tolerate them?
There are no firm coverage determinations when considering if Workers’ Compensation covers you for workplace violence. Read more here for common grey areas, specific examples, and other important considerations.
One thing is for sure – a thorough analysis should be conducted as soon as workplace violence claims are reported. Risk Innovations specializes in monoline Workers’ Compensation and our experts can offer guidance on contract language and loss control strategies to keep your clients’ protected. Contact us today to learn more.