Accidents happen in the workplace. Other circumstances may also arise in the workplace causing worker injury. One worker may assault another co-worker causing personal injuries, even death. For 110 years, Powell Law has litigated Pennsylvania workers compensation actions and obtained benefits for injured Pennsylvania workers. Our attorneys, past and present, have also helped countless Pennsylvanians recover monetary damages for personal injuries.
Who is liable for injuries from an assault in the workplace?
An employer’s immunity under the Workers’ Compensation Act (“the Act”) for work related accidents is nearly absolute:
“(a) The liability of an employer under this act shall be exclusive and in place of any and all other liability to such employees, his legal representative, husband or wife, parents, dependents, next of kin or anyone otherwise entitled to damages in any action at law or otherwise on account of any injury or death . . . or occupational disease . . . “
As to the actions of third-parties, the Act states:
In the event injury or death to an employee is caused by a third party, then such employee, his legal representative, husband or wife, parents, dependents, next of kin, and anyone otherwise entitled to receive damages by reason thereof, may bring their action at law against such third party, but the employer, his insurance carrier, their servants and agents, employees, representatives acting on their behalf or at their request shall not be liable to a third party for damages, contribution, or indemnity in any action at law . . . unless liability for such damage . . . shall be expressly provided for in a written contract . . .”
Filing a claim for workers’ compensation is an employee’s exclusive remedy for work-related injuries or death in Pennsylvania. Employees are barred from bringing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court for injuries sustained in the course of employment.
A valid workers’ compensation claim, is typically the result of an injury or death in the workplace resulting from a work-related accident. When a third party inflicts injury on an employee, the injury will be covered by workers’ compensation if the employee was engaged in the employer’s business.
An injury that does not occur within the “course of employment” falls outside workers’ compensation coverage. An employer bears the burden of proof and needs to demonstrate the attack would have occurred regardless of the existence of an employment relationship.
An employer may also overcome the rebuttable presumption that an assault in the workplace on the property of an employer is covered by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act by establishing that the reason for the assault was personal animosity and unrelated to employment.
Under the “personal animus” or “third-party attack” exception in § 301(c)(1) of the Act, injuries caused by an act of a third person intended to injure the employee because of personal reasons, and not directed against him as an employee or because of his employment are excluded from workers’ compensation coverage.
Thus, if an assault causes injury or death in the workplace, to qualify for workers’ compensation coverage, it must be work-related. This means that either the risk of assault must be increased because of the nature or setting of the worker’s employment or the assault must have arisen from a dispute that originated on the job.
At Powell Law, we effectively assist clients throughout the entire workers’ compensation claims process. Powell Law has litigated Pennsylvania workers compensation actions and obtained benefits for injured Pennsylvania workers in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area for over a century. Consult an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE!