Does Workers’ Compensation Pay for Injuries Caused by a Workplace Brawl?

close up of a fist, workers comp lawyerIt may be possible to claim workers compensation when injuries are received from a fight in the workplace. However, when the fight is the result of a personal dispute or the injured party was the aggressor, the plaintiff is likely to be ruled ineligible to make a claim. A workers comp lawyer can help determine eligibility for making such a claim.

When a Workplace Argument Gets Physical

A simple misunderstanding, differing political beliefs, or a stressful work environment can push employees to the edge and provoke a fight. There is no law against defending one’s self against someone who has thrown a punch or has acted in a threatening way. However, Illinois law does provide certain limitations as to who can make a workers comp claim for an injury received from a fight at work.

The reason for the altercation must be related to some aspect of the job. For example, if an employee is injured in a fight over a work issue like someone took a customer away from the other and wrongfully earned a commission, he might be able to receive workers comp benefits for his injuries. But only if he did not instigate the physical fight.

If an employee is determined to be the aggressor in the fight, he cannot make a claim for workers comp for his injuries. This is true even if the fight was over a legitimate work dispute. The reasoning behind this is that by taking a fight to a physical or violent level, the aggressor has broken his connection to the job. As a result, that employee’s actions alone are considered the cause of his own injuries.

It Can Become Complicated

Determining who is the aggressor or who started the fight and over what can be complicated. All facts pertaining to the fight need to be examined and all witnesses interviewed. It is not uncommon for a fight to be determined to be two separate events where a verbal argument has begun, one person attempts to end the fight and walks away, and the other decides to further pursue the fight. The non-aggressor does have a right to physically protect himself, e.g. returning a punch from a coworker. This reaction does not necessarily exempt him from receiving workers comp benefits as long as he did not cause the fight.