No Workers’ Compensation for Personal Workplace Injuries

New York residents know how helpful workers' compensation benefits can be after a work-related injury. Work comp policies generally pay for any injury an employee suffers while in the course of his or her employment. Unfortunately, a New York appellate court recently ruled that these benefits are not available to employees injured in workplace assaults that are motivated purely by personal animosity.

The case revolved around an employee of the New York State Department of Law who was involved in a fistfight while riding a shuttle bus to a distant employee parking lot. The injured woman claimed another passenger was frustrated that she was not moving fast enough. The two argued, and the confrontation became physical.

The employee claimed that she suffered injuries to her chest, neck and right shoulder as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. The employee was denied coverage by her insurance company, which claimed the injuries did not arise out of her employment. After the Workers' Compensation Board agreed with the insurer's rationale and denied benefits, the employee took her case to court.

New York's Court of Appeals Court found that the employee could not receive compensation from injuries she suffered because of the altercation. The court focused on the fact that, before the assault, the employee had never met the other person involved. This led to the reasoning that the attack was purely personal and unrelated to the woman's employment.

The Court's decision could have wide-reaching effects on workers' compensation benefit payments across the state. Under their reasoning, workers' compensation could conceivably be denied in a number of other injury-causing, work-related situations. For example, injuries sustained by a store clerk beaten during a robbery attempt and a nurse attacked by a violent patient might possibly be considered "purely personal" under the court's definition.

Regardless of the outcome of this particular case, there are still several forms of compensation available for people injured in other types of workplace accidents. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide helpful guidance with obtaining necessary compensation through work comp benefits, insurance claims or legal action.