When a coworker causes a workplace injury, it can be challenging to know how to proceed. Whose fault is it if one employee leaves a box in a hallway, tripping her colleague? Who is responsible if a worker drops a tool, striking a coworker below? And who is accountable if an employee mishandles cleaning supplies, creating a dangerous exposure for his team members?
In some ways, the workers’ comp system was designed to easily solve scenarios like the ones above—taking away the question of responsibility. If the injury occurred and if it occurred on the job, it’s likely covered by workers’ compensation, regardless of whether the injured person or a coworker was at fault.
So what should you do after you’re injured at work by another employee, and are there any situations where workers’ compensation does not apply?
What to do after you’re injured by a coworker
After any workplace injury, it’s important to seek medical treatment. This not only documents your injury, but it clearly connects it to the workplace incident—not another accident that may have occurred outside of work. You’ll also want to notify your employer in writing, sharing what happened and how you were hurt. Instead of trying to place blame, note what occurred, who was involved, and where and when the accident took place. You may also want to take some pictures of the scene or speak to coworkers who witnessed the accident.
A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you in filing your claim and ensuring you get the care and benefits you need in a timely manner. Sometimes, insurance companies will delay responding to you or offer you a low settlement. A worker’s comp attorney can help handle these conversations and negotiate on your behalf.
When workers’ comp doesn’t apply
While most workplace injuries caused by a coworker will be treated similarly to any other workers’ comp case, some are not. You may not be covered by workers’ comp if you were:
- Injured by a coworker while clocked out
- Doing something illegal while at work
- Engaging in horseplay
- In a fight with a coworker about a personal matter
An attorney who specializes in workers’ comp will be able to take a look at your case and determine if you have options.
Personal injury lawsuits at work
Sometimes an injury caused by a coworker is more than an accident. Depending on the situation, if your coworker was negligent, you may also have the right to file a personal injury claim—either against your coworker or your employer.
Because the workers’ comp system usually disallows you from suing your employer, you have to be able to prove that your employer knew your coworker was a danger to others and failed to act. You have to show that they did not live up to their duty of care to protect employees and keep a safe work environment.
For instance, if your coworker regularly showed up to work under the influence of drugs and complaints to HR resulted in no action, your employer might be liable if that employee later hurt a colleague. In cases of violent assault, an employer may also be liable for the hiring, retention or supervision of the employee—for example, if they failed to conduct a background check on an employee who later assaulted a coworker.
While a personal injury suit progresses, workers’ compensation may still cover immediate medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. If the personal injury suit results in a settlement, the injured employee will need to reimburse workers’ comp. An attorney focused on Georgia workers’ comp can help you tailor a minimally disruptive approach to pursuing two avenues for compensation.
Contact a workers’ compensation lawyer in Atlanta
If you’ve been hurt by a coworker, it’s important to understand your options. Your employer may try to deny your workers’ comp claim, or you may need to pursue both workers’ comp and a personal injury lawsuit. Because this is a complex area, you’ll need to work with an attorney who understands the Georgia workers’ comp system. Contact the Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera today for a free consultation, or give us a call at 404-991-5097.