Physically Assaulted at Work. Can I Get Workers’ Comp?

Did you know that if you’ve had an altercation at work with a coworker, patient, customer, etc., you might qualify for workers’ comp? That’s right. Being physically assaulted at work falls under the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) definition of workplace violence:

Any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.

Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)

Below, we’ll explain how to get the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve if you experience workplace violence.

Who Is Physically Assaulted at Work Most Often?

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows workplace violence is among the top five reasons people missed work, received job restrictions, or switched jobs. While just over a fifth of those injured required 3-5 days off work to recover, a similar percentage required a month or more off the job.

Violence can occur to any person in any work environment. But additional BLS data show that some people are at higher risk of injury and death.

Who Suffers the Most Injuries from Workplace Violence?

Most injuries from workplace violence, including being physically assaulted at work, impact:

  • Health and social assistance workers (76%)
  • Women (73%)
  • People aged 25 to 54 (62%)

IMPORTANT: According to a project commissioned by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, people in healthcare are five times more likely to experience workplace violence.

Who is Physically Assaulted at Work Most Often?

Who Dies Because of Workplace Violence?

Workplace violence and related injuries are the third-leading cause of fatal U.S. occupational deaths. BLS data shows these incidents at work overwhelmingly impact:

  • Men (81%)
  • People aged 25 to 44 (44%)
  • Non-white people (28% Black, 18% Hispanic)

IMPORTANT: One-third of workplace homicide victims were doing retail-related tasks, such as working in a store or waiting on customers.

What Must Your Employer Do to Protect You from Violence at Work?

The Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause requires employers to create a work environment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Under the U.S. judicial system, this means employers have a legal obligation to create a work environment free of hazardous conditions. This also includes any activities that can cause employees serious injury or death.

OSHA’s Fact Sheet on Workplace Violence recommends employers follow these practices:

  • Provide education on unacceptable conduct. This includes what to do if employees witness or suffer workplace violence, and how to protect themselves.
  • Secure the workplace with surveillance, lighting, alarm systems, and access controls.
  • Limit the amount of accessible cash on hand at night and use drop safes.
  • Ensure field staff safety. This involves using devices and requiring employees to file their daily work plans and locations with supervisors.
  • Properly maintain all employer-provided vehicles.
  • Empower employees to avoid any location that feels unsafe.
  • Introduce a “buddy system” or provide an escort service or police assistance in potentially dangerous situations or at night.
  • Develop policies and procedures for home health providers and ensure workers’ rights to refuse to provide services in a clearly hazardous situation.

PRO TIP: Review OSHA’s Enforcement Procedures and Scheduling for Occupational Exposure to Workplace Violence.

What Employers Must Do to Protect You from Violence at Work

Can States Protect Employees Who Are Physically Assaulted at Work?

  • Protect healthcare workers and school employees
  • Track incidents of workplace violence
  • Establish legal pathways for employers to get protective orders against violent employees

IMPORTANT: More than 33% of the proposed legislation focuses on preventing workplace violence in healthcare settings.

Yes! Some legislatures are passing state-level workplace violence laws covering multiple aspects of this issue. PRO TIP: Click here to see if your state is one of them. Proposals include laws that:

Physically Assaulted at Work? Follow These Steps

IMPORTANT: If you’re physically assaulted at work, ensuring your own safety is your first priority.

While each situation is different, here are some suggested steps to take:

  1. Call 9-1-1. Contacting law enforcement right away increases everyone’s safety. In addition, it produces a police report of the incident. If you have injuries or pain, including emotional distress, ask for EMS support, too. Medical records are an important part of establishing your case for benefits. PRO TIP: If you don’t notice pain, anxiety, or other symptoms until later, go to urgent care, the emergency department, or visit your doctor.
  2. Document your injuries and property damage resulting from the attack as soon as safely possible. Did other people record the assault? If so, then ask them to share their images with you.
  3. Identify witnesses. When it’s safe to do so, get the names and contact information of anyone who saw the attack. This will help the police gather official statements about you being physically assaulted at work. You can also ask witnesses to write down what they saw.
  4. Report the incident to both your supervisor and HR. This is an important step to document that you have a work-related injury. In fact, the laws in your state may require you to do so in order to begin the workers’ compensation process. PRO TIP: See the requirements to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
  5. Contact a workers’ compensation attorney to help you understand your rights and protect your interests.

Learn more about the workers’ comp process.

Physically Assaulted at Work? Follow These Steps

Do I Need an Attorney if I’m Physically Assaulted at Work?

It’s always a good idea. You should focus on recovering from being physically assaulted at work, not navigating a complicated legal process. Hiring an experienced attorney can help you in the following ways:

  • Understand what kind of case you have — whether it’s workers’ compensation, third-party, or both.
  • Improve your odds of getting the benefits you deserve in a timely manner.
  • Pursue pain and suffering or punitive damages, when applicable.

IMPORTANT: Ask the attorneys you speak to about the typical process, procedures, and timeline for workers’ compensation cases. You should also inquire about additional fees associated with their services, including the percentage they take if your case wins.

Read more about the ins and outs of hiring a workers’ comp lawyer.

If I’m Physically Assaulted at Work, Can I Get Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

It depends. In order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, you must prove you have a work-related injury or illness. OSHA defines that as “an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness.”

That means the person assaulting you did so for a work-related reason while you’re on the job. You must also prove you were not the aggressor.

The two factors that impact work-relatedness are:

  1. Direct connection to your employment. The assault must occur while you’re on the job or because your work requires it.
  2. No connection to personal interactions. If the assault was the result of a personal conflict between you and another employee or unrelated to your work, it’s unlikely to qualify.
If I'm Physically Assaulted at Work Can I Get Workers' Compensation Benefits?

What Are Other Ways to Get Compensation if You’re Physically Assaulted at Work?

You may be able to file a third-party claim with a personal injury attorney if you were physically assaulted at work. Third-party claims include assault injuries from any of the following people:

  • Vendor or contractor
  • Client, customer, or patient
  • Random stranger in your workplace

You can file this in addition to your workers’ comp claim. If you don’t qualify for workers’ comp and can show your injuries come from someone else’s negligence, you can still file a third-party claim. Essentially, that means you must prove that a third party other than your employer:

  1. Owed you a duty of care (i.e., the responsibility to avoid causing harm through their actions or inaction).
  2. Breached their duty of care by failing to act in a reasonable way in order to prevent injury or assault.
  3. Caused your injury either by their action or lack of it.
  4. Cost you in terms of medical bills, lost time from work, and other expenses.

PRO TIP: Request a free personal injury consultation with an experienced attorney.

EXAMPLE: Two employees of a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., sued their employer after their shift supervisor opened fire at the store. The gunman targeted workers, sending four people to the hospital and ultimately killing six people. The two workers each sued for $50 million, alleging Walmart knew about employees’ concerns about the gunman in the months before the attack. However, store managers did nothing to prevent it. The case is ongoing.

Talk to a Lawyer if You’re Physically Assaulted at Work

Working with an attorney while you deal with the aftermath of the incident makes a lot of sense. And it’s worth it because if you don’t receive compensation, then you pay your lawyer nothing. You pay legal fees only when you win a cash settlement.

An attorney can also tell you how much your workers’ comp case may be worth before you file your claim. All workers’ comp attorneys in our network offer free consultations, and it starts with just one phone call.

Ready to speak with a nearby expert for free about your case? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter/X: @word_factory LinkedIn: