man with injured hand talking to a doctor

South Carolina’s workers’ compensation program is no-fault insurance that pays benefits for workplace injuries regardless of who or what caused them. In most cases, workers’ comp pays for medical bills and a portion of lost wages without any question as to who is to blame for an injury on the job. But not always.

We regularly point out are that you may not qualify for workers’ comp if you were injured due to being intoxicated at work or because you were injured while engaging in horseplay. In addition, for an injury to qualify for workers’ comp, it must arise out of the scope of work assigned to you.

Sometimes our workers’ compensation lawyers are asked whether someone in South Carolina can receive workers’ compensation if they were injured in a fight at work. This is where taking advantage of our free initial consultation pays off because sometimes we can say, “Yes, you should still qualify for workers’ comp.”

Who is at Fault If Injured at Work by Another Employee?

It is unlikely that a fistfight with a co-worker is within the scope of work that your employer has hired you to do. However, it is understood that disputes can occur when people work together and that they can turn violent.

The nature of the fight that left you injured would need to be explored. If the physical altercation was an attack in which you were assaulted, you are more likely to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. On the other hand, if you and a co-worker had a dispute and decided to square off and mutually caused the dispute to escalate, it would be harder to argue that this differed from the “horseplay” exception to workers’ comp eligibility.

Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace assault each year, and homicide is the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says.

Did a ‘Fight’ Arise from Your Job’s Scope of Work?

Our attorneys would examine whether you were on the job when you were injured. For example, if you and a co-worker argued at the office, shop, construction site, or factory floor, and later you were attacked at an after-work hangout, you would not have a workers’ comp claim. If the altercation occurred during a work break or in the company parking lot before punching the clock for the day, your employer would argue you were not on the job when the fight occurred.

On the other hand, anything you were doing at your employer’s direction at the time of the assault could be used to argue that you were on the job. This would include work-related travel to another job site, a client’s office, a warehouse or store to obtain supplies. Similarly, if you were on an out-of-town business trip, we would argue that any attack at a hotel or restaurant arose from the scope of work that required you be there.

Another argument an employer might use is that the dispute that led to the attack did not involve a workplace issue, and therefore workers’ comp should not be paid. However, employers have a legal obligation to stop issues such as racial or religious animosity, sexual harassment and hazing from occurring. If the reason you were attacked is a matter of dispute, our attorneys would investigate whether the assault was due to your job, including whether your employer allowed a hostile workplace to exist.

Was the attack on you an escalation of harassment at your job site? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says harassment is unwelcome conduct based on race, color, religion, sex/gender (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, genetic information, gender identity or sexual orientation.

An employer can be held liable by the EEOC for harassment by supervisors, non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom it has control (e.g., independent contractors), if it knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.

Do You Have a Third-Party Claim from a Workplace Fight?

South Carolina workers’ compensation law stipulates that in exchange for no-fault coverage, the employee cannot sue their employer, regardless of fault. However, this does not apply to others on a job site whose negligence or recklessness may have caused your injury, such as other contractors or vendors working at the same jobsite.

If you are not eligible for workers’ compensation after being injured in a fight at work, you may be able to file a third-party workplace injury claim for compensation from the individual who harmed you.

Let Us Investigate Your Workplace Fight Injuries

As you can see, a fight at work can present complex questions as to whether the workers’ injuries from the fight are covered by workers’ compensation. Injuries from a workplace fight are more likely to prompt closer scrutiny of a workers’ comp claim. Often, employers in South Carolina are not fully aware of the options available to an injured worker, and we can help them better understand what is best for all concerned.

Our workers’ compensation lawyers at Joye Law Firm have stood up for the rights of injured workers in South Carolina for more than 50 years. We can investigate the basis of your claim and pursue the full benefits you are entitled to by law, including pursuing possible third-party claims. Call Joye Law Firm at (888) 324-3100 now or fill out our online case evaluation form to set up a free consultation.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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