If you are working in a healthcare facility as a doctor, nurse, CNA or other health care provider, will workers’ compensation cover your injuries if a patient attacks you? What about if someone assaults you in the parking lot as you go to or leave your shift?
Nearly 75% of the 25,000 reported incidents of workplace violence occur in a medical facility. Conversely, only 30% of nurses have actually reported an assault. Why? It’s such a hazardous job they just feel it’s part of the work. (1)
What Does Workers Compensation Cover?
Worker’s compensation law is reasonably clear in terms of assaults that happen within the walls of a healthcare facility, such as a hospital or a care home. The law can be less clear when it comes to assaults outside the building, including situations that happen when traveling to an in-home care situation or in a parking lot before or after work.
Your employer carries worker’s compensation insurance that provides coverage for any injuries that happen while you are at work, including assault. Medical, dental, and therapy costs will be covered, and a percentage of lost wages will be covered while you get treated.
Assaults by co-workers have a different standard than assaults by a patient. An assault by a co-worker must be tied to the employment (wage dispute, dispute over an assigned task, etc.). Assaults stemming solely from anger, hatred, revenge, etc. are not compensable injuries in NC.
Worker’s compensation is designed to cover the costs of treating injuries and replacing some of your lost wages. In almost all cases, workers’ compensation is the “exclusive remedy,” for an injured worker; meaning that if workers’ compensation pays for an injury, the injured person cannot pursue other avenues. This limitation does not apply in all cases.
It’s Not Always Your Only Option…
Your employer may be liable if hiring standards, such as a background check, were not followed, or if another employee was the perpetrator and was a known risk.
Sometimes assaults happen because an employer fails to meet a standard of care. In health care situations, this can mean:
- Not providing adequate staffing to handle patients who are known risks
- Ignoring complaints about risk
- Not providing training for staff
- Not having a clear no-assault policy in place
In these cases, you may be able to sue for additional damages. You may also be able to sue the person who assaulted you. It should be noted that there is a very high standard to prove in order to successfully sue an employer under most circumstances in NC. Most claims do not meet this standard and workers’ compensation remains the “exclusive remedy” for injured workers.
What You Should Do if You are Assaulted
If you are the victim of an assault, the first thing to do is to get your injuries documented and treated. Make sure to get photographs of the injuries and take notes about what happened including a list of who witnessed the assault. It’s also important to document which staff and patients were on the ward or floor at the time. Regardless of the circumstances, the worker should report the assault and injury first and have the employer direct medical care in accordance with their workers’ comp policy. If police are needed, have the employer call 911.
Then, contact a lawyer experienced in worker’s compensation and employee protection law in North Carolina. Each state has its own rules for nurses and health care facilities, although some federal laws may apply as well. DO NOT sign any agreements with the worker’s compensation insurance company, or with the human resources department, until you have talked with an attorney of your own.
If you are part of a union, they may be able to help, as may a professional association. You also may be eligible to receive support through a state Victim Assistance Network. Unfortunately, very few centers in North Carolina say they provide assistance to adult victims of non-sexual assault.
Jesse Shapiro, Wilson, Reives & Silverman’s Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Attorney is here to make sure you are protected with a no-cost consultation. Call today at (919) 775-5653