What Type Of Compensation Can Health Care Workers Receive If They're Assaulted At Work?

Law Blog

If you work in the health care industry, you may be painfully aware of the fact that workplace violence is on the rise. Do you know your real risks? Do you know your rights where compensation is concerned if you're assaulted on the job? Read on to learn more.

How much risk are you really in?

Depending on what part of the health care system you're in, the threat to your personal safety could be extreme. For example, 80% of nurses reported being attacked in the last year. Nurses have to deal with people who are psychotic, on drugs, drunk, or in the midst of a crisis that leaves them angry and ready to lash out at the nearest person. Similarly, 52% of EMTs report being assaulted on the job while in the field. These figures indicate that health care workers are more likely to assaulted on the job than not.

Can you get workers' compensation if you're assaulted?

As long as the attack was related to your job, you can get workers' comp for your injuries. That means that you may or may not be covered, depending on the circumstances of the assault. 

For examples, if you were tending to a patient that was angry and he attacks you with a rod that he pulled off his bed, that would clearly be related to your work. However, if you have been feuding with your brother-in-law and he shows up to work and punches you, that wouldn't be related to your job.

You may also be eligible to receive workers' compensation even if your physical injuries were mild if you've developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the assault. Studies indicate that health care workers who experience direct threats to their safety often experience on-going symptoms of PTSD.

Can you sue for recovery outside of workers' comp for your injuries?

You usually cannot sue your employer outside of workers' comp for your injuries. However, it may be possible for you to sue the person who assaulted you. The advantage to you is that you can sometimes recover more compensation for your injuries in the form of pain and suffering and punitive damages, which aren't available through workers' comp. The disadvantage is that you'll have to prove that you weren't at fault for the attack and couldn't have prevented it. Another problem may be the competency and financial means of the patient. 

For example, if the patient who attacked you with the rod was elderly and had dementia, you'd be required to prove that you took every available precaution to minimize your risks. The court would also have to determine that he was sufficiently rational to control his actions, despite his dementia. His financial means would also come into play because there's not much point in suing someone who doesn't have the ability to pay. 

In practical terms, that means that many health care employees who suffer an assault on the job have to rely on workers' comp for compensation for their injuries. 

If you're a health care employee that was assaulted on the job and you suffer ongoing physical or mental damage, talk with an attorney today about your case foradditional info.


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