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Can I seek workers' compensation when hurt by co-worker violence?

Headlines are not lacking items of violent and injury-causing events in workplaces. There was a time when shootings by disgruntled post office workers were common enough that the phrase, going postal, came into existence. Today, it can describe any situation in which someone displays uncontrolled anger in the extreme.

Such violence in the workplace is not a thing of the past. Indeed, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a website dedicated to the subject. And it reports that nearly 2 million U.S. workers suffer injuries in job-site violence every year. The question this begs is, can such occurrences qualify the victim for workers' compensation? The answer is that it depends.

On one hand, Georgia workers' compensation law specifies that injuries caused by one person's willful act toward another employee "for reasons personal to such employee" does not constitute a compensable injury. In that circumstance an injured employee cannot obtain workers' compensation benefits.  However, if the violence stemmed from something other than personal animosity, the exception doesn't necessarily apply.  

Courts in Georgia have found that workers' compensation may be valid if evidence shows that the cause of the violence was clearly work-related rather than solely due to personal animosity.

It is key to understand that the standard the courts apply in making such determinations can change on a case to case basis. The law also makes clear that compensation isn't allowed in cases where the injury in question resulted from a fight in which the claimant threw the first punch.

Ultimately, workers' compensation law provides that workers hurt on the job in Georgia are entitled to necessary medical care and, in some cases, financial support when they are injured in the workplace. As this post shows, however, conditions may apply. And when questions of this kind exist, it becomes important to consult with experienced legal counsel to learn what one's options are.

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