If you are injured in the course of doing your job, that injury will typically be covered by workers’ compensation. However, just because you are injured on the job does not automatically mean that injury will be covered — there are exceptions to workers’ compensation. Some injuries – such as those that result from starting a fight on the job or blatantly disregarding safety rules – are not recognized by workers’ compensation law as legitimate work-related injuries.
Fighting on the Job
You and a co-worker were talking when a difference of opinion escalated beyond all reason and you ended up in a physical altercation – one that you started. You sustained some bad cuts and bruises as well as a fall that injured your back. Is that kind of injury eligible for workers’ compensation?
Fighting on the job is clearly not advisable, and if you get injured in such a fight you probably will not be covered. On the other hand, if you were an innocent bystander who was injured, your employer has a reputation for tolerating horseplay and roughhousing, or the fight was directly related to work (e.g., an employee struck you when you informed them that they were fired), then you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Work-Related Events may be Workers’ Compensation Exceptions
Perhaps you were at a work-sponsored picnic at a local park last weekend when you sprained your ankle. When you approached your employer about workers’ compensation, you were informed that because the event was voluntary, your injury is not covered. Is that sprained ankle covered by workers’ compensation?
If a work-related event is voluntary and for the benefit of the employees, such as a company picnic or softball game, then any injuries sustained during the event may not be covered by workers’ compensation. However, there is not a hard and fast rule for this type of situation, so do not assume that the injury is not covered. In fact, even if the event took place after hours, was off company property, and was voluntary, you still may be eligible for workers’ compensation if your employer encouraged you to attend or benefitted in any way from your attendance.
Workers’ Compensation Exceptions Regarding Commuting
You were running late for work when you found yourself involved in a major car accident. Would your injuries be covered by workers’ compensation?
If you are injured while commuting to or from work, those injuries will not be covered by workers’ compensation. Take, as an example, driving to your fixed place of work from your home: if you are injured on the way to work in the morning, that does not fall under workers’ compensation. Note the statement “fixed place of work” — there are exceptions to this rule. If you do not have a fixed work site, if you were driving a company car, or you were running an errand for work, then this rule may not apply to you.
Ignoring Safety Rules
There was a sign hanging on a ladder at work that said not to use it, but you were in too big of a hurry to grab another so you used it anyway and it collapsed unexpectedly, resulting in a broken wrist when you hit the ground. Are you eligible for workers’ compensation?
If your action went against your employer’s safety rules, then you may not be eligible. Safety rules are there to protect you from injury and your employer from your carelessness. The same is true if the injury occurred as a result of ignoring company policies. However, as with everything else, there are exceptions. If a section of your worksite has a sign displayed saying that hardhats are required, but this rule is not enforced and you suffered an injury related to a falling brick because you weren’t wearing a hardhat, you still may be eligible. However, if the rule is enforced, or if you signed an agreement acknowledging that you must wear a hardhat, you may not be eligible. In cases such as this, it is always a good idea to speak with a lawyer rather than assume your injury is not eligible.
This article is by no means an exhaustive discussion of the types of work-related injuries that may not be covered by workers’ compensation, but it does provide a good idea of the applicable rules. However, it is important to keep in mind that even if your injury was related to fighting, attendance at a work-related event, or ignoring safety rules, there are exceptions to the rules. At first glance it may not seem that you are eligible, but it would be a good idea to seek the advice of an attorney well versed in workers’ compensation law to determine how the law applies to your particular situation.
If you or a loved one has suffered a job-related injury, even if you do not think it is covered under workers’ compensation, you should speak to a lawyer. Remember that each job-related injury is unique and there are likely rules of which you are not aware.
At Hillsberg Law, we want to help you get the compensation that you deserve under the law. My name is Geoffrey Hillsberg and I have exclusively handled workers’ compensation claims in Pennsylvania since 1995. Contact us at Hillsberg Law today and let us help you!