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Did a Violent Customer Injure You at Work?

Posted On April 06, 2020

Employees who work in retail and service industries sometimes encounter violent customers who threaten their safety. Customer actions range from angry outbursts of verbal abuse to physical assaults that cause employee injuries.

Workplace Violence and Injured Workers

Every year, more than two million American workers become victims of workplace violence. Physical assaults affect a wide variety of workers in different occupations. Injuries sustained by workers who encounter violent actions range from bruises, abrasions, broken bones, and head trauma to serious life-threatening injuries and death.

Studies on workplace violence show that workers in retail and service jobs face the highest risk of physical assaults from customers. Retail establishments like clothing and jewelry stores, liquor stores, and convenience stores are major targets for burglaries and robberies. Many crimes include the threat of gun violence and the possibility of serious injury or death. Robberies are the leading cause of occupational homicide resulting in more than 60 percent of worker homicides each year. Service businesses like hotels/motels, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars often encounter angry customers who become confrontational about unsatisfactory service or charges on a bill. In service industries, minor disputes between workers and customers often escalate to violence when customers are drinking alcohol or intoxicated.

Retail and service businesses often face violent crimes that endanger both workers and customers. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) General Duty Clause, employers are required to identify all workplace hazards, including potential violence, and protect employees from work-related injuries. However, OSHA health and safety regulations do not require employers or business owners to protect their customers. While failing to protect customers does not violate OSHA’s current safety standards, an employer can face legal liabilities and financial consequences from an injury lawsuit for injuries that occur on their business premises.

Filing for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Injured workers in Illinois are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under state laws. Workers’ compensation benefits cover an injured worker’s medical bills, therapy and rehabilitation costs, out-of-pocket expenses for related injuries, and about two-thirds of lost wages during treatment and recovery.

Workers’ compensation insurance covers a variety of work-related injuries. In most cases, workers’ compensation benefits are paid to injured employees regardless of who’s at fault for the injury. When work-related injuries occur within the normal scope of employment, workers’ compensation benefits are usually awarded without the need to prove fault. If an employee is performing work-related duties at the request of his/her employer when injuries occur, worker’s compensation will likely cover the injuries, even if the employee is away from his/her normal office location, performing off-site duties, or off-the-clock.

Workers’ compensation injury claims can be complicated, especially when they involve workplace violence. The National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) tracks four different categories of workplace violence for American workers. Categories include injuries involving the following circumstances:

  • Criminal intent
  • Customers and/or clients
  • Worker-on-worker
  • Personal relationships

Unlike more routine work-related injuries, workplace violence may complicate the claims process. The nature of the injury, how and when the injury occurred, and the severity of the injury will likely impact the outcome of a claim. To prevent claim denials by the insurance company, it is important to talk to a Chicago work injury lawyer about proper filing requirements. When filing an injury claim for workers’ compensation benefits, certain steps must be taken.

Notify the Employer

When any type of work-related injury occurs, the injured worker must notify his/her employer as soon as possible. The employer is responsible for notifying the insurance company and the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) about the injury within a certain time frame.

Seek Medical Treatment

Injured workers must seek immediate medical attention for their injuries. Workers’ compensation claims rely heavily on medical reports and physician diagnoses and treatments. Without proper medical documents, injury claims and workers’ compensation benefits may be denied.

File a Timely Claim

Illinois injury claims and injury lawsuits filed through a Chicago work injury lawyer must be filed within two years of the date of the injury according to the Statute of Limitations. Claims filed after the deadline are likely to be dismissed by the court.

File a Police Report

If a workplace assault occurs, the victim must contact the police and file a criminal complaint against the attacker who may be a fellow worker or unfamiliar third party. In most cases, there are enough coworkers, customers, or bystanders who witnessed the attack to give the police probable cause for an arrest. 

In some cases where workers are injured on the job by a third party not affiliated with the workplace, an injured worker can file a third-party liability claim or lawsuit with a work injury lawyer. Third-party claims typically refer to bodily injuries caused by a third party’s reckless or violent behaviors, negligent actions, or omissions. Many workplace injuries caused by violence fall under third-party claims.

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