Can I Get Workers' Comp if I'm At Fault?

Posted By Katz, Leidman, Freund & Herman || 10-Jan-2018

Accidents happen all the time. In the workplace, we have car accidents, machine accidents, slips and falls, and countless other types of accidents. In many cases, a workplace accident is traced back to a worker’s error, whether it was the injured worker themselves, a co-worker, a third-party contractor, or even the injured worker’s employer. The truth is that a large percentage of workplace accidents are preventable and based on human error. Sometimes, a worker’s own negligence leads to an on-the-job injury.

Suppose a worker accidentally gets injured in a workplace accident because of his or her own negligence, and this is clearly documented. Everybody in the office, on the floor, or at the job site knows the worker was to blame for their own injury. Does this mean that he or she is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?

Workers’ Comp is a No-Fault System

“In a workers’ compensation case, no one party is determined to be at fault. The amount that a claimant receives is not decreased by his/her carelessness, nor increased by an employer’s fault,” according to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. But there are exceptions to this rule. A worker loses his or her right to receive workers’ compensation benefits if the injury occurred because he or she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or because the worker was trying to injure himself or someone else.

For example, let’s say that “John,” a factory worker started a fight with “Rob,” a co-worker, over a dispute the pair had going for a couple of months. However, John had no idea that Rob was trained in mixed martial arts and out of self-defense, Rob ended up breaking John’s arms and he was unable to work until they healed.

When the managers at the plant watched surveillance video, it was clear that John started the fight and that Rob had no choice but to defend himself. Since John started the fight, his workers’ compensation claim was denied. Now, if John had accidentally hurt himself on-the-job because he was careless, not because he was trying to hurt anybody, and he was unable to work for a few months, he probably wouldn’t have any problem collecting workers’ compensation benefits.

If you were injured on the job and you cannot work because of your injury, you should be covered by workers’ compensation as long as you were not impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident and you were not intentionally trying to hurt yourself or someone else at the time of the incident.

To file a workers’ compensation claim in New York, contact Katz, Leidman, Freund & Herman at (888) 250-5427 for a FREE consultation.