COULD A SPIRITED FIGHT AT THE AIRPORT BE A WORK INJURY? INJURED WORKER IN THE NEWS, #56

A Texas airline agent was suspended after being caught in a wild viral video trading blows with a woman.  Reportedly, the customer yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him.  The video of the incident is available on the internet.   Nypost.com

The video was remarkable. At one point, agent and the customer were separated by an individual.  At one point, it appears that the customer reached over and initiated contact with the agent.  This contact appears to infuriate the agent.  The video shows a number of interactions.

Hypothetically, we are going to assume that the agent sustained an injury during the encounter and that it occurred after the alleged touching by the customer.  Which actions on the video was physical contact? Who make the first aggressive physical contact?  Note: this hypothetical will not address the possibility of a psyche claim.  The incident involved racial and homophobic slurs by the customer which could provide a basis for such a claim.

If so, could the agent have a legitimate valid physical injury workers’ compensation case?  This article will discuss how this question would be addressed within the California Workers’ Compensation System.

What Is the Defense Against This Claim?

In California, there is an  initial aggressor defense.  A claim can be barred “[w]here the injury does not arise out of an altercation in which the injured employee is the initial physical aggressor.” This is per Labor Code Section 3600.   In this matter, determining whether the  agent was the initial physical aggressor is quite confusing.  It is possible that not all of the interactions were caught on tape.  Likewise, whether certain actions constituted physical aggression is a matter of interpretation.

With this said, the interaction in this matter was quite complex.  An insurance carrier may deny the claim based upon the fact that there was contact that arguably was initiated by the agent.

Since There May Be A Dispute On A Matter Like This, How Would It Be Handled In The Workers’ Compensation System?

In California, there is the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.  The Board has local offices.  These offices have Judges that are able to adjudicate claims.  These Judges are called Administrative Law Judges or ALJs.  Not only do ALJs try cases, they also act as the “finder of fact.”  Since the Judge is the “finder of fact,” there is no need for a jury.  Jud  Thus, there are no jury trial in workers’ compensation.  All decision as made by the Judge.

In a case like this hypothetical, the Judge would likely receive testimony from the Injured Worker and other witnesses.  Also, the video of the event most likely would be taken into evidence as well.  The Judge would examine all of the evidence to make a determination as to whether the employee was the the initial physical aggressor.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

A MTA WORKER IS BOTH A HERO….AND AN INJURED WORKER: INJURED WORKER IN THE NEWS, #55

Mr. Anthony Wilson, an MTA Worker, is both a hero and an Injured Worker.   It was reported that “[l]ast week, Nelson was cleaning the Pelham Bay subway station in the Bronx when police allege 49-year-old Alexander Wright began to harass customers. Nelson stepped in to protect them, but the suspect quickly turned his rage toward Nelson, breaking his collarbone and nose.”  KESQ.COM

This fact pattern may involve many unique issues. This article will discuss two important issues that come up with these type of events;  the injury investigation and the Injured Worker’s high profile work injury celebrity status.

Why Would High Profile Claim Like This Be Investigated?

In California, any assault claim has the possibility of an insurance company defense of initial physical aggressor.  The initial physical aggressor rule could bar an Injured Worker’s claim.  Therefore, it is worthy of inquiry by the insurance company.  In other words, there will be an investigation as to whether the Injured Worker made the first physical contact.

Labor Code Section 5402, allows insurance companies 90 days to investigate claims.  “If liability is not rejected within 90 days after the date the claim form is filed under Section 5401, the injury shall be presumed compensable under this division.”  Thus, the Insurance Company will got out and get witness statements and see if the incident was caught on tape before accepting the claim.

Why Is The Injured Worker’s Celebrity Status A Problem?

An Injured Worker who becomes a celebrity as a result of their injury creates a problem.

When an Injured Worker is in a high profile worker’ compensation case, they may be on television or interviewed for news articles. These television reports or interviews may reveal information concerning the Injured Worker’s injuries and their physical activity level.   Additionally, in interviews, Injured Workers may try to make a positive and uplifting impression rather than be accurate concerning their complaints.  This information can be used to impeach the Injured Worker.  Also, it could be sent to examining or evaluating physicians.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

IWITN #38: Was A United Airlines Worker Brawl With A Passenger A Work-related Injury?

A viral video shows a United Airlines Luggage Check-In Worker engaged in a fist fight with a customer.  The video shows the UA Worker punching the customer.  The video then shows the customer beating up the worker.  Dailymail.com

For the purpose of this post, we will take the video as the totality of the interaction. Thus, we will analyze whether the UA Worker can claim a work injury for the blows that he sustained. Again, the facts, for this hypothetical, are that the UA Worker came up to the customer and struck the customer.  The customer, in turn, then struck the UA Worker.

It is reported that prior to the blows that there was some interaction between the UA Worker and the customer concerning the customer using a wheelchair to transport luggage as opposed to paying for a luggage cart.

Can the UA Worker Claim An Injury With Respect to the Exchange of Blows?

Labor Code Section 3600(a)(7) prohibits recovery under workers’ compensation law in California “[w]here the injury does not arise out of an altercation in which the injured employee is the initial physical aggressor.” This is often referred to as the “Initial Aggressor Rule.” Thus, the fist fight injuries would not be covered as a valid claim. The reason being is that the UA Worker threw the first blow and therefore was the initial aggressor.

Could the UA Worker File a Different Claim?

From the facts of the case, the UA Worker apparently became agitated to the point that he decided to attack the customer. There is the possibility that a psyche claim could be filed.  From the video, it would appear that the UA Worker was unhinged.  A determination on this matter would be deferred to a mental health practitioner.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

A TACO BELL EMPLOYEE WHO RUNG THE BELL OF A CUSTOMER: INJURED WORKER IN THE NEWS #24

A Taco Bell Employee may have earned himself a new profession as a WWE wrestler.

A viral video shows this fearless Fast Food Worker dodging a customer’s blow and performing an epic take down.  He picked up and hurled the man over his shoulder and tossing him into the air. The customer dropped to the ground.  thesun.com

The video and the incident raises an important workers’ compensation question, could the Taco Bell Employee pursue a workers’ compensation claim if he was injured in the incident?

Is the Taco Bell Employee’s Possible Claim Barred By Workers’ Compensation?

The Labor Code provides an exception to workers’ compensation when there is a physical confrontation.  Initial physical aggressors are barred from pursuing claims.  Labor Code Section 3600 (a)(7) provides that in the event of an altercation  the initial physical aggressor will not be able to pursue the matter. Given the facts, the customer threw the first blow. Therefore, the customer, for workers’ compensation purposes, would be considered as the initial physical aggressor.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

AMERICAN AIRLINES EMPLOYEE STABBED BY CO-WORKER: INJURED WORKERS IN THE NEWS, #15

An  American  Airlines Employee conflict resulted in a stabbing injury.

Was this a workers’ compensation injury?

It is reported that  there was a dispute between two American Airline Employees at Boston Long International Airport.  The dispute escalated into physical confrontation. One worker was stabbed by a multi-use tool and taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Foxnews.com

Can A Dispute Between Employees Be A Work-Related Injury?

Yes.  In the instant fact pattern, a dispute in the workplace during work hours would be an event that would be considered as work-related for the purposes of workers’ compensation.

Can a Physical Altercation Bar A Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Yes. California Labor Code Section 3600(a)(7) provides that “[w]here the injury does not arise out of an altercation in which the injured employee is the initial physical aggressor.”  Thus, if the Employee who was stabbed had thrown the first punch in the altercation, there is the possibility that their workers’ compensation claim could be barred.  The issue of who was legally the initial physical aggressor is a matter determined by a Judge. A tri  It is important to note that it is the “physical” aggressor who is barred.  Thus, someone initially verbally insulting someone and causing the altercation would not be barred.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

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