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New York Court Denies Workers' Comp for Fistfight Injuries

New York workers’ compensation law is designed to cover all injuries that arise from a person’s employment. However, just because an injury happened during work hours doesn’t necessarily mean that it “arises from employment.” For example, a law clerk for the New York State Department of Law was recently denied workers’ compensation benefits for injuries arising out of a fistfight on a shuttle bus to a workplace parking lot.

The employee was apparently exiting off the shuttle bus a little too slowly for another person on the shuttle bus. After a verbal altercation, the two became involved in a physical fight. After the fight, the law clerk sought workers’ compensation benefits for physical injuries to her chest, neck and shoulder. She also claimed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The law clerk’s worker’s compensation claim was denied, largely because the New York Workers’ Compensation Board didn’t think the injuries resulted from her employment. The New York Supreme Court agreed, holding that the attack was “motivated by purely personal animosity.” It’s important to note, though, that the court’s ruling doesn’t necessarily mean that a person could never recover workers’ comp benefits after being attacked at work.

Instead, it depends on how the attack happened. If it can be shown that the altercation was related to the injured employee’s work – think of prison guards or bouncers – then a valid claim may exist. New Yorkers who are injured at work can always benefit from talking to a workers’ compensation attorney who can help them understand their rights.


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