Workers' Compensation from Illegal Conduct

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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What is Workers' Compensation?

Workers' compensation is a type of recovery that replaces the judicial process when an employee is injured while "on the job." Its purpose is to provide compensation for disability or death that may result from an occupational injury. 

Can an Employee Recover from Workers' Compensation if the Injury Was Caused by or Occurred during the Course of the Workers' Illegal Conduct?

Generally, when an employee's injuries were caused by illegal conduct, there is a general bar to recovering from workers' compensation. However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule. They include:

If the Employer Permits the Illegal Activity:

Several cases have analyzed whether the employer in some way authorized the employee's illegal actions. A number of courts have held that where the employer condoned the illegal conduct, an employee would not be barred from recovery. The reason being that it would be unfair for an employer to permit an employee to violate a statute then use the illegal activity as a bar for workers' compensation recovery.

If the Employee Was Unaware of the Illegal Conduct:

In determining whether an employee should be rewarded workers' compensation, courts have taken into consideration whether the employee was aware of the statute being violated. Some courts have held that when the violation is not known or willful, then there should be no bar of recovery. Furthermore, if an injury is caused by purely a technical or trivial violation or by an unintentional or careless act, courts will generally allow recovery.

What are Some Important Factors That Courts Consider in Barring Workers' Compensation?

Courts generally attempt to remain as fair as possible in order to compensate a worker for their occupational injuries. Some significant issues courts have weighed include:

Employee's Willful Illegal Conduct:

Many cases have considered whether the employee's illegal act was willful. Courts have held that where the employee intended to commit the unlawful act and the violation was willful then compensation will be denied. 

Type of Illegal Activity:

Courts will weigh the severity of the illegal activity. In some jurisdictions, it has been held that the only form of illegal conduct that bars recovery is the unlawful attempt to injure another. Other courts have reduced the recovery amount in accordance with the seriousness of the violation. 

 

How Can Employees Defend Themselves in This Type of Scenario?

Employees must show that they have customarily been a respectable worker. Testimony by a supervisor concerning the employee's reputation for being a careful worker and had not violated the law in the past has been distinguished as highly favorable for the employee.

Should I Seek an Attorney to Assist Me With My Workers' Compensation Case?

An experienced workers' compensation attorney will help guide you through this complex process. Your attorney will ensure the protection of your interests and will support you in your case.

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Last Modified: 03-01-2012 02:58 PM PST

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