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Workers' Compensation from Illegal Conduct

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What Is Workers' Compensation?

Workers' compensation is a system that allows employees in the private and government sector to be compensated for an injury at work. Injured employees may be compensated for medical costs, lost wages, disability payments, etc.

Worker’s compensation operates under the legal theory of strict liability. This means that workers receive these benefits regardless of whether their employer was negligent or at fault for the injury. However, worker’s compensation laws vary from state to state. Consequently, if you suffered a workplace injury, you should check your state’s workers’ compensation laws. Moreover, there is a certain time limit to when these claims can be filed. 

What If an Injury Was Caused by the Illegal Conduct of the Worker?

When an employee's injuries were caused by illegal conduct, there is a general bar to recovering from workers' compensation. If the injury is caused by the employee’s willful negligence, that employee may not be able to collect workers’ compensation. For example, an employee may refuse to wear the required safety gloves and then cut his fingers while operating machinery. However, whether the employee might be prevented from collecting workers’ compensation depends on the state that he is in. Moreover, there are a few general exceptions to the bar from recovering workers’ compensation:

If the Employer Permits the Illegal Activity: In some jurisdictions, if the employer condoned the illegal activity that caused the injury, then the injured worker will not be barred from receiving worker’s compensation. Employer approval for the activity can often be written or verbal. Approval can also be established if the employer knew of the conduct and took no steps to prevent it.

If the Employee Was Unaware of the Illegal Conduct: Some jurisdictions will not prevent a worker from taking worker’s compensation if the worker did not know that their conduct was illegal. In addition, if an injury is caused purely by a technical or trivial violation, the courts will generally allow recovery. Recovery is also likely if the injury was caused by an unintentional or careless act.

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.

Should I Contact an Employment Lawyer?

If you were injured at work, you may want to get worker’s compensation. Worker’s compensation claims, however, can be complicated. In order to get a comprehensive evaluation of your case, speak with an employment lawyer. An experienced employment attorney can help you understand your options and even go to court on your behalf.

Photo of page author John Kirby

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 12-17-2017 09:15 PM PST

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