You probably know you can be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits through your boss’s insurance company. So, what happens when a colleague assaults you?

In that case, you should file a personal injury claim and hold the defendant accountable. On top of suing your co-worker, you can take legal action against your employer if you believe the company did not take the necessary steps to ensure employees are safe from abuse and assault. A successful lawsuit can result in compensation for damages like lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. The first step to seeking justice is hiring a skilled Los Angeles personal injury lawyer. The legal counsel can advise you on the best legal action to take and ensure your voice is heard.

Workplace Assault Overview

You can suffer assault wherever you go, including your workplace, which raises the question of what is considered a workplace assault. Workplace assault happens if:

  • A coworker touches you in an unwanted way.
  • An individual touches you in an offensive or harmful manner in a place of business.

In other words, assault is an attempt or threat to cause violent injuries to another person. It is a California violent offense, and a conviction attracts fines and imprisonment.

Workplace assault also involves the following:

  • Sexual harassment and battery.
  • Physical abuse like pulling the victim's hair, pushing, grabbing, punching, and hitting.
  • Intentional infliction of psychological trauma.
  • Threatening conduct.
  • Intimidation and bullying.
  • Assault using a lethal weapon, including the use of a knife, gun, baseball bat, and other dangerous instruments, to cause bodily harm to a coworker.
  • Work-related killing, suicide, or homicide.

Workplace violence by a colleague can happen anywhere at any time, including during regular working hours, overtime shifts, in the parking lots of office buildings, or business bathrooms.

However, some business industries can be more susceptible to workplace assault than others. They include the following:

  • Nightclub and bar employees.
  • Late-night establishments, convenience stores, and liquor stores.
  • Security guards.
  • Social workers.
  • Sport coaches.
  • Domestic workers, nannies and maids.
  • Professional athletes.
  • Prison wardens.
  • Firemen and peace officers.

Steps to Take After Suffering Workplace Violence

What you do after the assault could make a difference between receiving fair compensation and losing your case. These steps include the following:

  • Leaving the area of the incident to prevent more harm.
  • Receiving immediate medical attention.
  • Reporting the workplace assault to your supervisor or manager.
  • Filing a report with the police, even if you do not intend to bring charges.
  • Gathering evidence — Collect CCTV recordings to photographs of the injuries. Ensure you collect adequate proof to build your case.
  • Contact a personal injury attorney — The lawyer will help you know and understand your legal options.
  • Maintain a diary of signs and symptoms — Write down how you feel emotionally and physically in the days following the assault.
  • Submit a grievance letter if need be — Let your boss know that you do not condone workplace harassment through a formal grievance letter.
  • Ensure your boss files for a Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) — The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations protect your employment, especially if you had to skip work because of your traumatic incident.
  • Demand improvement of the workplace policy against violent assault — Inform your boss there is room for improvement regarding the company’s workplace safety policy.
  • Keep track of your losses — Track the expenses incurred due to the assault. Receipts could be required to recoup your financial damages.

Available Legal Options After a Workmate Assaults You

As a victim of workplace violence, you can do any or all of the following:

  • File a police report against your coworker.
  • File a complaint of assault to your boss.
  • File a civil suit against your employer and co-worker.
  • Sue the defendant.
  1. You Can Sue Your Colleague for Assaulting You

The law allows you to take legal action against your co-worker.

However, many workers do not have the financial muscle of their employer or insurance coverage to cover the wrongdoing.

If there is a possibility that the employer is accountable, it is worthwhile to hold both the company and the defendant liable.

  1. Filing a Police Report Against Your Colleague

You do not need a prosecutor’s or police report in a civil lawsuit. You can still file your civil lawsuit even after the jury finds your colleague innocent.

Nevertheless, it is in your interests to report workplace violence to the law enforcement agency. The pros of having a police report before bringing a civil case include the following:

  • Reporting the workplace assault deters the defendant’s attorney from questioning the victim’s credibility due to the absence of a police report.
  • Going to law enforcement demonstrates to the offender’s employer that they should take the assault seriously.
  • If the accused is found guilty during a trial, it extends the statute of limitations in California, where an alleged victim can bring a civil suit for damages.
  1. Filing an Incident Complaint With Your Employer

You do not need to report the assault to their employers first for them to file a lawsuit for punitive damages. However, it is wise to bring the assault complaint to your manager or supervisor.

Many companies' human resources (HR) managers take claims of violence seriously. Failing to file a report of the incident with your boss could cast doubt on your credibility.

However, only a few companies are big enough to have human resource departments. Since the human resource staff perform their duties for the boss, they aim to resolve disagreements promptly and quietly.

Some employers will investigate their worker’s abuse complaints, while others will hire private investigators to make the process more transparent and fair.

Importance of Making a Complaint to Your Boss

Reporting the incident or complaint to your boss will enable you to:

  1. Become the first party to give your account of the incident to your boss.
  2. Avoid future allegations that you were making things up.
  3. Make good use of the available company benefits, like free counseling services catered for by the company.
  4. Encourage eyewitnesses to comply with investigations to unravel the assault incident.

Filing an assault report also allows the employer to make changes to guarantee your and your coworkers' safety at the workplace.

  1. Filing a Lawsuit Against Your Employer

There are two circumstances in which you can hold your employer accountable for your colleague’s assault, namely:

  • Your boss was aware or ought to have been aware, that your colleague was a threat to other people.
  • Your boss is lawfully accountable because your colleague was performing their job.

Your Boss Was Negligent

You can consider bringing a claim against your boss if injured after workplace violence. You can do this by alleging any of the following, depending on your case facts:

  1. Negligent security — Companies are responsible for ensuring their businesses are safe. You can hold them liable if they do not provide proper security measures like adequate alarms, security guards, cameras, and lighting.
  2. Negligent training — Employers should train all employees to relate to each other. Additionally, the company should offer training in sexual harassment and hostility so that all workers know what unacceptable conduct is and the steps to take.
  3. Negligent hiring — You can hold your employer accountable if they employed someone they should not have hired, and the person injured you. Companies should conduct background checks before hiring.
  4. Negligent supervision — You can take legal action for placing you at risk if they fail to supervise employees.
  5. Negligent retention.

To hold the boss accountable, you should establish the following:

  1. The individual who assaulted you was incompetent or fit to do the job for which they were hired.
  2. Your boss knew that the employee was a threat to other people.
  3. Due to your colleague’s incompetence, you were hurt.

The Boss is Indirectly Accountable for Their Employee’s Conduct

Companies are not liable for their employees’ wrongdoing. Nevertheless, an employer can expect their workers to apply force or use threats of force. In this case, the boss can be vicariously liable for their workers’ conduct (respondeat superior laws).

Respondeat superior means the boss should be accountable for their workers’s acts if the employee is doing their employer’s business.

Respondeat superior law applies to your case if:

  1. Your colleague was acting within their employment ordinary scope.
  2. Your colleague’s conduct was promoting your boss’ business.
  3. You were hurt as a result.

Typically, respondeat superior does not apply after workplace violence. Assaulting a colleague is not within most individual employment scopes. And in a case where physical force forms part of the job description, like a security guard, there is no excuse for violence. You can still hold your employer accountable if your co-worker applied more force than reasonably required.

What Happens When Your Employer Retaliates?

The Whistleblower Protection Act makes it a crime for a firm to retaliate against you if you make a complaint to the following:

  • Law enforcement.
  • Government agencies.
  • Your organization's internal investigative department.

The employer should not retaliate against you even when you are wrong, provided you reasonably believe your reports.

Before you take legal action against your boss for breaking the whistleblower protections of Labor Code 1102.5, you should notify the Labor and Workplace Development Agency via an online form and your company through certified mail.

After filing your notice, the Labor and Workplace Development Agency can decide to investigate the complaint. If it decides not to do so, it should notify you within 65 days. From there, you can file a lawsuit.

Legal Remedies For Breach of Whistleblower Protection Act

Organizations retaliating against staff in breach of the act could:

  • Be penalized a civil fine of $10,000 per incident.
  • Be prosecuted for a California misdemeanor and required to pay additional fines and spend one year in a county jail.

Imposing this act does not guarantee that an employer will not retaliate. However, it provides a solution when it happens.

Damages Awarded Following a Successful Civil Case Against Your Boss

Workplace violence is regarded as a work-related injury. In addition to receiving compensation for lost income, you could pursue compensation for the following:

  • Both current and future medical bills, including the cost of traveling to and from your doctor’s office, prescriptions, and medication.
  • Psychological counseling (Most assault victims require months or years of counseling).
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress (like the development of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder).
  • Lost earning capacity if the assault or the resulting injuries require you to switch hours, work fewer hours, or retire.

An assaulted coworker can also receive punitive damages from their boss, provided the company was grossly negligent or malicious. Punitive damages serve to punish wrongdoers and deter others from committing similar crimes.

The severity of your injury can affect how much you receive in compensation—the more serious the injuries, the higher the compensation you receive. 

If you are a victim of workplace assault, do not sign away your rights to full compensation. You have a lot to lose. Most seasoned personal injury law firms offer free consultations; finding out how your lawyer can help you costs nothing.

You Can File a Workers' Compensation Claim Following a Workplace Violence Incident

Per workers’ compensation regulations, workplace violence is regarded as a work-related injury.

The benefit of workers’ compensation is that it covers many damages immediately. Civil suits are sometimes time-consuming and take years to resolve.

Nevertheless, recovery of lost income is lower, at around two-thirds of the employee's pay. In addition, workers' compensation does not permit victims to cover pain and suffering damages; it only covers the therapy the victim receives.

You cannot file a legal action against your employer after filing a workers’ compensation claim.

You should file your workers’ compensation claim in the following steps:

  1. Notifying Your Boss

Per Labor Code 5400, you should alert the company of the assault within thirty days. However, if they learn of the incident in another way, like you told your supervisor, it serves the same purpose as a written notice.

The company should give you a claim form within a day of learning of the incident. On your claim form, you will submit the following details before signing it:

  • Time and date of the assault.
  • Description of where your injury occurred.
  • Injury and the different body parts affected.
  • Your social security number.

Your employer will also complete a section that contains the following information once you return the form:

  • Their name and address.
  • When they knew of the injury.
  • The date they gave you the claim form.
  • Name and address of their insurance provider.
  • Their signature.

Relevant Notices

Next, your employer should send the form to their insurer, who in return will give notices with your rights, like:

  • The workers’ compensation claim process.
  • What occurs after filing your claim form.
  • Where you can obtain medical attention.
  • Your right to choose and change your treating doctor.

The Insurer Investigating Your Lawsuit

The insurance firm can question you in a deposition. They can also acquire records of your previous employment and medical treatment.

The company has ninety days from when you filed your claim form to deny or accept your claim. Your claim will be accepted if it fails to be decided within three months.

Until the insurer decides about the claim, they should offer you medical care treatment up to one hundred thousand dollars, even if they deny your claim.

If the insurer denies your claim, you have a year to file your appeal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions that the knowledgeable legal team at Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney has repeatedly answered.

  1. How Does a Criminal Complaint Differ from a Civil Lawsuit for Damages?

Civil cases involve private disputes between individuals, while criminal cases involve an act that harms society.

A civil case can lead to the court ordering the defendant to do something (injunctions) and the plaintiff recovering damages. On the other hand, a criminal case can involve serving time and paying fines.

Before convicting you of a crime, the prosecutor must prove the elements of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt. A plaintiff will prove their civil claim with a preponderance of evidence.

Please note that the outcome of a criminal case does not affect your civil case’s outcome.

  1. What Happens If You Are in the U.S. Illegally?

Generally, California law enforcers will neither inquire about your immigration status nor report it to other government authorities while investigating assault claims. The state is more interested in punishing dangerous people than finding those in the U.S. without papers.

If you are an undocumented alien and believe your employer retaliated against you for reporting workplace violence, you should consult the following:

  • An immigration lawyer.
  • Department of Industrial Relations.
  • California Labor Commission.
  1. Can Your Colleague Take Legal Action Against You for Accusing Them of Assault?

Yes. Some defendants can sue alleged victims, hoping to silence them.

You must be careful in your defense, and hiring experienced legal representation is essential for a favorable case outcome.

Find a Reliable Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me

Being assaulted by your colleague is a traumatic experience and can affect your sense of security. You cannot restore the mental anguish while taking legal action against the defendant or your employer. The Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney can help you receive the compensation you deserve and need. In a free initial consultation, we can assess your case to determine your available legal options. There is neither an obligation to hire nor a risk of contacting us; we work on a contingency basis. Please call us at 424-231-2013 to get started.