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Does California grant workers’ compensation for fights?

Not everyone is out to make friends in the workplace. Despite the training and warnings you receive from your superiors, sometimes you cannot stop co-workers who want to speak with their fists rather than their mouths. Whether it is from a sense of competition or a growing tension between two uncooperative co-workers, fights that can break out from your workplace typically end with neither side winning.

If you get into a brawl on your company’s property, you are probably wondering if it is possible to acquire coverage for your injuries. Even though the damage came from raw emotions instead of an accident, you still got hurt on company property. Like most workers’ compensation cases in California, the answer is not straightforward. However, you should be aware of what’s needed to receive compensation.

The first punch

Though some states are vague on if brawling workers can get workers’ compensation, California does have one specific guideline. According to the Golden State’s statutes, you are eligible for coverage for a fight at work as long as you were not the instigator. Essentially, if you did not throw the first punch, you are more eligible than the other party. While this guideline offers some clarity, it is still not specific enough to cover the numerous circumstances seen in a fight.

What else is considered?

Even if you were the initial physical aggressor in the fight, the state does consider the nature of the brawl before making their verdict. Maybe the other worker was physically or verbally threatening you or someone else. Perhaps you were trying to get them out of the way of a falling or heavy object and they took your actions the wrong way.

However, what you get can be dependent on witness testimony. For example, in 2016, three Concord cops were involved in a bar fight with two young men. The reports on the fight varied, with some saying that the cops got drunk and punched the men, or the two individuals were gang members who recognized the officers and began insulting and throwing chairs at them. With the inconsistent reports on the event, the two arrested men did not receive any charges and the city declined to give the officers coverage for their injuries.

What should you do?

If there is anything to take away, it’s not easy to receive workers’ comp for fight injuries. Even though California does grant it if you were the primary victim, they still may not provide full coverage based on the severity of your injuries, your actions after the first punch or several other factors. Given the complications of the process, you should consider contacting a workers’ compensation attorney to see if your case is eligible for a potential claim.

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