Most of the time, when people talk about on-the-job injuries, they only discuss workplace injuries caused by the employer, the injured employee, or by accident, but never about on-the-job injuries caused by another employee.
What happens if you get injured by a coworker in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California? Who should be held liable for your injuries and damages – the coworker or your employer (given that you and the coworker who injured you work for the same employer)?
We brought our Los Angeles on-the-job injuries attorney William Kropach to explain how California workers’ compensation laws determine liability in cases when an employee contributes to the injuries of his/her coworker.
It may sound bizarre, but determining liability in workplace injuries is not always as easy as it may seem at first sight. Because, under California’s workers’ comp laws, if an employee injures someone else, his or her employer will most likely get the blame and be held responsible for the injured party’s injuries and damages.
Whether or not your employer can be held liable for the injuries you suffered as a result of your coworker’s actions depends on what your coworker was doing at the time of the accident. The first question to ask yourself is this: did it happen during a meal break or rest break? Did it happen BEFORE your coworker started working (in the office, parking lot, elevator before work hours) or AFTER he/she finished working for the day (in the office while leaving, or at the parking lot by slamming his/her car into yours after work hours).
If the answer is yes to either of these questions, our Los Angeles on-the-job injuries lawyer says that the employer will most likely not be held liable for your injuries, only the employee who injured you may get the blame.
However, if the answer to the above-mentioned question is “no,” then liability will be determined depending on what the coworker was doing at the time of the incident. If your coworker was under control of the employer – in other words, he or she was performing his designated job duties – the employer will be held fully liable for your injuries, losses and damages suffered in the employee-employee accident.
But do not think that this is so easy. An internal investigation (or better yet, an independent investigation conducted by a Los Angeles workers’ compensation attorney to prevent bias) into the matter will have to establish whether or not your coworker has taken all safety precautions while doing his/her job. Meaning: if your coworker failed to take safety precautions that were reasonably expected or as he/she was taught during the pre-employment training, he or she will most likely be held partially or fully responsible for your injuries and damages.
In all other cases – when your coworker was performing his/her usual job duties and took all reasonable safety precautions to minimize the risk of on-the-job injuries and accidents – your (and his/her) employer will be held legally at fault for the accident.
Our best workers’ comp attorneys in California explain that this is possible due to California’s “vicarious liability” doctrine, aka respondeat superior or the “master servant doctrine.” The doctrine applies to workplace personal injury and workers’ compensation cases between an employee and employee, employer and employee, employer and independent contractor, business partner and business partner, principal and agent, and other situations.
Only an experienced on-the-job injuries lawyer can determine liability in your particular case. It goes without saying that holding an employer responsible for your injuries will in 90 percent of all cases bring a much bigger monetary compensation compared to holding an employee liable for your injuries.