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Accidental Shooting by Coworker in Massachusetts

These days it seems like so-called active shooter incidents are occurring more frequently than ever before, given that Americans own an estimated 265 million firearms.  Aside from the intentional acts of terror, there are accidental shootings being reported in the media as well.  If an accidental shooting occurs on-the-job, any injuries may require a workers’ compensation claim be filed if the injured worker is to receive any compensation and medical benefits following the workplace shooing.

workplace Injury BostonAccording to a recent news article from CBS Boston, what was first reported as a leg injury at a local college ultimately turned out to be caused by a worker who allegedly accidentally discharged his weapon in such a manner that harmed his coworker. The school has said it did not release information about the shooting earlier because they were asked not to do so by investigators until the investigation was complete and denies that they engaged in any type of cover-up. 

Authorities have now said the employee, who has since been terminated, brought a weapon to the campus that day.  The campus policy prohibited carrying firearms on the property.  He has not been charged with any crimes as of this time, and police have said it appears the shooting was entirely accidental, but they are not ruling out the possibility of criminal charges.

As our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, while a workplace shooting is far from a typical on the job accident, workers’ compensation may be the only appropriate remedy since there is a complete bar to filing a personal injury lawsuit in cases when dealing with an on the job injury that was not caused by a third party.  For example, if the shooting was done by a vendor or other third party, the injured employee could file a workers’ compensation claim pursuant to Chapter 152 of the Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.)

Workers’ Compensation is an Exclusive Recovery System

In Massachusetts, workers’ compensation is an exclusive recovery system.  This means that if an employee is eligible to file a claim for workers’ compensation, the worker must file such a claim to receive compensation and cannot also file a a civil personal injury lawsuit. It doesn’t matter if claimant actually files for workers’ compensation because the test is whether they are eligible to apply for workers’ compensation. A worker is eligible to apply for workers’ compensation if he or she is an employee within the meaning of Chapter 152, Section 1 of the M.G.L. and was injured on the job.

The only real exception to the ban on filing a civil lawsuit is if the worker was injured by a negligent third party.  For example, if the injury was caused by a coworker, even if caused by an intentional or accidental shooting, a civil lawsuit cannot be filed. On the other hand, if the injury was caused by vendor on the property delivering supplies, and that vendor is a true third party who does not work for the same employer, the employee could file a workers’ compensation claim with his or her employer and still file a claim against the third party and possibly his or her employer.  There is a catch however, in that any money paid out in benefits by the workers’ compensation insurance company would have to be paid back from the proceeds of a settlement or jury verdict from the civil claim against the third party.

The reason for this is because the system was set up so the plaintiff could not recover twice for the same injuries. You may be wondering why a plaintiff would want to file a personal injury lawsuit when he or she has to repay the workers’ compensation insurance company, but the reason is because there are types of damages available in a civil lawsuit that are not available in  a workers’ compensation claim.

In a Boston workers’ compensation case, there are benefits for past and future medical bills and lost wages. There is no provision for payment for pain and suffering, so this means that there would likely be additional money paid to the plaintiff after the workers’ compensation benefits are repaid. There is also the possibility of punitive damages, though they are not available in the majority of cases.  This is a complex issue so it is best to discuss it with an experienced attorney who not only handles personal injury lawsuits, but also represents clients in workers’ compensation claims.  The plaintiff should not be concerned about the cost of the consultation because it will be free consultation, and in most cases, there will be no legal fees unless the plaintiff is successful in obtaining workers’ compensation benefits or money in connection with the personal injury lawsuit.

Workers’ Compensation is a No-Fault System

In addition to being a single recovery system, it is also a no-fault system. This means there is no  requirement for the employee to prove any negligence or other fault on behalf the employer to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. As discussed above, in the context of the single recovery system, it is only necessary to prove employee was an actual employee within the meaning of Chapter 152 of the M.G.L., and that the injuries or illness were work related.

The best way to prove this is to file an incident report as soon as you were injured on the job.   In many cases, the worker will try to keep the injuries quiet out of fear of retaliation.  This is one of the worse things an injured employee can do.  An employer is not allowed to retaliate against an employee for making reporting an on the job injury or filing a valid workers’ compensation claim. If the employer does retaliate, that would we be the basis for filing additional claims against the employer, but this is something that should be discussed with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on a case by case basis.

The main reason for promptly reporting the injury it make sure you get any needed medical attention and also to make sure there is a timely record of the injury.  This will make it much harder for an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company to claim the injuries were not job related.

If you are the victim of Massachusetts product liability, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

College: Employee Accidentally Shot, Injured Another Worker, November 28, 2017, CBS Boston, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:

HVAC Worker in Worcester Dies in Fall Accident, Feb. 13, 2017, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog