As an employer, you know you don’t have to accept every workers’ compensation claim as valid. There are several reasons you may be justified in denying a claim.
For example, you could potentially deny a claim if workers were injured as a result of engaging in horseplay. That said, it’s not always easy to prove that the behavior of injured workers was negligent enough to justify your decision. That’s why one of your main goals should be to prevent accidents resulting from horseplay from occurring in the first place.
Technically, an employer may be justified in denying a workers’ compensation claim if an employee was injured because they were engaging in horseplay. However, it can be difficult to prove that an employee genuinely doesn’t deserve to recover workers’ compensation benefits because their own behavior was negligent.
For example, in one fairly recent case, a maintenance worker and his coworkers at a rail yard had constructed a potato cannon out of spare parts and filled it with metal scraps and gunpowder. The maintenance worker was filming his coworkers to test the device from the vantage point of a nearby fire escape.
When the device was fired, it exploded, sending shrapnel through the air. Some of this shrapnel struck the maintenance worker and left him with injuries.
Although his case was dismissed when the maintenance worker first attempted to sue his employer, a state appeals court later overturned the initial decision and concluded that the case could proceed, arguing that the employer has not sufficiently maintained a safe workplace.
This is an instance where it might seem as though an employer or insurance company would clearly be off the hook. The workers who had constructed this dangerous device were not behaving responsibly at all. Despite this, one court argued that their employer should have taken steps to prevent the accident.
Such examples emphasize the importance of properly educating your workers in regard to what does and does not constitute horseplay in the workplace. Steps you should take to reduce the frequency of accidents resulting from such behavior include the following:
However, even if you take these reasonable steps, there may come a day when you deny a workers’ compensation claim because an injured employee was engaging in horseplay, only for the employee to hire a lawyer in an attempt to force your insurance to pay them.
Contact our workers’ compensation defense lawyers at Sacks Law Group, APC if this ever happens. We will help demonstrate that you were in the right when you chose to deny a claim. For more information about how we can help, contact us online or call us today at 310-216-7778.