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Court: Innocent Horseplay Victim Eligible for Workers' Comp

A recent workers' compensation case shows that when an employee is injured at work, even in an unexpected way, often that employee is eligible for work comp benefits. In both New York and Virginia, where the case was decided, an employee who is an innocent victim of coworker horseplay should be eligible for benefits.

Horseplay Turns Serious

In the recent case, a server at a national chain restaurant walked to the kitchen to print a check and place an order. The server's friends, also restaurant employees, were engaging in horseplay by throwing ice. They threw ice at the server who, in protecting himself from being hit, dislocated his shoulder.

The server tried to secure workers' compensation benefits for his injuries. Virginia's lower courts ruled that the server's shoulder injury was not covered by workers' compensation because the surgery and recuperation necessitated by the injury were not work related.

The Virginia Supreme Court reversed this decision, reasoning that the injury arose out of the server's employment. The remanded case will go back to the appeals court, and the server will receive the workers' compensation he deserves.

New York Workers' Compensation Law Protects Employees

Workers' comp is a system that provides workers with financial support for injuries they receive while they are working, during the time those injuries prevent them from going back to work. Workers' compensation may also provide related medical care. In exchange for giving up the right to sue the employer in most cases, employees enjoy a streamlined process of filing for and receiving compensation.

Of course, not every case goes smoothly, as the horseplay incident demonstrates. If such a workplace injury occurs in New York, however, the restaurant employee's claim should be approved. This is because the employee was a victim of horseplay at work, which is an incident that arises out of employment.

While horseplay may sound harmless, it is possible for it to lead to serious injuries that could prevent an innocent employee from working. In such a case, it is likely that the employee should seek workers' compensation.

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