Sometimes, it isn’t so clear whether an employer is responsible for paying medical expenses and wage loss benefits or not. Take the case of John, a stocker at a big-box grocery store.
After ending his shift at 3:00 AM one morning, John was robbed while going to his car located in the store’s employee parking area, which was in a dark area about 50-yards from the back of the store. John sustained a broken right arm, bruised ribs, scrapes and bruises – he also required 15 stitches from where he was struck in the back of the head with a beer bottle.
On the evening of the event, John was bragging to co-workers about selling 3 DVD players and having $375 cash in his backpack.
Three days after the event, 2 of John’s co-workers were arrested for the robbery after telling co-workers at the store what they had done. The backpack and cash were found in theirpossession.
Now from a criminal perspective, the two co-workers are clearly responsible and were charged accordingly. But does John qualify for any workers’ comp benefits?
In short yes…the store, for one, did have liability for either maintaining a safe environment or warning individuals of any danger. For example, there had been 12 robberies in the year leading up to John’s employment at the store. He was never notified of these events.
Also, the store hadn’t installed video cameras, better lighting or hired security guards to help reduce the likelihood of a crime occurring. Even allowing employees to park closer to the store would have helped prevent what happened to John.
Therefore it was determined the employer hadn’t:
(1) Notified John of any prior robberies and…
(2) Instituted measures to prevent future robberies or criminal activity
And since John hadn’t left the store parking lot yet, he was still considered ‘on-the-job’ and eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits. He also qualified for a Victims Compensation Fund as well.
In Colorado though, John would only qualify for workers’ comp benefits and not be able to pursue additional damages in the form of a personal injury claim against the store.
Laws in Colorado do not allow workers to pursue additional damages beyond standard benefits, regardless of any negligence on the part of the employer. This is what’s known as ‘absolute immunity.’ If this case had occurred here, the store would not even be sanctioned for the unsafe lighting conditions in the area where the robbery occurred.
The case is now settled. While you can’t be fired for filing a workers’ comp claim, John chose to quit working at the store.
If you have a workers’ comp case like John’s that isn’t so clear-cut, contact Denver workers’ comp attorneys at the Babcock Law Firm today for a free consultation.