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Waitress loses workers' compensation claim in bar fight

The workers' compensation system in New Jersey functions to provide workers who have been injured in work-related activities. They can receive medical benefits and wages for the time they are injured, and in cases of severe injuries, permanent disability compensation is potentially available.  

An important element is the work-related requirement. For most workers, this is easily satisfied if they were injured while doing their job. A construction worker, who is cut by a saw on a job site or falls off a ladder or scaffold, would clearly be eligible for compensation under the program.

There are cases where the determination is not so cut-and-dried. If a waitress is injured during a fight in the bar where she works, is that injury compensable? In a case from Kentucky, a court found that she was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits because there of personal animosity directed at her that was unrelated to the business.

The facts indicate a fight broke out between two people at the bar and witnesses claim she intervened on behalf of one of the participants. She was violently knocked to the ground by the other party to the fight. After her shift, she sought medical treatment for the injuries.

She claims that as a result of the assault she suffered injuries to much of her upper body, her head, back and knees. The court of appeals found that her injuries were unrelated to her employment because she was acquainted with one of the combatants and she intervened because of her personal acquaintance.

If she had been a bouncer or security and it was her job to break up fights, it is more likely her injuries would have been entitled to workers' compensation coverage.

Source: Risk & Insurance, "Waitress not entitled to benefits for injuries sustained in barroom brawl," October 21, 2013

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