Did you know that you can submit a workers compensation claim if you were involved in a workplace shooting? You can. In fact, mass workplace violence most times results in increased workers compensation costs, so says the February 25th issue of Business Insurance. As a society that has rapid access to information concerning such happenings thanks to the availability of social media, we are attuned to seeing these events unfold before our very eyes. What we don’t see, and often forget about, is the resulting aftermath of such actions and the actual cost, in dollars, paid.
Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012: 26 killed and 2 injured at Sandy Hook Elementary School before the shooter kills himself.
Aurora, Colo., July 20, 2012: 12 killed, 58 injured in movie theater shooting.
Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 8, 2011: Six killed, 13 injured outside supermarket during a gathering for then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Manchester, Conn., Aug. 3, 2010: Eight killed, 2 injured in workplace shooting before shooter kills himself.
Fort Hood, Texas, Nov. 5, 2009: 13 killed, 30 injured at U.S. Army base by psychiatrist.
Workers comp insurers provide unlimited liability to their policy holders resulting in multi-million dollar claims; and we haven’t even talked about the impact of the civil litigation that often follows. “You could easily have a $10 million to $20 million comp event,” said Duke Niedringhaus, vice president at broker J.W.Terrill Inc. in Chesterfield, MO.
After a 2003 rampage at Lockheed Martin in Meridian Miss., families of the deceased sued in civil court alleging that Lockheed had knowledge of the employee’s racial hatred and threatening behavior and allowed him to bring weapons onto their property. 14 workers were shot and 6 killed before the employee killed himself. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the shooter acted outside of the course of his employment and that workers compensation provided exclusive remedy to surviving family members. However, Lockheed reached confidential settlement agreements with the plaintiffs, anyway.
Also, it depends on the number of employees injured in such cases. Connecticut will continue to feel the brunt of its tragedies as policy rates were raised this year due, in part, to the 2010 shootings in Manchester. That incident-8 employees killed and 2 wounded by a company truck driver-ultimately will cost the state about $7 million in total workers comp costs, according to NCCI, a firm located in Baton Rouge, Fla. And again, the payouts may not be limited to solely family members. The fiancée of a deceased worker argued for receipt of workers comp benefits. The company, Hartford Distributors, argued that survivor benefits are only paid to family. A trial commissioner disagreed and awarded her benefits. The company at first appealed but later reached a settlement.
Injury caused by workplace violence is not limited to simple strains or contusions. Bullet wounds requiring hospitalization and subsequent physical therapy, as well as psychological counseling for survivors, wage replacement and possible civil litigation all amount to huge costs for employers; costs that equal claims they will look to reduce or outright not pay. Employees can protect themselves by seeking professional assistance and filing all claims paperwork within the legally required time period.
Sources: “Counting the Cost of Shooting Outbreaks”, Roberto Ceniceros, Business Insurance, February 25, 2013; “Troubles Preceded Connecticut Workplace Killings”, Ray Rivera and Liz Robbins, The New York Times, August 3, 2010.