By Tyler Jones, Esq.
It is an unfortunate reality that employers are increasingly having to face workers’ comp issues after a shooting in the workplace. Georgia law – developed through cases and not statute – addresses these matters in ways that are different than many states.
- Who is the aggressor? If the shooter is an employee and is the aggressor then even if he is injured in the incident, it is unlikely he will be eligible for workers’ comp. The instigator is generally barred from recovery. If the shooter is responding to a verbal attack only, and is subsequently injured, he is not likely to recover since it is the person first using force who is barred. Of course, commission of a criminal act itself could be a bar to workers’ comp benefits but the law may not be as clear as employers would like it to be.
- Did the incident arise out of the employment? If the dispute which leads to the shooting arises out of a personal matter, then the victim may not be able to recover. If the shooting arises from a dispute about work, recovery is more likely. For instance, if the claimant is injured or killed following an argument about one of the employees not working hard enough, the claim is compensable. However, if the incident arises out of a love triangle (there are several of these cases), then the claim is not compensable.
- Was there a physical injury? Psychic injuries without a physical component are not compensable in Georgia. There is a case from decades ago which is still valid where an employee brought a psychological claim when a pistol was placed to her head but there was no physical injury. The Court held that a “mere touching” was not enough; there had to be a physical injury. Georgia is one of just a handful of states that does not allow what are known as “mental-mental” claims. If the claim for recovery of psychological benefits is based only on mental stimuli, there can be no recovery. For instance, a teller watching a bank robber shoot another teller but who is not physically injured, would not recover under Georgia workers’ comp law even if there was serious psychological injury including PTSD.