Getting Workers’ Comp If You Were Robbed at Work: Payment for Trauma and PTSD

Trauma from being robbed at work is a compensable type of workplace injury. Here’s what you should know about workers’ compensation for PTSD.

The FBI defines robbery as “the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence or by putting the victim in fear.”

More than 300,000 robberies happen throughout the U.S. each year. The average amount stolen is $1,400, and losses total an estimated $465 million annually.¹

No one expects to become a crime victim. Unfortunately, criminals can target anyone, anytime and anywhere. Criminals often target businesses, and the employees who are victims of a crime while working are left traumatized by the experience.

Even without physical injuries, you may be entitled to compensation after getting robbed at work, especially if you were held at gunpoint or otherwise made to fear for your life.

Workers’ Compensation After a Robbery at Work

Most employers are required by state law to carry worker’s compensation insurance.

Worker’s comp benefits normally include payment of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and about two-thirds of your lost wages as you recover. Workers’ comp benefits do not include payment for pain and suffering, but counseling for trauma may be included.

After a robbery at work, as soon as you are physically safe and have been evaluated for injuries, notify your employer of the crime and your injuries.

Your employer should provide you with workers’ compensation forms and instructions for filing your claim. You may have a year or more to file your workers’ compensation claim, but it’s better to file as soon as possible, unless you think you might have grounds to sue your employer.

State workers’ compensation laws generally prevent injured workers from suing their employer unless the employer was grossly negligent. If you think you might have a case, seek legal advice from a qualified personal injury attorney.

Proving Psychological Workplace Injuries

Even when crime victims aren’t physically injured, they can suffer from emotional trauma. Psychological damages such as depression, grief, anxiety, insomnia, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur. These are real injuries and should not be taken lightly by an employer.

Proving psychological injuries for a workers’ compensation claim is always more difficult than proving physical injuries. While you truly may have sustained a crippling psychological work injury after a robbery, proving it will take more evidence.

Even if you don’t think you were physically hurt, see a medical provider as soon as possible afterward, even if you must go to the emergency room. Tell the medical provider you were robbed at work and ask to see a mental health professional.

Robbery, especially armed robbery, is a life-changing event for victims. Mental health professionals recognize that crime victims can suffer significant PTSD and depression following a robbery.

You must be able to support your workers’ compensation claim with credible, specialized evidence. Just saying you’re depressed, have insomnia, or were otherwise traumatized by the robbery isn’t enough.

When you talk to the counselor, don’t try to be strong, and don’t minimize or dismiss your feelings about the experience. Don’t hold back.

Tell your medical and mental health providers of any physical symptoms, such as:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Stomach pains

Describe in detail any emotional symptoms, for example:

  • Inability to sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Crying

Specialized evidence includes a written diagnosis and prognosis from a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health counselor. Testimony from coworkers, friends, and family members about your symptomatic behavior is also helpful.

Copies of your receipts for anti-anxiety medications, sleeping pills, and other medications prescribed to treat your psychological injuries will also support your case.

Defining Robbery and Theft in the Workplace

Robbery, theft, and burglary are distinctly separate crimes. It’s important to know the difference, especially when dealing with crimes in the workplace.

Robbery

Robbery is when one person takes another person’s property by placing the person “in fear of imminent serious bodily harm or death.” According to FBI statistics, more than half a million people are victims of robbery each year, and most robberies occur in the workplace. Robbery is a felony in every state.

Theft

Theft is different from a robbery in that the criminal steals when no one else is around. Taking a cell phone when the owner isn’t looking, or shoplifting clothes at the mall are crimes of theft. A victim of theft is not placed in fear of imminent serious bodily harm. In fact, most don’t realize their property is missing until sometime after the theft has occurred.

Example: Theft and robbery at a retail store

Mike worked as a cashier for a national retail store. One day he was short on cash and helped himself to $100 from his register when no one was looking. While trying to balance the receipts, the manager realized Mike had stolen money from the company and called the police.

Several days later Mike was caught, arrested, and charged with theft. He was fired from his job and awaited trial.

Out on bail and unable to find work, Mike put on a ski mask and sneaked in through the back door of the same retail store minutes before closing.

Mike pointed a pistol at the manager and ordered him to empty the cash register. In fear for his life, the manager gave up the money. Mike ran out of the store, and the police caught him an hour later.

By stealing the money at gunpoint, Mike placed the manager in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or death. For this, Mike was charged with robbery.

Burglary

Burglary also tends to happen when no one is around. A burglar breaks into a building, house, apartment, car, boat, or recreational vehicle, with the intention to steal. This crime differs from a robbery because the burglar doesn’t place anyone in fear of bodily injury or death. Another term for burglary is “breaking and entering.”

Example: Burglary turned to robbery

Knowing that the employees of a local convenience store always left shortly after midnight, three men broke into the closed store a few hours later. They didn’t carry weapons because they believed that if they were caught by the police, they could only be charged with burglary.

To their surprise, the store owner was inside taking the monthly inventory. They threatened to beat the owner unless he handed over all the cash in the store. The men took the money and as much liquor as they could carry.

The owner called the police who were able to identify the men from the store’s surveillance videos. Eventually, all three were arrested and charged with robbery.

Although the men didn’t carry weapons, they could still be charged with robbery because they placed the manager in fear of imminent serious bodily injury if he didn’t do what they said.

Robbery Victims’ Rights and Compensation

When you’ve suffered through a robbery at work, you have a right to be treated fairly and respectfully by police officers and members of the judicial system. Your victims’ rights have the power of law in every state and territory in the United States.

As a crime victim, you have the right to expect:

  • Fair treatment from prosecutors and law enforcement
  • Reasonable protection from the criminal
  • The right to speak at arraignment, hearings, and court proceedings involving the criminal
  • The right to restitution from the criminal for your damages

Victim’s Compensation Funds

Most states administer a victims’ compensation program to help affected individuals pay the medical bills and counseling expenses after a crime. Some state programs help families cover funeral costs for victims who are killed in the commission of a crime.

To qualify for victim compensation funds, you must have monetary damages, like medical or counseling bills. You won’t be able to seek compensation for your pain and suffering.

Eligible victims must also:

  1. Notify authorities within a reasonable amount of time after the crime
  2. Cooperate with official investigations into the crime
  3. Be an innocent victim, not involved in the planning or commission of the crime

Suing Your Employer After a Robbery

It’s not reasonable to expect a workplace to be impervious to crime, however, employers have a legal duty to provide a safe workplace. It’s reasonable for an employer to take robbery prevention steps in consideration of their employees’ personal safety.

If you’re the victim of a workplace robbery, even if you were robbed in the parking lot, you may be able to seek compensation outside of workers’ comp by filing a lawsuit against your employer.

To have grounds for a lawsuit, you must be able to prove your employer’s failure to provide a safe work environment constituted “gross negligence” or a “wanton disregard” for your safety.

If you work in a high crime area, your employer has a legal duty to provide a level of security higher than that found in a lesser crime area. For example, a convenience store owner in the suburbs may not have a legal duty to install bulletproof glass, but a store owner in the inner city may have such a duty.

Whether you’re a cashier, delivery person, secretary, waiter, or another worker who deals with the public, your employer may have a duty to provide training in how to deal with a robbery, should it occur.

In most cases, workers are told to cooperate with the robber. Cooperation in a robbery includes keeping calm, avoiding eye contact when possible, and not acting like a hero. No amount of cash is worth risking your life in a holdup. The robber probably doesn’t want to hurt you or your coworkers. Criminals typically want to grab the money and get away fast.

When You’ll Need an Attorney

If you were injured during a robbery but your injuries aren’t physically or psychologically disabling, you can probably handle your own workers’ compensation claim.

If your workers’ comp claim is denied, or your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, you’ll need an attorney to help you win compensation for your injuries.

Workplace crime victims suffering serious physical or psychological injuries will need an experienced attorney to get the full amount of available compensation. Workers’ comp insurance companies don’t care about your health and well-being. They only care about paying as little as possible to claimants.

Getting robbed at work is a life-changing event. There’s too much at stake for you to fight the insurance company and employer’s corporate lawyers on your own.

Get the compensation you deserve. It costs nothing to find out what a skilled personal injury attorney can do for you.

Robbed at Work Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>