When you think of a workers’ comp claim, certain things usually come to mind. First, you might imagine the accident happens in an actual workplace, a warehouse or factory or office. Many people also think that faulty machines or dangerous substances or slippery floors would be the cause of harm. Often, people assume that the worker isn’t to blame, believing the harm must have happened through no fault of the employee for a workers’ comp claim to be successful. Though these assumptions are often correct, it isn’t always true. A recent case decided by the Mississippi Court of Appeals highlights that workplace injury cases don’t always fit the mold.
The Court of Appeals, earlier this week, issued its decision in a case concerning the ability of the city of Jackson to deny a police officer workers’ comp benefits. Why might the city have tried to deny the office workers’ comp coverage? The reason is that the officer was injured while speeding. According to an investigation conducted after the accident, officer Kearney Brown was injured when his patrol car crashed after traveling as fast as 90 miles per hour. Brown was not wearing his seat belt at the time, was thrown from the vehicle and suffered serious injuries to his head, neck, legs and body.
According to the city, Brown’s speed was a deciding factor in whether he should be eligible for benefits. The city argued that moving at such a high rate of speed showed that the officer intended to harm himself. Intentional infliction of injury is one of the very few exceptions to the workers’ comp requirement that employers pay benefits to workers who suffer harm for any reason, including through fault of their own.
Brown and his attorney argued that the officer was not attempting to hurt himself, but was instead speeding so he could reach another officer who had called for assistance. Though Brown resigned from the police department, his attorney says he did so only after receiving pressure from internal affairs investigators who said he would be fired for cause if he refused to leave on his own accord. Once he resigned, the city then used that as sufficient reason to deny coverage and payment of related medical bills.
The Court of Appeals heard the dispute and came down on the side of the injured officer. The Court voted 10-0 in deciding the city must pay workers’ comp benefits. The Court ruled that the city’s argument that the officer’s speed implied reckless conduct was incorrect. It also rejected a second argument by the city that Brown’s claim should be denied because it is counter to public policy in that it condones speeding, which is a threat to innocent bystanders. Instead, the Court says the officer was harmed while at work and deserves coverage, with no credible evidence suggesting that he intended to harm himself.
If you have been injured in a Mississippi car, motorcycle or tractor-trailer accident and think you may have a personal injury claim, please contact the Mississippi personal injury attorneys at Kilpatrick & Philley at 601-707-4669.