While workers’ compensation is considered a “no-fault” system, there are instances where the culpability of the injured worker is examined. In airport injury cases, normally the negligence of the injured worker is often not an issue. Intentionally inflicted injuries are a topic for another day. A flight attendant or ground crew member can be clumsy yet still be awarded full workers’ compensation benefits for an accidental on the job injury.
However, if an airline ground crew member or airport employee disregards a known AND enforced safety rule, and was injured as a result, he or she is not entitled to any workers’ compensation benefits under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.
This is known as the willful violation of safety rule defense.
Insurance companies will raise this defense in situations where the airport or airline worker failed to use available safety equipment, failed to follow standard operating procedures, left his or her duty station, was intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics or other illegal substances while at work, etc.
According to airport injury lawyer Doug Landau of the Herndon law firm Abrams Landau, Ltd., this defense must be raised well in advance of court. The willful violation defense may not be sprung on the injured worker at the 24th hour. A workers compensation insurance company lawyer cannot raise this potentially lethal defense less than a fortnight before the court date.