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Why you likely can't sue your employer after a workplace shooting

In America, on average, one person is shot to death while at work every day of the year. The shooters include disgruntled employees, thieves, people pursuing a current or former significant other into their place of work and others with myriad motives and mental health issues.

Only in rare instances do victims and surviving family members sue the companies or other entities where the shootings occur. That's in part because it's often hard for them to prove that the employer could have prevented the tragedy. Further, when employers offer workers' compensation, employees may not be permitted to sue.

Here in California, however, a attorney is representing over three dozen victims of a 2017 shooting at a UPS facility in San Francisco. The plaintiffs, who filed suit against the security company hired by UPS as well as UPS itself, include surviving gunshot victims as well as those who escaped being shot but say they're suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after seeing their co-workers gunned down. Families of two employees who were fatally wounded are also part of the suit. They claim that security personnel allowed the gunman in even after he set off metal detectors at the facility.

A judge ruled that UPS couldn't be sued because it provides workers' comp. However, the suit against the security company has been allowed to continue.

Another attorney, who has settled cases for plaintiffs in several high-profile mass shootings, including the one at Columbine High School (which was a workplace for teachers, administrators and others), says that victims and families often pursue legal action because they're seeking information and explanations they're otherwise unable to obtain.

The attorney in the case involving the UPS shooting says he anticipates that it will continue to be difficult to hold employers responsible. He says, "I don't see legislatures anywhere making it easier…." He adds that victims and surviving loved ones who pursue this route can have a long, emotionally challenging road ahead.

Sadly, it doesn't appear that workplace shootings will become any less common in the near future. The two mass shootings that occurred over the weekend of August 3rd and 4th both involved places of business.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a workplace shooting, it's important to explore all of your options for getting the compensation you need as you move forward.

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