Employer Defense May Be Needed After Injury To Intoxicated Worker

October 17, 2015
Sacks & Zolonz, LLP
Workers' Compensation Defense

The following is a scenario in which a California construction worker reports for work, and although he seems to be not quite sober, he performs his duties adequately. However, sometime during his shift, he falls from a scaffolding structure and suffers severe injuries. While he is treated at the hospital, it is determined that his blood alcohol level exceeded the legal limit. An employer will naturally assume that — under these circumstances — a workers’ compensation claim would be invalid because of the worker’s intoxication. Unfortunately, this assumption can be wrong, and a company owner may require the services of an attorney to provide an employer defense to navigate the denial of primary liability for a work injury such as this one.

In a case in another state that involved similar circumstances, the jury heard testimony about a worker’s intoxication but also about his capabilities as a skilled carpenter. They also learned that the worker fell when he stepped on a piece of subfascia that was loose on the construction site and might have fallen even if he was sober. The jury ruled that the worker had to be paid workers’ compensation benefits.

Although the worker’s impairment was evident, the actual cause of the workplace injury will be examined by the court. If an employer wants to defend liability, there are two elements that will have to be proved. First, it has to be proved that the worker was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the injury occurred. Second, intoxication must be established as the legal or proximate cause, and failure to show both elements may lead to an unsuccessful defense of a workers’ compensation claim.

California construction company owners may benefit from retaining the services of an experienced employer defense attorney. A lawyer who is knowledgeable in this field can provide valuable advice related to the legal barriers that may exist and the proactive steps to take in the event of a worker’s injury. Furthermore, professional guidance may prevent fraudulent claims, and the negative financial impact these matters can have on a company’s bottom line.

Source: blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com, “5 Shots Of Tequila Does Not Always Equal Denied Work Comp Claim“, Michael B. Stack, Oct. 8, 2015

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