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Can you deny a workers’ compensation claim when the employee was impaired?

There is always a risk that people are going to get injured at work. As a business owner, you fully understand the risks, and you’re more than willing to help your injured workers with a fair claim. That’s the reason workers’ compensation exists. You also try to lower the risks of an accident by having strict safety rules at work. You want to keep people safe. 

But what if an employee breaks these rules and gets injured as a result? For instance, say a worker falls from a ladder and suffers a serious back injury. In the hospital, it is discovered that they were impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident — a clear violation of your safety rules. Do you still have to provide workers’ comp?

If impairment caused the injury, compensation is not required

Generally, even injuries that employees caused through their own negligence and mistakes have to be covered. Impairment is one exception, however. It’s one thing for a sober employee to make a mistake on the job. It’s another for an employee to be impaired — drunk or high, for instance — and then injure themselves as a result.

Denying a claim can be complicated

Now, employees may not agree with this perspective, and the whole situation can become quite complicated — particularly where drugs are concerned. While alcohol only remains in someone’s system for a short period of time (which means you can reasonably infer that an employee was drunk on the job if their blood alcohol content was elevated at the time), drugs can remain detectable in someone’s system long after the drug’s intoxicating effects have worn off.

If you’re in the position where you need to deny a workers’ comp claim because the worker was impaired at the time of the accident, be sure you know about all of your legal options. Working with an attorney to defend your actions is wise.