The coronavirus crisis has been so stressful, undoubtedly it has driven some people to drink and do drugs to deal with the anxiety. If you’re not working and you’re at home having a couple of drinks or smoking some pot, that’s one thing, but listen closely: if you drink or take drugs and then injure yourself at work, your workers’ compensation claim may be barred.
The general rule in Pennsylvania workers’ comp. cases is if you injure yourself in the course of your employment and that injury prevents you from doing your job, you are entitled to workers’ comp. benefits — money for your lost wages, as well as payment of your medical bills.
But this is not an ironclad rule — there are exceptions, one of which is the injured worker is intoxicated due to alcohol or drugs. To deny your claim, though, your employer and its workers’ comp. insurance company must prove that you were in fact intoxicated at the time of your injury, and your intoxication caused your accident.
Let’s go through exactly what that means. Suppose you are a truck driver and you sail through a red light and hit the car in front of you. As a result, you have severe pain to your neck and back. You are transported by ambulance to the hospital where you receive treatment for your injuries and undergo a blood test, which reveals that your blood alcohol level is .15, far higher than Pennsylvania’s legal limit of.08.https://www.pearsonkoutcherlaw.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=12056&action=trash&_wpnonce=783d1c1d46
If you file a workers’ comp. claim and contend that you are not able to drive a truck due to your neck and back injuries, you can be sure that the insurance company is going to deny your claim based on the drug test. If you insist that you were not intoxicated, that there must be a mistake, it will be difficult to refute the results of the blood test.
Here’s a different scenario. Suppose that you slip and fall at the warehouse where you work. One of your co-workers later claims that you were drunk when you showed up at work the day of your fall — you were slurring your words and could not walk in a straight line. You vehemently contend that’s absolutely false, and the co-worker is making this accusation because you two have had disagreements in the past. Without a blood test, the insurance company will be hard-pressed to prove that intoxication caused your fall.
All right, let’s just say that you exercise some bad judgment and drink a few beers during your lunch hour at work. When you get back to your shop, a large machine becomes unhinged and topples over, striking you and two of your co-workers. The three of you are taken to the hospital, and according to a blood test, your blood alcohol level is .9. If the insurance company tries to deny your workers’ comp. claim on the basis that you were intoxicated, you could counter that by asserting that regardless of what the blood test showed, your drinking had nothing to do with your accident because a machine fell on you. If the intoxication did not cause your accident, your workers’ comp. claim will not be barred.
These same principles apply to situations involving drugs. If you drive a bus and get into an accident, and a blood test shows large quantities of marijuana in your system, that will not be easy to counteract. But if your supervisor, who has given you a hard time in the past, accuses you of being high at work after you have gotten injured, and there’s no tangible evidence to support that, the insurance company will not be on solid ground if they deny your claim.
Our strong advice to you is not to drink or use drugs before you go to work or during your lunch hour. However, if you happen to slip up, and then injure yourself, it’s important for your legal rights to be protected. Please call the law firm of Pearson Koutcher Law to set up an appointment with one of our experienced, top-notch workers’ comp. lawyers. We will fight hard for you and take the necessary action to ensure that you receive the workers’ comp. benefits to which you are entitled.