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Can intoxicated workers claim workers’ compensation benefits for injuries?

On Behalf of | May 18, 2023 | Workers' Compensation |

It’s not uncommon for employees to find various ways to unwind after long days of exhausting work. When sleep and rest alone aren’t enough, some may turn to liquor and recreational substances like cannabis to relieve work-related stress.

However, alcohol and drugs can impact a worker’s self-control and judgment capabilities, raising the worker’s risk of getting injured. And this isn’t a minor risk affecting only a few businesses and their employees; a recent survey conducted by the American Addiction Centers found that 22.5% of workers across the country admitted to using drugs or alcohol while at work.

So, what happens if you are intoxicated and injured while on the job? Can you still claim workers’ compensation benefits?

California’s laws on intoxication during work

California has laws that say intoxication or the use of controlled substances may affect a worker’s eligibility to claim workers’ compensation. But this doesn’t mean intoxication is an immediate factor for compensation ineligibility. To be eligible for your workers’ compensation claim, you must show that your injury was not the result of your intoxication.

Claiming and the burden of proof

When you file a workers’ compensation claim for a work-related injury you received while intoxicated, your employer might contest it. The burden of proof lies on your employer, so they will have to prove two things:

  • Your intoxication at the time of the accident, and
  • Your inebriation caused the injury

For instance, if a box fell on a drunk worker, their intoxication didn’t cause the injury. But if you’re buzzed and slipped while at work and it led to injuries, your employer has a solid case against your claim.

If you suffered work-related injuries while drunk, your employer could challenge whatever claim you file. But you still have a fighting chance to claim compensation – if you can prove that your injury was not the result of your drunken state. It would be best to consider hiring a legal professional to represent you in the dispute and protect your rights as an employee.