Can You Receive Workers’ Compensation If You Were Intoxicated on the Job in New York?

Workplace accidents are common in NYC, and employees rely on the coverage that Workers’ Compensation provides. Employees are covered for all work-related accidents without the implication of fault. This means that even if the employee made a mistake their medical needs and lost wages would be paid. However, there are restrictions, and one involves using drugs or alcohol while on the job. 

Does New York Require Drug or Alcohol Testing After an Accident?

No, New York State does not require testing after a workers’ compensation-covered accident. However, some jobs require drug and alcohol testing immediately afterward, but the employer must refrain from making a snap judgment about the effects of intoxication. Since New York does not legislate that intoxication is the sole reason for dismissal of benefits, the employer must actively prove that it was responsible for the injuries suffered by the worker. This can be tricky to prove.

Factors That Determine Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation

At its core, workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides financial benefits to employees who are hurt or become ill because of their work. Benefits may include medical expenses, lost wages, vocational rehabilitation costs and death benefits for families of workers who pass away due to a workplace injury. In return for these benefits, workers waive the right to sue their employers for negligence or other liability-related claims. There are times when an employee can file a claim against a third party or employer, and we will discuss that in an upcoming section.

Other Reasons a Workers’ Compensation Claim Can Be Denied

Other than intoxication, Workers’ Compensation can be denied for the following reasons:

  • Not visiting an approved doctor: In New York, employers have the right to require that you use a list of approved medical professionals. If you choose to see a physician who is not approved, your claim may be denied.
  • Failing to notify an employer: Employees must notify their employer immediately after an accident. In New York, missing the deadline means you might be denied benefits. The employer/insurance company can use this to their advantage and claim that the injury was either due to non-work-related activities or the reactivation of a pre-existing condition. Also, a post-accident investigation that could help your case may be missing.
  • Late filing of Workers’ Comp paperwork: Along with properly filing the correct paperwork, it must be done on time. When you are injured, it could be perceived as a monumental task. A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can ensure that all deadlines and filings are filed correctly and promptly. 
  • Lack of medical treatment: A worker who fails to be treated for an injury sets the stage for denial. If it is an injury that will keep you out of work and require medical care, not seeing a doctor can look evasive. The insurer may argue that you were never hurt and did not require treatment. 

Case Against a Worker for Intoxication

As noted above, the presence of alcohol or drugs in the worker’s system is not enough to deny the claim. The three aspects of the case that must be proven or disproved are:

  • The employer must provide sufficient evidence that the accident was solely due to impairment.
  • Refusal to take a mandatory drug/alcohol test within 12 hours after the accident can complicate the workers’ compensation process.
  • Failing the drug/alcohol test may lead to denial. However, some issues must be taken into consideration such as the length of time the substance remains in the bloodstream and any mitigating circumstances. For example, marijuana remains for an extended period, yet the individual may no longer feel the effects of the substance. Medical drug users must provide a viable prescription from a licensed provider. 

Third-Party Claims

Finally, it is worth noting that an employee’s intoxication may also impact other types of injury claims. For example, if an employee is injured due to the negligence of a third party (e.g., another employee or subcontractor) while intoxicated, their damages may be reduced or denied due to their impaired state at the time of the incident. Such claims can be filed as personal injury lawsuits.

Drinking on the Job May Be Detrimental if You Are Injured

When evaluating whether you can receive workers’ compensation if you were intoxicated on the job in New York, it is important to understand how being impaired may affect your eligibility for benefits. Employers can raise defenses based on contributory negligence, causation and other factors related to intoxication that could potentially reduce or deny a claim. 

Additionally, an employee’s intoxicated state may have implications for other types of injury claims such as those based on the negligence of a third party. Knowing and understanding these issues can help you determine your legal options if you were injured on the job while intoxicated in New York. Seeking the advice of a Workers’ Comp attorney is beneficial.

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