While reading an out of state paper on the job accident attorneys in South Carolina came across a case where a city worker received workers’ compensation benefits injuries incurred while being drunk on the job. The Albuquerque Journal reported that the New Mexico state Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Las Cruces truck driver who fell off his garbage truck while working back in 2006. He has been awarded 90 percent of his benefits, the full amount less a 10 percent penalty for his being inebriated at the time of the slip and fall. The city now owes the man more than $100,000.
Allegedly the man had been drinking the night before with a friend and later in the evening at a bar. His measured blood-alcohol level was at 0.12 three and a half hours after the 5:45 a.m. slip and fall, well over New Mexico’s presumed level of intoxication. In most states, a blood-alcohol percentage of .08 is considered the legal limit for individuals being capable of operating a motor vehicle.
In the court’s decision it is noted that the truck driver failed to clock in the morning of the accident, possibly in an attempt to avoid supervisors, personnel at the hospital smelled alcohol on the man’s breath, that his co-workers had not noticed any impairment, and that he had been driving the garbage truck for at least an hour before his fall, which caused serious injuries to his wrist, hip, and head.
The decision to grant benefits is based on a bit of legal ambiguity, according to the Judge, because intoxication could not be proven to be the sole cause of the accident. A state statute enacted in 2001 says compensation can be reduced by 10 percent if intoxication or the influence of drugs is “a contributing cause to the injury.” Entirely reversing New Mexico’s previous statute that completely bars compensation when an injury is “occasioned by the intoxication” of the work.
The city of Las Cruces tried to bar compensation for the truck driver’s injuries inciting the case and a review of current legislation. Bringing attention to the difficulty in negating benefits in a situation where any other explanation for injury nearly always results in the municipality paying out workers’ compensation benefits.