You Shouldn't Work Drunk And Illinois Work Comp Laws


You probably don’t need advice from a lawyer to know that working while drunk isn’t a good idea. This is especially true if you are working in a non bar environment where nobody would expect you to have any drinks.

Generally speaking, if you are injured while intoxicated, there is a presumption that your drunkenness was the cause of your accident. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever have an Illinois workers’ compensation case. It just means you have to prove that you being drunk wasn’t the reason you got hurt.

Some insurance companies try to put this burden upon you any time you’ve been drinking.  That’s not how the law works.  If you are tested for alcohol and come in at below .08, the burden then shifts to the insurance company to show that your drinking was the cause of the accident.

In a recent case, a warehouse employee arrived at 6:30 a.m. for his regular shift. His job duties involved picking orders and taking them to the correct area of the warehouse.  This included maneuvering pallets that weighed over 500 pounds.  While pulling on a stuck pallet he injured his back.

It turns out he had been drinking the night before his shift.  A post accident blood screen came in at .041. He testified that he did not feel drunk while at work. All that said, he was terminated due to the test.

His work comp case was also denied, but he went to trial and won. A toxicologist hired by the insurance company estimated that his BAL at the time of the accident was likely .061. Because there was no indication it could be above .08, that left it to the employer to prove his drinking played a role in him getting hurt. The insurance company offered no such evidence.

The injured worker on the other hand testified that he had no back pain prior to this happening and it was noted that he gave a consistent history to his medical providers.  Even though he had been fired, because he was authorized off of work, he was awarded TTD benefits by the Arbitrator for his time off along with payment of all medical bills and an award for his permanent disability from this.

This is certainly a case that didn’t look good at first, but this is why a good attorney takes a deep dive in to the facts of these cases and doesn’t assume there isn’t a case because something doesn’t sound good. I don’t predict we’ll see a lot of similar cases, but the bottom line is that you should never assume you don’t have a case and always talk to an experienced attorney first before making any decisions.

By Mike Helfand

Courtesy of Illinois Workers Compensation Law Blog

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