When an employee is injured outside the course of his employment, he is ineligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. When an employee becomes voluntarily intoxicated such that he cannot function or perform the tasks of his job, courts will consider him to have departed from the course of employment. Therefore, compensation for an injury incurred while the employee is so inebriated as to be incapable of performing his work will likely be denied.
With respect to intoxication, it is a matter of degree. Compensation may still be awarded to an injured employee even though he was intoxicated when the injury occurred. It is only when the intoxication reaches a level to preclude the employee from performing his work or when the intoxication is the sole cause of the injury that an employer will be able to, non-statutorily, use intoxication as defense.
A great many state statutes outline intoxication as a defense to the recovery of workers' compensation benefits. However, the content of the statutory language for the defense, and its ramifications, vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, in some states, intoxication may operate as a complete defense. In others, the injured employee is only subjected to a reduction in his benefits. With respect to the workings of the defense, some states merely require a cursory link between the injury and the intoxication, i.e. whether the injury was caused by the intoxication. Other states require that the intoxication be the sole cause or a substantial cause of the injury.
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