California requires employers that operate in the state to provide no-fault workers’ compensation coverage. When an employee is hurt on the job, they can claim workers’ compensation benefits—regardless of whether or not their employer bears any responsibility for their injuries/illnesses. However, an employee hurt on the job due to their own intoxication may be denied workers’ compensation benefits.
Employers can raise an affirmative defense under Labor Code § 3600(a)(4). Within this article, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense attorney provides a guide to the essential items employers, claims administrators, and insurers should know about their right to raise an affirmative defense under Labor Code § 3600.
Background: What is an Affirmative Defense?
As a starting point, it is useful to have some background knowledge of the term “affirmative defense.” An affirmative defense is a legal term that refers to a defendant’s response to a plaintiff’s claims, where the defendant admits that the plaintiff’s claims may be correct but also brings forth new information or evidence that should negate the plaintiff’s claim or reduce the defendant’s liability. In other words, the affirmative defense allows a defendant to accept the claim—for example, acknowledge that an employee was indeed hurt on the job—but also raise additional information that allows them to escape liability.
Know the Law: Labor Code § 3600(a)(4)
California Labor Code § 3600(a)(4) is a specific provision within the state’s workers’ compensation law. It states that an employee’s injury is not compensable if the injury was caused by the employee’s intoxication from alcohol or the unlawful use of a controlled substance. The provision holds that if an employer can prove that the employee’s intoxication was the proximate cause of the injury, the employee may not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. It is important to emphasize that employers/insurers denying a workers’ compensation claim using Labor Code § 3600(a)(4) must assert that an employee’s intoxication was a substantial cause of their injury.
Employers Bear the Burden of Proof When Denying Workers’ Compensation Benefits Under Labor Code § 3600(a)(4)
When an employer seeks to deny workers’ compensation benefits based on Labor Code § 3600(a)(4), the burden of proof lies with the employer. It is the employer’s responsibility to present sufficient evidence to show that the employee’s intoxication was the primary cause of the injury. Employers must produce concrete evidence, such as toxicology reports, witness testimonies, or video footage, which clearly demonstrates that the employee was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident. The standard for this proof is typically “preponderance of the evidence.”
Speak to a Fresno, CA Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer
At Yrulegui & Roberts, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense attorney is standing by, ready to help. If you have any specific questions about raising an affirmative defense in a worker intoxication case under California LC 3600, we are here as a resource. Contact our workers’ compensation defense firm today to arrange your confidential case evaluation. We provide results-focused workers’ compensation defense services in Fresno and WCAB locations throughout the broader region.