But how could this be? If a worker was drunk, stoned, or high on the job, isn't this the result of their own negligent behavior? To date, workers' compensation boards in New Mexico are not allowed to dismiss work injury claims because a worker is under the influence. Currently, the state is working on closing that loophole with House Bill 139, which inserts language to deny work injury claims based upon being under the influence. However, the bill has stalled in the House.
What's the Cost of Under the Influence Work Injury Claims?
You may think to yourself, what's the harm in paying these workers for their injury when they're under the influence? Tax payers foot this bill and pay into the workers' compensation system. If you hold a job, you are paying for an employee to drink or get high on the job and endanger the lives of others.
In one case, a city sanitation worker fell out of his garbage truck, injuring his head. Hours later, a drug test revealed he had a blood alcohol level of .12, well over the legal limit of .08 which qualified him as driving under the influence. However, he was still awarded workers' compensation for his work injury claim. This cost New Mexico taxpayers approximately $90,000.
Abuses of the workers' compensation fund hurt us all. These abuses leave less money for people who have suffered devastating work injuries and truly need the help. And it costs not only taxpayers money, but depletes government coffers in a time when money is tight. Additionally, it casts a negative light on work injury attorneys and insurance workers.
We will continue to follow the path that House Bill 139 is taking, anticipating the eventual closure of this loophole. If you've been injured on the job, seek medical attention and a skilled work injury attorney to protect your rights.