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Benefits to intoxicated woman hurt at North Carolina conference

There are many circumstances under which a worker in the state of North Carolina could seek and successfully obtain workers' compensation benefits. Instances leading to injuries need not occur at the actual place of employment. Recently the North Carolina Court of Appeals determined that a woman, who was injured at an off-site sales meeting, where alcohol was being served, was eligible to receive the benefits.

The woman, an office manager, was injured after attending a dinner hosted by her employer during a conference. Beverages containing alcohol were available for attendees to consume throughout the evening. Her injury occurred as she and some other people returned to the hotel which was located nearby. She fell from an escalator after climbing up onto its railing. The 30 foot fall occurred after the woman ran into a pillar.

The injuries the woman suffered in the fall proved to be fairly serious. In addition to injuring her head, she also suffered other injuries that led her to undergo surgeries. These injuries led the woman, who had by then moved on to a lower paying job, to apply for workers' compensation benefits. Her former employer denied those benefits under the premise that her injury did not occur in the course of employment. The state court of appeals did not agree.

It determined that the woman was entitled to the benefits for the following reasons:

  • When a worker is travelling, an injury that occurs in the course of returning to one's hotel is in the course of one's employment.
  • Benefits may be appropriate when an employee is injured in part due to his or her intoxication, when the alcohol was provided by his or her employer.

The benefits she received were for temporary total disability.

Source: Risk and Insurance, "Intoxication from employer-provided alcohol doesn't bar benefits," April 1, 2013

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