Am I Covered by Workers’ Comp if My Injury Was Self-Inflicted?

worker in hard hat with clipboardTennessee employees who suffer job-related injuries are typically eligible to receive benefits and compensation for their medical costs, lost wages and more. But will employees still be eligible for benefits if their injuries were caused by their own negligence, willful misconduct or acts of intentional harm?

Depending on the circumstances and other factors, employees injured in these types of situations may still be eligible to receive workers' compensation.

If your work-related injury was caused by your own negligence or willful misconduct, we strongly recommend that you seek legal help without delay. Our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers in Knoxville are committed to helping injured employees obtain the benefits they need – we have recovered millions in compensation for our clients. Call our law offices 24/7 to learn more.

Consultations are Free and Confidential. (865) 247-0080

Fault Does Not Factor in Most Work-Related Injuries

Like most states, Tennessee workers’ compensation is a no-fault system that provides benefits for injuries that happen or arise out of an employee's scope of work. It does not matter who was at fault for the incident that caused the worker’s injury.

However, when a worker’s injury is self-inflicted, does the no-fault system still apply?

Tennessee Code Annotated 50-6-110 states that an injured worker may not be provided workers’ compensation benefits for injuries due to:

  • Willful misconduct
  • Intentional self-harm
  • Intoxication due to alcohol or illegal drug use
  • Refusal or failure to wear provided safety gear
  • Failure to perform a duty that is required by law

Although the law seems straightforward, there are situations where the outcome of a self-inflicted work injury may not resolve as expected.

The Self-Inflicted Injury Was Not Premeditated or Intentional

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a self-inflicted injury is not simply one that is caused by the injured worker. A self-inflicted injury must have been an act of intentional self-harm.

A worker could harm himself accidentally, for example, if he or she were carrying an object and accidentally dropped it on his or her foot, causing a fracture. Although the injury was self-inflicted, it was not intentional, and this worker would likely still be eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits.

Willful Misconduct or Behavior That May Disqualify You for Benefits

Willful conduct or intentional self-harm that would likely disqualify an employee from receiving any benefits under a workers’ comp claim include situations, such as:

  • Intentionally harming yourself: Workers who purposely injure themselves are likely not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits under Tennessee law. Those who deliberately stage an accident and subsequent injuries just to get workers’ comp benefits are committing an act of fraud that is punishable under the law.
  • You were injured in a violent work altercation: If you started a fight at work with another employee or visitor, you will not be eligible to receive benefits. It does not matter if you punched or shoved someone after they first insulted or provoked you.
  • Use of alcohol or drugs during work hours: This is another situation where you would very likely be disqualified to seek workers' compensation benefits.

Exceptions That May Apply

While the law seems clear-cut regarding a self-inflicted injury, there may be times a worker injured in this situation may still be eligible to qualify for benefits. However, in a complicated case like this, the employer bears the burden of proof, which means he or she must be able to prove that:

  • The injury was caused by behavior that is outside the accepted norm in that workplace – Workplace culture can impact an injured employee's eligibility for benefits, even if the worker caused his or her injury. For example, if horseplay routinely happens without reprimand or consequences from the employer and it was horseplay that led to the worker’s injury, he or she may still be eligible for benefits. 
  • The employee’s behavior was the main cause of the accident and injury – For example, if an intoxicated worker is injured while under the influence of drugs, the employer must prove that his or her intoxication was the main reason the worker was injured.

In 2011, a park worker in Montana was mauled by a grizzly bear while performing his job duties. However, it was discovered that the worker had been using marijuana. Despite his drug use, the courts ruled in the worker’s favor, since his use of marijuana was not the cause of the bear attack.

Get Answers About Your Work Injury Claim Today

Find out if you may have a valid claim and get answers to your legal questions by contacting Greg Coleman Law and setting up your free initial consultation with one of our qualified workers’ compensation attorneys. We have representatives available to answer your call anytime, day or night.

Our team of legal professionals is committed to helping injured workers. There is no risk or obligation for this meeting, and if we take your case, there are no upfront costs. We only get paid our fees when we obtain a recovery for you.

Experienced Lawyers. Millions Recovered. (865) 247-0080