On-the-Job Injuries: When Is It The Employee’s Fault?

On-the-Job injuries: When Is It The Employee’s Fault?

In Minnesota, state law sets out a workers’ compensation scheme that allows injured employees to make a claim for benefits for on the job injuries.  In limited circumstances, though, benefits may not be available because the law will deem that the injury was primarily the employee’s fault.  Here’s a look at what those circumstances are.

Self-inflicted injuries:

An employee who is injured on the job by a self-inflicted injury is not eligible for compensation.  This might seem obvious at first, but the definition of “self-inflicted” can be a bit of a grey area.  For example, is horsing around with other employees, or being the victim of a prank, self-inflicted?  The general rule is that no, horseplay and pranks are not self-inflicted injuries, and the employee can still receive workers’ compensation benefits, even if he or she was a willing participant in the mischief.  In one case, for example, an employee who fell out of a truck as a result of a prank (do not try this at home!) could recover compensation.  However, keep in mind that in these types of situations, the employee will still need to show that the injury was work-related.


When the intoxication of the employee is the proximate cause of the employee’s injury, workers’ compensation benefits cannot be recovered.  So, for an employee who drank 18 beers at a bar while “talking business” and then was hit by a car while crossing the road after leaving the bar, no benefits were available.  You can also be prohibited from recovering benefits even if the intoxication at issue was the result of drinking at an employer-sponsored event.

This doesn’t mean that if you were drunk at the time you were injured, you are definitely prohibited from recovering compensation; benefits are still available if the intoxication was a contributing cause but not a substantial, or proximate, cause.  For example, in one sad case, an employee was killed on the job when he was crushed by a moving grader.  Even though the employee may have been intoxicated at the time, the malfunction of the grader was not due to the employee’s intoxication, so the employee’s widow could recover benefits.

In general, then, the circumstances under which an accident is deemed to be an employee’s fault are very narrow.  If you are concerned that one of these situations might apply to your claim, it is likely to be still worth looking into the claim to determine whether or not you can recover benefits.

Any questions don’t hesitate to either post a comment or question here or contact

Workers' Compensation


Christopher Rosengren
Rosengren, Kohlmery & Hagen Law Office Chtd.
Mankato, Minnesota