SW Legal studies in Business

On-the-Job Suicide Not Cause for Payment of Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Description

Appeals court held that workers’ compensation benefits clearly exclude payment for self-inflicted injuries. Hence, when a worker killed himself at work, over apparent distress of an accident he caused, no benefits are due his survivors.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

Workers Compensation; Death; Suicide; Coverage

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Boyd Vandenberg was at a company party on company property. While the company did not provide alcohol at the party, Boyd was drinking and his blood alcohol level was high. Boyd’s boss, thinking he had been drinking, told him not to drive home, but to call his wife, Jane, to pick him up. Boyd ignored that, and got in the truck the company provided him and crashed it into another company-owned truck. Distraught over the accident, he grabbed a handgun he kept in the truck and killed himself. His wife, Jane, filed an application for workers’ compensation benefits due the survivor of a worker who died on the job. The hearing officer denied the benefits; she appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. An employer has to take each employee as it finds him, if it takes him at all. This principle is applicable when an injury otherwise compensable under the Workmen’s Compensation Act entitles an employee to benefits commensurate with the total disability sustained. An employee’s suicide does not come within the scope of the workers’ compensation statute, as it prohibits compensation for self-inflicted injuries. The fact that the employee may have been distressed by wrecking company trucks on the job does not change the outcome.

Citation Vandenberg v. Snedegar Construction, ---N.E.2d--- (2009 WL 2579352, Ct. App., Ind., 2009)

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