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Workers’ compensation: All fun and games until someone gets hurt

When an employer considers whether to pay a workers’ compensation claim, three factors that come into play are: (1) was the injury or illness work-related?; (2) did it happen during the course of business?; and (3) did the employee contribute to it through some of his or her own behavior that was not work-related? Of course, the employer, and its insurer, wants to prove these factors in the negative to avoid, or mitigate, the payment of benefits. One recent case filed by a North Carolina man involved all three of these questions – and he won his claim.

The worker attended a company conference where attendance was mandatory and he received his normal salary while he was there. On the first night, each attendee participated in recreational activities which the company paid for. The employee who filed the claim participated in a game of laser tag.

During the game, he felt sharp pains in his leg. He applied ice to it, informed his manager and stayed for the rest of the three-day conference.  When he got home, he saw an orthopedist who diagnosed him with tears to his medial and lateral meniscus Two months after the conference; he had arthroscopic surgery on the knee but was able to continue his work duties.

He was laid off less than a year later which was followed by an orthopedist’s recommendation that he have a knee replacement. He filed a workers’ compensation claim which was denied.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission ruled that the knee replacement was a result of the laser tag injury and was ordered the employer to pay temporary total disability benefits. The company appealed, saying that the laser tag game was not a mandatory business function. 

Two company employees testified that employees were required to attend the recreational activities because they was part of the conference. The appellate court upheld the Commission’s ruling, noting that the recreational events were “essential parts of the conference and served a business purpose”.

This case is an excellent example of an activity that, while not taking place during a normal workday, was work-related. If your employer is denying your claim based upon these grounds, contact a workers’ compensation attorney to enforce your rights.

Source: Business Insurance: “Game of laser tag leads to workers’ comp benefits,” Stephanie Goldberg, Aug. 19, 2015

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