Self-Inflicted Injury Needs To Be Proven Ay Trial

A defense that is seldom utilized in the workers’ compensation cases is that of the applicant self-inflicting an injury.  The Labor Code has specifically codified certain defenses that will defeat an applicant’s claim for an industrial injury. Labor Code section 3600 (a) (5) specifically disallows a claim that occurs on the job if the applicant self-inflicts the injury in question.

The applicant injured his left hand, fingers, wrist, and arm while operating a saw at work. The applicant filed an Application For Adjudication of Claim.  The case was apparently denied. The employer apparently believed the applicant was trying to get workers’ compensation benefits by injuring himself. The case does not tell us why the employer had these beliefs.

The defendant at trial brought out testimony that the Applicant was upset over his divorce. They further indicated that the he was losing custody of his son. At the time of injury the Applicant was having his wages garnished for child support. There was additional testimony that one year prior to the injury the Applicant slit his wrist in an apparent suicide attempt. The Applicant was then held in a psychiatric ward for three days.

The trial lasted four days. The defendant asserted at the trial that the Applicant did not need to use the saw he was using at the time of his injury.  Therefore, the defendant alleged the Applicant was doing the work in an unauthorized manner. The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) stated that this was not a workers compensation defense. The defendant did substantially impeach the Applicant at the trial. The defendant showed the Applicant’s poor recall of events prior to the injury. The defendant also established that the Applicant had a character of self- destructiveness.

The WCJ found that you can not prove self-inflicted injury by impeaching the applicant. The evidence that was presented included evidence that the Applicant was depressed, self-destructive and looking at insurance papers before the injury. The WCJ indicated this was all circumstantial evidence. There was no direct evidence that the Applicant intended to injure himself. There was no witness testimony that the Applicant intended to injure himself.  There were no physicians’ reports that indicated that the Applicant intended to injure himself. The WCJ concluded that he could not draw an inference that the applicant intended on injuring himself. The WCJ indicated that inferences are to be drawn in favor of the Applicant.

The WCJ found the injury compensable and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board concurred. The case should also be reviewed for details on ordering a transcript.

Case: Airline Film & T.V. Promotions, INC v. WCAB

Harvey Brown
3501 Jamboree Rd. Suite 602
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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