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Work hard, play harder?

The decision whether an accident is of an occupational nature or not often becomes important for employees desiring coverage under statutory accident insurance. Generally, occupational injuries pursuant to sec. 8 subsec. 1 Social Insurance Code VII (Sozialgesetzbuch VII, SGB VII) require a substantial causal relationship between the accident and the insured activity. This relationship is the most decisive prerequisite for insurance coverage. Particularly in cases where the employee is injured in activities other than his usual work, courts will have to deal with the question whether or not this qualifies as an occupational accident.

On 26 June 2014, the Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht, BSG) ruled that events like a holiday party need to be organized, and not only endorsed, by the employer in order to constitute a work activity (docket number: B 2 U 7/13 R). If an employee is injured at such a celebration organized by and upon the initiative of an individual team of colleagues, the injured person will not be entitled to claims against the statutory accident insurance.

Another requirement for a successful claim was set out by the Social Court Koblenz (Sozialgericht, SG) deciding on a case about an employee football tournament (ruling dated 12 February 2014, docket number: S 2 U 54/13). The court held that only events open to all employees could be a work activity covered by the statutory accident insurance.

Most recently, the SG Heilbronn applied these requirements to a case related to a works council meeting (ruling dated 7 July 2014, docket number: S 6 U 1404/13). In the course of an assembly of several works councils of a company, a works council member fell down the stairs and was injured with a blood alcohol level of 1.99 permille (0.211 g/100mL). The court found that this also constituted an occupation injury. It held that an occupational injury could also happen when socializing during a works council event, since company-related issues are usually discussed during this time. The drunk works council member was therefore granted coverage under the statutory accident insurance.