When an employee is injured in a work related accident, workers’ compensation is supposed to cover medical bills and any lost wages while they recover. However, a positive drug test may result in workers’ compensation benefits being denied wreaking financial havoc on the worker and their family.
Drug Testing Following a Work Place Accident
Following a job related accident, an employee may be asked to submit a urine or blood sample to test for the presence of drugs or alcohol that may have contributed to the accident.
If an employer can prove that the employee was in fact intoxicated at the time of the injury through a drug test, breathalyzer test, or witness testimony and that the intoxication was a proximate cause of the injury, the injury may not be compensable.
Denied Workers’ Comp | Testing Positive for Marijuana Use
Testing positive for marijuana is a particularly contentious issue in the workers’ compensation arena because the active ingredient THC is often found in the blood and urine long after someone has used the drug. Despite the presence of THC in the sample, an employee may not be intoxicated at the time of a work accident.
For example, an employee who smoked marijuana the night before his or her shift might get up, drive to work, operate machinery for a few hours, shoot the breeze with fellow employees during his break, and attend a meeting before being injured in a workplace accident. Because he or she tested positive for marijuana following the incident, workers’ compensation benefits may be denied.
However, the same employee may be able to win on appeal after overcoming the presumption that his injury was caused by the marijuana use – that smoking pot the night before did not mean the employee was intoxicated the next day despite a positive drug test. In fact, in just such a case as this, an employee’s eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits was reinstated on appeal because:
- his testimony that his mind was clear and unaffected at the time of the accident was unchallenged
- he was able to drive himself to work in the dark at a substantial distance
- he actively participated in a safety meeting prior to the accident
- he operated machinery for several hours without incident prior to the accident
- his fellow employees said he did not seem intoxicated
Although it proved to be an uphill battle for the employee after testing positive for marijuana use, he was able to provide evidence to rule out intoxication at the time of the workplace accident despite a positive drug test.
Injured at Work While Under the Influence of Drugs
Say an employee is intoxicated. Can they be compensated for an injury that was not their fault, where their intoxication is not a substantial factor in causing the injury? Let’s say, for example, an employee is indeed intoxicated on marijuana and is nevertheless carrying out their assigned duties without incident when a hammer falls from above striking them on the head. In this case, the employee would have likely sustained the injury regardless, so intoxication is not a substantial factor in the injury and workers’ comp would likely be payable. Contrast this against an intoxicated employee falling or getting into a car accident during the workday and benefits could be denied.
Workers’ Comp Denied After Drug Test?
Contact Our Davenport Workers’ Compensation Benefits Denial Attorneys for Help
Typically, the onus is on the employee to provide evidence that they were not intoxicated at the time of the injury despite a positive drug test or that his or her intoxication was not a substantial factor in causing the injury in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Employees who are concerned about how drug testing will impact their workers’ compensation claim are well advised to contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible. Call the Davenport workers’ compensation benefits lawyers of McDonald, Woodward & Carlson PC for immediate assistance at 563-355-6478 to discuss your case.