I failed a drug test. Will I still qualify for workers’ compensation?
So, you failed a drug test. Well, you wouldn’t be the first. Many people regularly use recreational drugs despite their workplace policies. The problem is, you were recently injured at work and submitted a worker’s compensation claim. Don’t get too worried just yet. Here’s what you need to know:
A positive test is not an automatic disqualification
Thankfully for you, all 50 states have put laws into effect that generally favor the employees who suffer injuries during work. A positive drug test is only the beginning of the road to having a claim denied.
First things first, the employer must have a specific drug policy in writing that you explicitly violated. Without this, they have little grounds to deny your claim.
Next, the burden of proof is on the employer that the injury you sustained was the result of intoxication. For this to be effective, your drug test must be run as soon as possible after the injury. The test should be conducted in a hospital, after which a qualified lab analyzes it. In most cases, the employer only has 8 hours from the time of injury to get a legitimate test that will be accepted by the court.
After the positive test results are confirmed, the employer must be able to demonstrate that it was the use of drugs that caused the accident. This is called proximate cause, determined through a reading of circumstantial evidence.
For example, if you sustain an injury on your own accord through clumsiness or lack of focus, the employer has a higher chance for a judge to weigh in their favor. However, if you sustained the injury because of the carelessness or recklessness of another employee, the judge will likely weigh in your favor.
The most crucial aspect of your worker’s compensation claim is, “was the injury sustained work-related?”
So long as the injury was not:
- Sustained due to violation of a law or company policy
- Sustained outside of the worksite
- Proven to be a result of intoxication
Aside from these instances, the case for benefits should be strong.
OSHA has instituted several regulations that protect employees from being unduly discriminated against, including cases of a work-related injury. Given this, any legitimate claim should have a strong chance of being approved.
However, some different guidelines and laws vary from state to state, especially concerning the consideration of marijuana and certain opioids. Because of this, judges may be stricter in some states than in others.
The burden of proof in deciding whether or not your intoxication led to the injury still resides with the employer.
There are some definite “Do’s” and “Don’ts” that must be followed to give you the best chance at winning your case.
- Report your injury immediately.
It is of utmost importance that you do this. Otherwise, far too many factors may come into play, which can make it challenging to prove your injury was work-related.
- Get witness testimonies.
If possible, obtaining witness testimony will be extremely beneficial to your case.
- Seek legal counsel.
A work comp attorney or workplace accident attorney will know all the ins and outs of how to proceed with your case. Because it is your legal right to obtain benefits for work-related injuries, it is in your best interest to go forward with an expert on your side.
- Quit your job.
While this might seem obvious, you would be surprised how often a worker will quit their job after sustaining an injury and then face an uncooperative employer. However, in such cases, it is possible to lose your benefits or have them limited. It is recommended to wait until you have reached full recovery or have another job lined up. In either case, it is smart to seek legal counsel before making a move.
- Wait to report the injury.
Waiting to report your injury invites too many variables, which can make it challenging to get your claim approved.
The good news is that you may still have a solid case for worker’s compensation benefits despite failing your drug test.
However, it is by no means a guarantee. It is still essential to stay on top of your claim by making sure you have presented all the proper evidence and witness testimonies. The failed drug test can still be a hindrance. It is vital to make sure the judge presiding over your case has no other reasons to deny your claim.
A workers’ comp or workplace injury lawyer is recommended for assisting in any compensation benefits claims. However, when a failed drug test comes in to play, it’s an absolute necessity to seek counsel.
If you would like some assistance with your claim, call the offices of Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi P.C. today.