Workers’ compensation ensures that you will receive benefits in case of a work-related accident. But if you fail a workers’ comp drug test, getting your benefits might not be that easy.
In most states, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. Meaning, you can claim benefits if you got hurt at work no matter who is at fault. But this no-fault assumption doesn’t apply to drug and alcohol abuse.
Remember that your employer is the one paying for your workers’ comp benefits. In as much as you are protected by law, they too have rights to safeguard their interest. If there is doubt that drug and alcohol intoxication played a role in the accident, they have the right to try and prove that. And it’s your duty to prove otherwise.
If your drug test results come out positive, your benefits may get denied.
Alcohol and Drug Testing for Workers Comp Claims
If your employer is implementing a drug-free workplace, drug testing is usually a routine. In the case of workers comp claims, it’s perfectly legal for your employer to require drug testing before benefits are granted.
Post-accident drug testing methods are typically done through urine tests. But in some instances, blood or hair samples and even nail clippings may also be used. If alcohol intoxication is suspected, you may also find yourself blowing through a breath analyzer.
A typical drug test will be screening for commonly-abused drugs like:
- phencyclidine (PCP or angel dust)
- opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
For alcohol tests, the definition of “intoxicated” also varies per state. In Florida, an injured employee is considered drunk during the accident if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is at least 0.08. In some states, a BAC of 0.05 to 0.08 must be considered with other evidence to determine if you’re intoxicated.
For the results of these tests to be valid, they have to be done within a specific time frame. Drug tests have to be administered within 8 hours after the accident. While BAC tests have to be done within 2 hours. Otherwise, the results will be unreliable and cannot be used in court.
Can You Refuse a Post-Accident Drug and Alcohol Test?
Technically, you can. But refusing a post-accident drug and alcohol test will only prove that intoxication indeed played a part in the accident. The law presumes that if you have nothing to hide, a simple drug test won’t do you harm.
In fact, the Florida statutes specifically state that:
If the injured worker refuses to submit to a drug test, it shall be presumed in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary that the injury was occasioned primarily by the influence of drugs.
If you refuse to undergo a drug test, you need to have a valid reason. Otherwise, the courts will take it as a sign of guilt and you may lose your benefits.
Can You Still Claim Benefits Even If You Fail the Drug Test?
Failing the drug test results doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get benefits. But it can make the process a lot harder. To be able to claim workers comp benefits, you must prove that:
- Drug or alcohol abuse did not cause the accident. For example, if another employee accidentally dropped a hammer and hit you on the head. Or the scaffold broke and caused you to fall several floors down.
- The samples used in the testing weren’t handled properly. If the testing procedure didn’t follow proper protocol, the samples could have been tampered with.
- You are using prescription medicines that contain regulated substances. Some prescription drugs like pain-relievers contain opiates which may show up in the test results. This can invalidate the drug testing process.
- There was no written policy banning drug use in the workplace. Or if there is, it wasn’t communicated to the employees. In some states, the employer can only deny benefits on the basis of intoxication if there is a clear policy banning drugs and alcohol in the workplace.
- You are using medicinal marijuana. States like Florida have allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes. If you have the proper prescriptions, you can use this as a defense.
- Your employer provided or consented to the use of drugs and alcohol. If your boss gave you the alcohol or was part of the drinking session, they can’t use intoxication as an excuse to deny your benefits.
Some of the above can be hard to prove. Not to mention that it can be terribly confusing for someone not familiar with the law. This is why you need a workers’ compensation lawyer. Your employer and insurance provider will try really hard to prove that your injury is caused by intoxication or drug abuse. An experienced workers comp attorney can help you prove otherwise and get the benefits you rightfully deserve.
VICTOR MALCA LAW – A TRUSTED NAME IN FLORIDA
Victor Malca Law has over 25 years of litigation experience, we are the most trusted workers’ compensation lawyers in Florida. Our area of expertise is in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claim social security disability benefits.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer for Victor Malca Law P.A. and enjoys helping people with questions about social security, workers compensation, and other serious matters involving people’s livelihood. She is not an attorney and her writing should not be considered legal advice.