Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ Compensation

September 21, 2015 - 1:07 pm

Most companies promote a drug free work environment in order to reduce insurance costs and to help prevent accidents by their employees. That is why after an accident, your employer may require you to have a drug test. This is usually done at the hospital or clinic where you first go for treatment and typically will be a urine test. It is important to know that Georgia’s workers compensation laws give your employer the right to have you tested for alcohol or drugs to see if they contributed to the accident in any way. If the results are positive, that can and usually will result in the employer and its insurance company denying your claim.

So you need to understand what the law actually provides about on the job injuries and drug test results. The rules are outlined in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-17(b)(1) and (2). First is the question of timing. The sample has to be taken within three hours of the time of the accident for alcohol or eight hours of the accident for drugs. If the sample is taken within those time limits and the results are positive, then there arises a rebuttable presumption that the injury was due to intoxication (or impairment by drugs) and that is what caused the accident to occur. It is called a rebuttable presumption since just being intoxicated is not enough. There must be a causal link between the intoxication or impairment and the accident. Without this link, the intoxication cannot serve as a basis for denial of the claim. If the test is not administered during these time limits, then the results can still be used and your employer and its insurance company can still try to deny the claim but they do not get the benefit of the presumption of intoxication. You can see then how important it is that the drug test occurs within those time limits.

The second rule to be aware of is the one that applies if you refuse to take the drug test. You can refuse the test but if you do, then that by itself will give rise to a presumption that your accident was the result of being intoxicated or impaired and will result in a denial of the claim. Even if you believe that you will test positive, you should not refuse to be tested.

But finally keep in mind that just testing positive for alcohol or drugs does not mean you cannot receive workers compensation. If the accident would have occurred no matter whether you were intoxicated or not, then the intoxication is irrelevant. I had a client recently who tested positive for marijuana after his on the job injury. His arm was caught in a machine at work and crushed. The company and its insurer denied the claim due to the positive drug test. However, I was able to prove to the judge by using the testimony of co-workers that my client’s use of marijuana had nothing to do with getting his arm caught in the machine. The judge agreed and awarded him workers compensation benefits.

To summarize: (1) Don’t use drugs or alcohol before you go to work or during work. It can lead to your death or substantial injuries that your Employer may not have to cover if you test positive for drugs or alcohol (2) Don’t refuse to take the drug screen simply because you are worried about the results. (3) If your claim is denied after an injury due to a positive drug test, it does not mean you cannot obtain benefits. Contact us immediately so we can try to get those benefits for you.

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