Stephen Hasner | Workers' Compensation | July 12, 2022
Being injured on the job can cause a great deal of stress. Knowing that you can receive medical treatment and wage benefits by filing a workers’ comp claim can reduce some of the anxiety.
Generally, workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system for injured employees. If you are hurt on the job during the ordinary course of employment, you should be entitled to workers’ comp benefits. Unlike a personal injury claim, allegations of contributory fault do not bar you from receiving full benefits for a work-related injury.
However, there are some exceptions to the general rule. For example, employers who intentionally cause their injuries cannot receive workers ‘compensation benefits. Also, a worker who is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs may not receive workers’ comp benefits.
Denying a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Claims Based on Refusal to Take a Drug Test
Under Georgia Code §34-9-17, an employer can deny a workers’ compensation claim if the employee was under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or a controlled substance (except as prescribed by a physician and taken according to the prescription.
The statute provides that it is a rebuttable presumption that the accident or injury was caused by alcohol or drugs if:
- The employee’s blood alcohol level is .08 grams or higher within three hours of the alleged accident, according to a chemical test of the employee’s blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substance.
- If any amount of a controlled substance or marijuana is in the employee’s blood within eight hours of the alleged accident, according to a chemical test of the employee’s blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substance.
- The employee unjustly refuses to submit to a chemical test to determine if they have alcohol, marijuana, or a controlled substance in their system.
If you refuse to take a drug test after a workplace accident or injury, it has the same effect as if you failed a drug test. The law presumes your workplace injury was caused by drug use. Therefore, your employer is within its rights to deny your workers’ compensation claim.
You have the burden of proving that your on-the-job injury was not caused by drug use.
Georgia Employers Can Require Drug Tests After a Workplace Injury or Accident
Your employer can require you to take a drug test after a workers’ comp claim. They can also do so even if you do not file a claim.
Many companies choose to have a drug-free workplace. As a result, they receive a 7.5% discount on their workers’ compensation insurance premium if they initiate a drug-free workplace.
However, the employer must follow the requirements for the program. Those requirements include, but might not be limited to:
- Tell all employees and job applicants they are subject to drug testing
- Provide notice to employees and job applicants about what happens if they fail or refuse a drug test
- Test new employees after offering a position with the company
- Drug test an employee if there is reasonable suspicion of drug use
- After an employee returns from an employer-sponsored rehabilitation program
- After an on-the-job injury
Therefore, if your employer participates in the drug-free workplace program, you can assume you will be tested after any work-related injury or accident. Refusing the test puts you in the position of proving you had no drugs in your system or that your injury was not related to drugs, which could be challenging.
What Should You Do if You Fail a Drug Test After a Work Injury?
If your employer or its workers’ comp insurance provider denies your claim based on a failed or refused drug test, talk with a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately. It is crucial that you understand your legal rights and the steps you need to take to fight the denial of a claim.
Drug tests are not perfect. If you failed a drug test, there could be ways to dispute the results.
First, the test might not have been performed according to state regulations. Errors in collecting, testing, and storing the samples could give you grounds to claim the drug test was invalid.
Second, the test must be conducted within eight hours after the accident or injury. Otherwise, the test results may not be used as evidence to deny the workers’ compensation claim.
Third, you might allege that the drugs in your system were prescribed by a doctor, you took the medication as prescribed, and the drugs did not impair your abilities or cause your injury.
There could be other ways to dispute a positive drug test after a work-related injury or the refusal to take a drug test after a workplace accident. First, a workers’ compensation attorney investigates the circumstances surrounding your workplace injury. Then, the attorney determines the best way to challenge the drug test and appeal the denial of your claim.
Contact the Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Hasner Law, P.C. For Help
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