There is a lot of misinformation going around about Georgia workers’ compensation. For example, you may have heard that your employer can automatically deny your workers’ compensation benefits if you fail a drug test after an injury on the job. But the truth is that you can still pursue a claim and seek the benefits you need. A failed drug test is not the end of the road.
You can pursue a claim despite a failed test
Failing a drug test is not necessarily proof that you were under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs on the job. Certain drugs can remain in your system and will be easily detectable by tests for hours or even weeks after you use them. There is also the possibility of some kind of mistake in the drug testing process, possibly due to contamination or even a different medication that you take. The same goes for a drug test that detects the presence of alcohol in your system. Given the possibility of mistakes, you have the right to fight back against claims that alcohol or drug impairment caused your injury.
Your employer’s insurance company may try to use a failed drug test as grounds for denying your claim for workers’ comp, but you can still seek the benefits you need with the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. IMPORTANT: go with an attorney who has experience in these types of cases.
The 8 hours after the injury are important
If a drug test is given over 8 hours after your injury, the burden shifts to your employer to prove that you were impaired at the time of the injury. However, if the drug test was given less than 8 hours after the injury, then the burden is on you to prove that you were NOT impaired at the time of the injury. In other words, that span of 8 hours is the key number on workers’ compensation cases that involve a failed drug test.
In addition, the “mechanism of injury” is a huge factor in a workers’ comp case with a failed drug test. If you are doing your job in a warehouse pulling orders, minding your own business, and a coworker driving a forklift comes barreling around a corner and injures you through no fault of your own, it would not matter if you were impaired or not. If you had illegal drugs in your system, they would have no bearing on the mechanism of injury. Compare that with, for example, working on a roof and you fall off because of a misstep or the roof was slippery. Being impaired could very likely play a big role in falling off the roof.
But the bottom line is, regardless of what was in your system at the time of your injury, do not give up hope that you will get a recovery for your injuries due to a failed drug test. You may still have a chance to get the benefits you need.
There may be multiple factors to consider when challenging the false results of a drug test. In general, those factors may include: 1) the reliability of the test, 2) the substance allegedly detected by the test, 3) the nature of the incident when you got hurt, and 4) your level of experience on the job.
One thing is for sure: If you give up immediately because you assume you have no chance of getting benefits, that will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Educate yourself about your rights and the rules that apply to Georgia workers’ compensation claims. To learn more, please see our Georgia Workers’ Comp FAQ.