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Does failing a drug test mean no workers’ compensation benefits?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Workers' Compensation |

Most employees in Georgia are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they get hurt on the job. Whether someone makes a mistake on a production line or falls down a flight of stairs at an office building, workers’ compensation coverage could pay for their health care costs and reimburse them for lost wages.

Occasionally, workers in unusual circumstances may have a difficult time obtaining benefits. They may face challenges brought by their employers or the insurance company providing workers’ compensation coverage. One of the more common scenarios that may lead to conflicts around workers’ compensation benefits claims involves a worker failing a drug or alcohol test after getting hurt.

Does a failed test automatically eliminate workers’ compensation coverage?

Failed tests may create an uphill battle

The law in Georgia requires that employers provide workers’ compensation coverage, and it also outlines a number of situations in which denying a benefits claim could be totally legal. If an employee fails a drug or alcohol test after getting hurt on the job, that could affect their eligibility for benefits.

According to Georgia state statutes, a failed drug or alcohol test triggers a rebuttable presumption that the worker is ineligible for coverage. That means that the employer or insurance company can deny the worker coverage, but the employee can fight that decision.

An employee could prove that other factors contributed to them getting hurt and that impairment was not the underlying cause. Someone assaulted in the workplace by a customer, for example, could show that the customer’s actions, not their chemical state, were the primary cause of their injury.

Other times, there could be medical evidence that could raise questions about the accuracy of drug or alcohol test results. In some cases, workers may even have a prescription from a physician that could help them obtain workers’ compensation benefits after a failed drug test. They may need to appeal or might even need to litigate to get benefits when the situation involves a failed drug or alcohol test.

However, for the rebuttable presumption to go against the employee that they were impaired at the time of the injury, the drug test must be given within eight hours of the injury. If it is given over eight hours after the injury, then the presumption goes back on the employer. The employer then has the burden to prove that the illegal drugs found on the drug test caused the injury.  And in most situations, the employer will not be able to do that. The injured workers’ case is often very winnable under these circumstances.

Understanding George’s rules for workers’ compensation benefits can encourage employees to seek the coverage they deserve. Those who know that a failed test does not absolutely prevent a claim may feel more confident about requesting benefits despite potentially problematic test results.


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