Law Firm Blog

Can You Lose Your Workers’ Comp Over a Positive Drug Test?

Under the Influence is one of the few legal defenses to a workers’ compensation claim.

Maybe. Drug use at the time of injury is one of the only legal defenses to a workers’ compensation claim. The other big one is a horseplay injury (an at-work injury that’s not related to basic job functions). These defenses, however, are not automatic. More on that below.

A Florida workers’ compensation lawyer anticipates such defenses right from the start. This anticipation makes it much easier to refute these defenses at an Administrative Law Judge hearing. In fact, an attorney is usually in such a strong position that, in most cases, the insurance company settles the matter out of court, and on victim-friendly terms. In other words, the more effort an attorney puts in at the beginning of a case, the easier it is to obtain maximum compensation at the end.

Workers’ Compensation Basics

Before we address the UI (under the influence) defense, we should address the basic element of a workers’ compensation case. A Florida job injury lawyer cannot get the cart before the horse. If an attorney doesn’t diligently build a strong, evidence-based case, a legal defense, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. Usually, these claims don’t reach the ALJ stage.

Usually, workers’ compensation benefits, including lost wage replacement and medical bill payment, are available if the victim has a work-related occupational disease or trauma injury. The UI defense usually only applies in trauma injury cases (like falls), but it could apply in occupational disease matters (like hearing loss) as well.

These benefits are available if the illness or injury is substantially work-related. A pre-existing condition might contribute to the risk or severity of the illness or injury.

There is a difference between a substantial cause and a contributing cause. For example, if Rosalita is speeding and loses control of her car on a rain-slick road, her excessive speed was the substantial (but-for) cause of the wreck. The wet road was a contributing cause. Other people drove on that same wet road, yet they didn’t lose control of their vehicles.

The UI Defense

A workers’ compensation matter is not a criminal matter, but the UI defense is akin to a criminal matter. A Florida workers’ compensation lawyer can challenge the drug test procedurally or substantively.

Procedurally, most drug test machines, like urinalysis machines, are delicate devices. These gadgets must be carefully maintained. Lack of proper maintenance casts doubt on the test’s reliability. Note that reliability and accuracy are not the same thing. A broken clock is accurate twice a day.

Substantively, a victim might have been “on” drugs but not “under the influence” of drugs. Marijuana, one of the most common UI defense substances, is a good example.

Usually, the effects of marijuana hit a user like a ton of bricks. Then, those effects quickly fade, although the THC remains in the person’s bloodstream. So, if a victim smoked part of a joint several hours before the accident, the victim was most likely no longer under the influence of marijuana.

The same basic principle applies in trace UI tests. Many job injury victims legally use controlled substances, such as pain pills. These pills could result in a positive drug test, even though the victim was simply following the doctor’s orders.

On a related note, false positives are common in these situations, especially since most drug tests are employer-administered tests.

Count on a Dedicated Pasco County Workers Compensation Lawyer

Victims need and deserve compensation for their injuries. For a free consultation with a Board Certified workers’ compensation lawyer in Florida, contact the Rooth Law Firm. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.