Drug Testing and Positive Results after a Work Injury

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Drug Testing and Positive Results after a Work Injury

After several years of representing injured workers, I still haven't met a single person who wanted to get hurt on the job. It can be painful, turn your world upside down and threaten your very way of life. As we have discussed in previous posts, you don't get rich and live easy while receiving workers' compensation benefits. But accidents happen and the system is designed to help people get back on their feet.

In an ideal world, you wouldn't get injured in the first place, but if you did you would receive medical care immediately to address and hopefully resolve the issue. Since 2012, however, in many cases the first thing that might happen is being immediately drug tested, oftentimes BEFORE receiving necessary medical treatment.

Post 2012 Amendments to the Law

In 2012, the legislature amended the workers' compensation statute to allow all injured workers or people asserting a work-related injury to be tested for drugs, prescriptions and alcohol. This is a right conferred upon Employers by Miss. Code §71-3-121. In fact, that same section requires the injured worker to submit him or herself to testing. You do not have a choice.

If you get hurt and either refuse to take a drug test or the employer successfully argues your actions constituted a refusal, all benefits, medical or indemnity, will be denied by the Employer/Carrier. Benefits will be denied for a refusal to take a drug test because the law creates a presumption that the refusal means you were using drugs and that the use of those drugs was the "proximate" cause of the alleged work injury.

If you decide to take the drug test and it comes back positive for drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs that were taken contrary to the prescriber's instructions or contrary to label warnings, a legal presumption is also created. Simply put, if you test positive, it is presumed that the cause of your injury was the use of whatever substance your positive test result showed. The burden then shifts to you to prove that whatever you tested positive for wasn't the cause of your injury.

In essence, you are forced to prove a negative. You must prove that the substance was not a contributing cause of your work injury. That can be exceedingly difficult in many cases and, at the very least, an expensive endeavor. Expert testimony is very often required to successfully rebut the presumption.

Practical Points

If you refuse to take a drug test and benefits have been denied, you will need an attorney to represent you and fight to get your claim turned around. If you test positive for drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs that were taken contrary to the prescriber's instructions or contrary to label warnings, you will need an attorney to help rebut the presumption and get you the benefits you need. Call us if you have those issues. We have successfully represented people in your shoes.

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