Can I apply for Work Comp Benefits After Failing a Post-Accident Drug Test?

November 30, 2021

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Brent Eames

In order to qualify for benefits under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act, generally, an injured employee need only prove that the injury arose out of and in the course of their employment. However, if the injured worker fails a drug test after the accident, it opens the door for the employer to claim that the work accident was caused by intoxication, which would statutorily bar the employee from receiving work comp benefits.  Keep reading to learn more from one of the best work comp attorneys in Chicago, Brent Eames, about how a failed drug test could impact your claim for work comp benefits.

Section 11 of the Illinois Workers Compensation Act provides in relevant part that a work injury is not compensable if the employee’s intoxication was a proximate cause of the injury, or if the employee was so intoxicated at a time of the accidental injury that the intoxication constituted a departure from employee’s employment. The presence of alcohol, cannabis, a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, or intoxicating compound listed in the Intoxicating Compounds Act in an employee’s breath, blood, or urine can be used by the employer as evidence of intoxication. Evidence of intoxication as described in Section 11 creates a rebuttable presumption that the intoxication was a proximate cause of the employee’s work injury and no workers compensation benefits will be paid. However, that does not automatically mean the case is lost!

Section 11 of the Act provides that a positive post-accident drug or alcohol test creates just a presumption that the work accident was caused by the employee’s impairment. The employee can rebut such presumption by a preponderance of the evidence that the intoxication was not the sole cause of the accident. Thus, even when the employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol, the employee may in certain instances qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits regardless.  The outcome will depend upon the facts of the individual case. For example, if the employee can present evidence that the drugs or alcohol was consumed long before the subject accident, and it did not impair the employee’s physical or mental abilities at the time of the accident, such employee should still qualify for all owed benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

The post-accident drug testing under Section 11 has to be performed in accordance with a series of guidelines established by the Act. In particular, all testing ought to be done in compliance with the National Labor Relations Act regarding collective bargaining agreements and all information collected during such testing shall be kept confidential according to national and state standards for the privacy of the individual being tested. Also, all the necessary measures ought to be taken to prevent any tampering with the samples collected during the post-accident drug testing.  The samples obtained from employees need to be clearly labeled and tested in accordance with nationally established scientific procedures. Finally, according to the provisions of the Act, the employee is entitled to an opportunity to submit any information that is relevant to the test, such as identification of prescription drugs used or any other medically relevant information. These are the minimum guidelines for post-accident drug testing and individual employers can provide for additional requirements in their drug and alcohol company policies.

The employee cannot be forced to submit to post-accident drug testing. However, depending on individual employer’s drug and alcohol policies, the refusal can itself be ground for denial of Workers’ Compensation benefits. The City of Chicago, for example, passed the ordinance that took effect on January 1, 2020, that city full-time, part-time, temporary, and volunteer employees cannot refuse the drug and alcohol testing if there is a reasonable suspicion that  an employee was under the influence of alcohol or drugs while at work or when the employee contributed to an accident that caused injuries to people or significant damage to property.  

Any questions about your work accident or a corresponding drug screening?  Contact a best Work Comp Attorney in Chicago at Eames Law Group, Ltd. to discuss your rights.

The Eames Law Group  is an experienced law firm that guides people who have suffered serious personal injuries and work accidents. They help residents of Illinois gain their lives back after accidents, by managing medical bills and financial setbacks. Brent Eames is a Chicago Work Comp Lawyer who will help people obtain the appropriate compensation and medical assistance after suffering an injury. For more information, contact us to meet with the Eames Law Group and learn about the legal services they offer.

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