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Failed a Drug Test? You Can Still Get Workers’ Compensation.

John Lesaganich June 3, 2018

Drug tests are common after injuries at the workplace. If you fail a drug test, the thinking goes, then that was clearly the reason for the injury, which insurance companies in Illinois may use to automatically deny your workers’ compensation claim. However, these cases are still winnable, based on a few factors.

Was the Test Timely?

Employers are supposed to conduct drug tests close to when the incident occurred, so they can establish the state you were in at the time. This should happen within 48 hours. However, sometimes Human Resources will forget to do this and ask for a test weeks or even months after the fact, just to cover their bases. Of course, nothing about a test that late could possibly reflect on your injury, regardless of what the test showed. It might drag out the proceedings in the courtroom, but common sense would hopefully triumph.

Was Impairment the Cause?

Let’s say that the test was timely, though, and you fail it right after the incident. In Illinois, the law allows insurance companies to automatically deny workers’ compensation under those circumstances, creating what’s known as a “rebuttable presumption.” This is a statement that’s assumed to be true unless someone can prove otherwise. If you test positively for some substance, the presumption is that you were under the influence and that’s why you got hurt. Your fault—so no workers’ compensation.

However, this is where the “rebuttable” part comes in. Rebuttable means that you can refute the claim with sufficient evidence. For instance, if you were taking the recommended dose of a medication, or if you’d used something over the weekend but were sober at work, that could be grounds for overturning the rebuttable presumption.

The law hasn’t always been this way. Prior to 2011, employers had to prove that intoxication was the cause of a workplace accident. However, after the Illinois legislature passed the Compensation Act, the rebuttable presumption language took effect, becoming what it is today.

Difficult, Not Impossible

The bottom line is that while a failed drug test will add an extra layer of difficulty to your workers’ compensation claim, it won’t automatically disqualify it. If your attorney can prove that the substances in your system played no role in your injury, or if the test was too delayed to be relevant, then you still have a good chance of fair compensation.