Denied for a Positive Drug Test? There May Be Hope!

Drug test

With marijuana now more accessible and its usage more prevalent, problems have arisen for many workers who have consumed marijuana and are later injured on the job. Many employers require mandatory drug testing any time a work injury happens. Both Kansas and Missouri have strict laws about positive drug tests that can either limit or completely prevent treatment and benefits through workers’ compensation. Employers and insurers think these laws allow them to deny every claim where a drug tests comes back positive, but they’re certainly not always right.

In Kansas, a positive drug screen that meets minimal measurement guidelines creates the presumption that the injured worker was impaired at the time of the accident. There is also a rebuttable presumption that this impairment contributed to the accident taking place. This is a key element where their denial may fail. If it can be proven that the accident still would have happened, and the injuries still suffered as a result, regardless of whether there was a positive drug test or not, then benefits must still be paid. In addition, there are very strict procedural requirements that must be met in order for the test results to be used in evidence. This is a second potential weapon to use against the denial of an otherwise legitimate claim.

We recently won a claim at hearing and on appeal where our client was injured due to the negligence of a co-worker. A bridge plate between two railcars was not properly locked in place without our client knowing this. When he attempted to walk across it, the plate gave way causing him to fall several feet to the ground below. He had ingested marijuana a couple of days earlier with the intoxicating effects long out of his system. Even so, the inactive elements of marijuana used for testing purposes are still detectable for more than 10 days. Fortunately, both at trial and at appeal, the Judges recognized that the technically positive drug screen had absolutely nothing to do with how the accident happened or why our client was injured.

Missouri has a two-tiered system where, if drugs were present in the injured workers system “in conjunction” with the accident, then all benefits are reduced by 50%. This appears to include payments for medical treatment. Usually, the insurer will pay the full cost for treatment, but apply that credit against any disability benefits, meaning the injured worker gets little or no money. If impairment from drugs or alcohol actually caused the accident, there is then a complete denial of all benefits. There has been surprisingly little case law to date on what “in conjunction” means, but it would appear that the use of drugs or alcohol has to at least influence how the accident took place.

The purpose of this blog is to let readers know that there are sometimes ways to fight against a denial due to a positive drug test. There are too many times where injured workers just assume they are out of luck when this may not be true. It is a good general rule to follow to never accept what an insurance company tells you without at least speaking to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney first.

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