It’s essentially legal to smoke marijuana in Illinois.  It’s also legal to drink alcohol.  But if you get hurt at work and have alcohol in your system, you’ll likely lose your case.  If you get hurt at work and have marijuana in your system, you might not lose your case in the long run, but it surely will be denied by the insurance company.

After a work injury, your employer can require a drug test. The reality is that many people smoke marijuana when off the clock or eat edibles.  If you get drunk on Saturday night and hurt at work on Monday, it’s not likely that alcohol will be in your system.  But if you smoke on Saturday night, a drug test on Monday or Tuesday will surely show marijuana in your system.

The law in Illinois is that if you fail a drug test, it creates a “rebuttable presumption” that being on drugs caused your work injury.  In plain English that means the insurance company can deny your case and not get punished for it, but you can prove that you weren’t high at the time you got hurt.  Essentially it requires you to jump through hoops and often go to trial in order to win the case.

Of course there is the law as it’s written and the law as it is actually applied.  What we’ve seen in the last five years is that if a case is small and you test positive, the insurance company will fight your case because they know that most lawyers aren’t going to go to trial on a claim that has $5,000 in medical bills and is maybe only worth $1,000 or so in lawyer’s fees.  On the other hand, if you are lifting a box and herniate a disc in your back or get hit by a car and break your leg or slip on a floor which just got waxed and tear your rotator cuff, those cases aren’t fought as much.

The reason the bigger cases don’t get challenged as much for the drug case is because when you look at the facts in those examples, usually being high wouldn’t cause the injury.  So if the insurance company knows that going to trial will likely be a loser, they’ll often back down.  They don’t have to, but often will.

Bottom line, even though marijuana is mostly legal, it can mess up your case.  If you do test positive and your case is denied, don’t freak out.  Like most cases, it just requires a lawyer who knows what they are doing and is willing to do the work.