There is perhaps no rule more misunderstood under Illinois workers’ compensation law than what it means if you test positive for drugs or alcohol following a work related accident.
First things first, your company has an absolute right to give you a drug test. Most people know that.
What I keep seeing get confused is what happens if you fail the drug test. Many people think that it’s the end of your case. That is simply not true.
When you fail a drug or alcohol test, it creates a “rebuttable presumption” that you were high or drunk and it lead to your work injury. In plain English this means that the insurance company can legally deny your case, but through your testimony or witnesses you can show that it had nothing to do with how you were hurt.
It’s a pretty common sense law. If you smoke pot on Saturday and get hurt at work on Monday, you’ll fail the drug test, but no reasonable person would think that it caused you to get injured. On the other hand if you were drunk, that would be a harder problem to overcome.
Despite how the law is written, many injured workers give up their cases because of drug tests and lazy attorneys tell clients that there is nothing they can do for them. It shouldn’t work that way.
Recently an employee at a staffing agency won at trial after he had his case denied even though he tested positive for marijuana AND alcohol after a work injury. How was that possible? In this case the worker credibly testified that he smoked pot and drank alcohol after he left the job site. The drug test was nine hours after the accident and there were no witnesses or facts that indicated that this worker was in any way impaired while at work.
So for him the bottom line was that since he came off as credible on the witness stand and his story made sense (he had left work, went to the doctor and then went home before the drug test which is a logical explanation for alcohol in his system), he won.
For you the bottom line is that if an attorney won’t listen to your story and see if there could be a case then you haven’t called a fighter. Not every case is a winner and we’ll tell you if it’s a loser, but we will also do two thing: 1. We’ll tell you why it’s a losing case. 2. Before we say that, we’ll analyze every possible fact scenario to determine if it could be a winner.
Don’t let a lazy lawyer or misinformation be the reason you lose benefits. This is one example, but there are many other misunderstood rules and laws and case law is always changing.