Even though marijuana use is legal now in Illinois, it hasn’t changed the fact that if you test positive for drugs or alcohol after getting injured on the job, it can cause problems for your workers’ compensation claim. You still have a right to bring a case, but you have to prove that you weren’t impaired when you got hurt. In some cases that is easy in others it isn’t. It all comes down to the facts of how you got hurt.
Most people know that they are going to fail a drug test given how long marijuana, cocaine and other drugs stay in your system. So most of the calls we get are from recently injured workers who are worried the drug test will take away their rights. The good news is that it won’t in most cases, but it will potentially delay things.
What you can’t do as an injured worker is try to game the system. Any idea you might have of how to get around work comp rules has been thought of before and blown up in the face of injured workers. Illinois work comp cases don’t have to be perfect and when you stop being honest you can mess things up.
A recent example of this was a really nice guy who called me after a shoulder injury when he was lifting heavy materials above his head. He smokes marijuana for PTSD and knows that he will fail the drug test. He went to the ER after he got injured, but hadn’t yet told his boss what happened. His plan was to take vacation pay for a week, not used drugs and then report the accident when he got back. He expects the drugs will be out of his system by that time.
While he might not fail a drug test with this strategy, he’s going to create a whole set of new problems. While technically he has 45 days to report a work accident, the fact that he’s turning it in after a surprise vacation will be really suspicious. The insurance company will immediately think he got hurt away from the job. If he points to the ER report that might help him, but then it will make it suspicious that he didn’t report it instead of take vacation. Their inability to take a drug test of him right after it happened may now be a defense to the case.
In this situation, the truth was her got hurt on a Wednesday and last smoked marijuana the Sunday before. He was obviously not impaired and although he was working alone when he got hurt, he had lunch with two co-workers who could testify that he was acting normal. Beyond that, the accident happened just after lunch and he had been performing the same job all day. The job was so heavy duty that doing it impaired would be really hard.
In other words, with a couple phone calls and letters, even if the failed drug test caused his case to get denied, we likely could get benefits reinstated. And if that didn’t work, a trial would almost surely go in his favor and could happen relatively quickly.
So if you know that you will fail a drug test, it’s ok and you don’t need to freak out. What you can’t do is make your situation worse by trying to game the system.
If you have questions about a drug test or anything else related to Illinois work comp law, contact us at 888-705-1766.