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You are entitled to workers’ compensation when you sustain injuries while working. This is like a soft landing spot that cautions you from all the setbacks caused by the injury. However, what happens when drug or alcohol use is involved in a workplace accident? Does it affect your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits? Read on as we explore all aspects of how drug or alcohol use can impact workers’ compensation claims in Colorado.
The Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act (CWCA) mandates that employers in the state provide workers’ compensation coverage to their employees. This system ensures that employees who are injured while performing their job duties have access to benefits to help them recover. This includes medical care, wage replacement, and vocational rehabilitation.
Generally, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means that you do not need to prove your employer’s negligence to receive benefits. However, there are some exceptions, and one of these exceptions is when drug or alcohol use is involved.
The CWCA explicitly addresses the issue of drug or alcohol use in the workplace. When it can be shown that a worker’s intoxication contributed to their injury, it can significantly impact their workers’ compensation claim.
The “Intoxication Defense”
Colorado law allows employers and insurers to assert what is known as the “intoxication defense.” If it can be proven that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident and this intoxication significantly contributed to your injury, your eligibility for workers’ compensation wage and impairment benefits could be at risk of a 50% reduction.
However, here’s the catch: for the intoxication defense to work, your employer or insurer must establish two things. First, they need to show that you were indeed intoxicated. Second, they have to demonstrate that this state of intoxication directly caused your injury. While this sounds straightforward, it is a higher burden of proof than many other elements of a workers’ compensation claim.
It is crucial to know your responsibilities when it comes to reporting work-related injuries. The key here is prompt reporting. Delaying or failing to report an injury can trigger a closer examination of the circumstances. In some cases, this could involve drug or alcohol testing. Failing to meet these obligations might have a negative effect on your claim. If you have questions about what your responsibilities are when it comes to workplace safety, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our dedicated attorneys.
Alcohol and Drug Testing
Employers may sometimes request drug or alcohol testing following a workplace injury. This is particularly common if there is suspicion or reasonable cause to believe that intoxication may have played a role in the accident. It is crucial to note that testing must adhere to specific protocols and legal requirements to ensure accurate and reliable results. Working with our team at the Law Offices of W. Dan Mahoney, P.C. will ensure all protocols are observed.
The Results of Testing
If drug or alcohol testing reveals that you had substances in your system during the accident, it does not automatically disqualify you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
The Impact on Benefits
If the intoxication defense is successful, it can lead to a reduction in workers’ compensation benefits. While medical care may still be provided, wage replacement benefits may be decreased by 50%. This is a significant consequence for injured workers, given they may face financial difficulties during their recovery.
The impact of drug or alcohol use on workers’ compensation claims in Colorado is a complex issue. While the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act allows for the intoxication defense, it is not an automatic disqualification for benefits.
The Law Offices of W. Dan Mahoney, P.C., is committed to helping injured workers in Colorado handle all aspects of workers’ compensation claims. If you or a loved one has been injured on the job and have concerns about the impact of drug or alcohol use on your claim, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced legal team.