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The Influence of Drug and Alcohol Consumption on Workers’ Compensation Claims

If you are a hard-working Colorado resident, you might indulge in drugs or alcohol from time to time. What you do in your free time is your business, and people have been consuming these types of substances for thousands of years. Alcohol consumption is strongly associated with the working class, and the Egyptian pharaohs famously paid their pyramid workers with beer. If you have suffered an injury at work, however, your use of various substances may become an important subject. This subject is further complicated by Colorado’s somewhat recent decision to legalize recreational marijuana. How exactly does the use of these substances affect your ability to file a workers’ compensation claim in Colorado?

Drug & Alcohol Consumption on Workers' Comp Claims

General Rules Regarding Intoxication and Workers’ Compensation

Although each State handles workers’ compensation programs slightly differently, all jurisdictions recognize that intoxication limits a worker’s ability to pursue compensation. In some states, workers are completely barred from receiving any compensation whatsoever if it becomes clear that they were intoxicated at the time of the accident. Remember, workers’ compensation is essentially a no-fault insurance program. As with all insurance policies, any acts of serious recklessness or crime tend to make policyholders ineligible for compensation.

How Does Colorado Handle Intoxication After Workplace Injuries?

If it becomes clear that the employee was intoxicated at the time of the accident, workers’ compensation benefits will be reduced by 50%. Remember, normal workers’ comp only covers two-thirds of your missed wages to start with. If it becomes clear that you were intoxicated, you will, therefore, only receive compensation for 33% of your total missed wages.

How Does My Employer Prove That I Was Intoxicated?

Your employer can prove that you were intoxicated by requiring that you submit to a drug test. This is perfectly legal in Colorado. In some cases, employers have official policies to mandate drug tests after every workplace accident. Some workers sign contracts agreeing to submit to these drug tests upon request. In other situations, drug tests may be carried out randomly or periodically.

There are no criminal consequences for refusing a drug test in this situation. However, your employer may have the right to terminate you if you refuse, and this may be a condition of your work contract. Whatever the case may be, it could be a smart choice to consult with your workers’ comp lawyer before consenting to a drug test. In addition, your employer will face legal consequences if they discourage you from filing a workers’ comp claim with the threat of a drug test. The employer must pay for this drug test.

If the test comes back positive, there may be a legal presumption that you were intoxicated at the time of the workplace accident. However, you will have a chance to push back against these claims with your workers’ comp attorney. Keep in mind that test results may be inaccurate if your employer waits too long after the accident.

The Complexities and Inaccuracies of Marijuana Testing

This situation becomes more complex with the addition of recreational marijuana. Not only is marijuana perfectly legal, but it also remains in your system for at least 30 days after consumption. THC remains embedded within your cells, and it takes the human body a considerable amount of time to fully expel this substance. As a result, you could test positive for marijuana despite not having smoked weed for several weeks.

In this situation, it is very important to establish the distinction between the presence of certain substances and intoxication. This is similar to the concept of having a single beer at lunchtime. A single drink will probably not impede your ability to work safely to a considerable degree, and you might not even feel its effects.

Determining alcohol intoxication is relatively straightforward due to a clearly established system of BAC levels. Everyone knows that if you have a BAC level of over 0.08, you are legally intoxicated. But what level of marijuana consumption results in intoxication? There is no clear system that determines this.

Find a Qualified Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Colorado

If you have been searching for an experienced workers’ comp lawyer in Colorado, look no further than The Law Offices of W. Dan Mahoney, P.C. Over the years, we have helped numerous Colorado workers pursue workers’ comp claims with confidence and efficiency. While it is true that drug or alcohol use has the potential to cause issues as you pursue compensation, you should not give up hope. Even if your claim has been denied or you tested positive on a random drug test, you can still push back with various legal strategies. To discuss these potential tactics in more detail, book a consultation today.