Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Minnesota Workers' Compensation Benefits and Drug and Alcohol Use

Getting caught using illegal drugs or being intoxicated on the job is never a good thing, but if you are injured on the job, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

An employer can require you to undergo an alcohol or drug test after a work-related injury. A positive test result, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that they can deny you workers’ compensation benefits.

The issues of drug and alcohol use come up primarily in two circumstances when you have a work-related injury.

First, if you test positive for drugs or alcohol after the incident in which you were injured, your employer and their insurance company may argue that your intoxication was what caused the injury, and that therefore, you should not be entitled to benefits.

Minnesota law states that “if the injury was intentionally self-inflicted or the intoxication of the employee is the proximate cause of the injury, then the employer is not liable for compensation. The burden of proof of these facts is upon the employer.”

What this means is that the law states that if you are intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, and the intoxication is what caused the accident in which you sustained injuries, your employer is not required to pay workers’ compensation benefits. However, it is the responsibility of the employer to prove that (1) you were intoxicated, and (2) the intoxication was the “proximate,” or direct, cause of your injuries. In reality, it is quite difficult to prove that intoxication was the cause of an injury.

A positive drug or alcohol test after a work injury is often not grounds in and of itself to preclude your entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits.

Second, many if not most employers prohibit illegal drug use or alcohol use on the job. It is the policy of many employers to terminate employees with positive tests. If you test positive for alcohol or drugs after a work injury, but before you return to work, and the employer terminates you for misconduct, you may still be entitled to wage loss benefits. If you return to work and are subsequently terminated for drug or alcohol use, your wage loss benefits may be discontinued in some cases.

If you were injured on the job and subsequently tested positive for drugs or alcohol, don’t lose hope. You may still have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. We have successfully represented several clients in your situation. We can help. Call Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to email us to schedule a free consultation.

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