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Q
Can I be denied workers’ compensation benefits if I fail a drug test after a workplace accident?

A

New Jersey is a no-fault state in regards to workers’ compensation benefits. This means that almost all workers’ injuries caused at the workplace are covered under workers’ comp laws regardless of who was at fault in causing the injury—even if it was the employee’s fault. In exchange, workers lose the right to sue their employer for their injuries. However, there are exceptions to this no-fault rule. Does this allow your employer to require you to take a drug test? If so, what happens if you fail it?

Drug Tests and New Jersey Workers’ Comp Claims

Under New Jersey workers’ compensation laws, you may be prohibited from receiving workers’ compensation benefits if you were intoxicated due to illegal drug use at the time of your accident. You can be required to submit to a drug test following an accident and could be denied benefits if you fail the test. These general guidelines apply:

  • Your employer should have a written drug testing policy.
  • Your employer is required to provide emergency medical treatment regardless of whether illegal drug use was involved in the accident or the results of any drug test.
  • Any drug test should be administered as soon as possible by a hospital and sent to a reputable lab to be analyzed. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. You should obtain a copy of your drug test results and receive information on how the test was conducted and analyzed.

What Drugs Could an Employer Test for?

Your employer could use a number of different types of drug tests that examine samples of hair, blood, urine, breath, and sweat. Your employer may test for a variety of illegal substances that include the following:

  • Amphetamines like meth, speed, and ecstasy
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine and crack
  • Heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and other opiates
  • Phencyclidine (PCB)

Your employer could also test for the presence of alcohol, which could also result in your employer denying your claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

You Still May Be Entitled to Workers’ Comp Benefits With a Positive Drug Test Result

If you failed a drug test following an injury accident at your job, this does not mean that you are disqualified from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer would need to prove that you are not entitled to benefits. The following must be shown:

  • You were intoxicated. Your employer must show that you were intoxicated due to illegal drug use at the time of the accident. Your employer would need an accurate and timely drug test to show this. A test that is performed days or a week later probably is not sufficient.
  • Your intoxication must have caused your injuries. Your employer must prove that your intoxication was the cause of your accident. There may have been other factors, such as defective machinery, the lack of safety equipment, or hazardous work conditions, which caused your injuries. In this situation, your intoxication may have no bearing on your right to workers’ comp benefits.

In addition, you could have a number of other defenses to the drug test. For example, the positive result could have been caused by medication that was prescribed by your doctor. In addition, the drug test may not have been administered properly or improper procedures may have been followed in analyzing the results.

Let Us Help You Fight for Your Right to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

If your employer denied your workers’ compensation claim because you failed a drug test, you need an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you fight for the benefits you may still deserve. A lawyer can investigate the circumstances regarding your accident, review the drug testing procedures and analysis, and hire any experts needed to prove the cause of your accident and the inaccuracies in your drug test. To learn more about how I can help you, call my office today to schedule your free case evaluation.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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