Does Workers’ Comp Require Drug Testing?

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There are some reasons why an employee would not be paid benefits for a work-related injury in North Carolina. If the employee was intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of their injury, the insurance company may be able to deny the claim.

If the employer argues that you were under the influence at the time of the accident, they may want their own proof and can seek a drug test for you. If your case is under scrutiny, the workers’ comp attorneys at Horton & Mendez in Wilmington, NC, can represent you when you have a difficult claim.

Your Employer May Have the Right to Ask for a Drug Test for Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina

When you have been injured in a work-related accident in North Carolina, you must seek treatment at a provider who was designated by your employer. You do not have the right or ability to choose your own doctor. One thing that your employer may request is for the medical provider to administer a drug test.

Workers’ compensation does not require a drug test, but it may be within your employer’s right to do so. They may be able to seek a drug test, depending on their employee policy.

In general, North Carolina is an at-will employment state that allows for drug testing. However, the employer cannot do anything that is inconsistent with their own clearly stated drug testing policy that they have already communicated to you. Some employers may drug test on occasion or reserve the right to do so after an accident.

How Your Employer May Test for Drugs

In many situations, the medical provider may take a blood sample and use it to test for alcohol and intoxicants. The window of detection in a blood test is actually shorter than it is in a urine test. If you have sought medical treatment for an injury in the days after an injury, as opposed to right after it happened, the blood test may be less reliable. A positive test result may not indicate that you were under the influence when the accident occurred.

In addition, blood tests for drugs may not always be reliable. Generally, blood tests are accurate, but there is always a chance of a false positive. There are some foods or substances that could lead to a false positive. It also may not be clear if the professional taking the test is properly trained to do so.

A Positive Workers’ Comp Drug Test North Could Disqualify You From Benefits

Under §97-12 of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, intoxication or being under the influence of a controlled substance can be grounds for not receiving benefits. The statute says that intoxication and under the influence:

“shall mean the employee shall have consumed a sufficient quantity of intoxicating beverage or controlled substance to cause the employee to lose the normal control of his or her bodily or mental faculties, or both, to such an extent that there was an appreciable impairment of either or both of these faculties at the time of the injury.”

Based on the law, you would be denied benefits if:

  • You were intoxicated or under the influence at the time of the accident.
  • The intoxication was the cause of your injuries.

You May Have the Requirement to Prove You Deserve Benefits

You may face an uphill battle if a drug test comes back positive. A positive drug test would create a presumption that you were under the influence, and you would be the one who has to rebut that presumption or demonstrate that an exception would apply.

You’d need your own evidence that would show that you were either not under the influence at the time of the accident or that it was not the cause of your injuries. Your attorney needs to perform their own investigation and line up testimony or medical evidence that backs your side of the story.

You could use the following to rebut the presumption and establish your eligibility for benefits:

  • Testimony from co-workers that you were either not under the influence at the time of the accident or it was not the cause of your injuries.
  • Medical test results were taken when you were being treated for your injuries.
  • The lack of a notation from a doctor who treated you that you seemed under the influence.
  • Evidence that there was something wrong with the work conditions, such as malfunctioning machinery or an error by a coworker, that caused your injuries instead.
  • You were taking a drug that you were legally described, and you followed any requirements for disclosing the fact that you were taking the medication to your employer.

You Can Appeal When Your Benefits Have Been Denied

If you believe that your workers’ compensation claim has been wrongfully denied, you have the right to file an appeal. You have 14 days from the time that you receive notice your claim has been denied to file a notice of your intent to appeal with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Then, you would need to go through a legal process that would lead to you having a hearing in front of a Commissioner.

You can expect that your appeal will rely heavily on medical and scientific evidence surrounding your drug test. In addition, your case would also depend on the facts that you can prove surrounding the accident as you seek to refute whatever presumption may be drawn from the drug test.

Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Wilmington Today

If you have tested positive for alcohol or a controlled substance after a work injury, you need immediate legal representation. Otherwise, you may find that you have very little chance of receiving benefits.

The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Horton & Mendez will fight for you through the entire legal process. The most important step that you can take is reaching out to us right now to speak with a lawyer. You can contact us through our website, or you can call us today at 910-405-7751 to schedule a time to talk.

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