Workers Comp Drug Test in Georgia: What You Need to Know

After a workplace accident, your employer has the right to administer a drug test. An experienced Atlanta workers compensation lawyer will tell you during the first consultation that refusing to take a drug test after a work related injury will most probably get your workers compensation claim denied. Drug testing is a staple in workers comp cases.

If you test positive on a workers comp drug test, the insurance company will reject your claim. But that isn’t the full story. This guide analyzes the rules an employer must follow when drug testing an employee after a work injury, what a failed drug test means for workers compensation, and what options an injured worker has for potentially receiving workers comp benefits after a positive drug test.

Does Workers Comp Drug Test Employees?

Many injured workers wonder if they’ll be tested for drugs after a workplace injury. According to guidance from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), employers can require drug testing if it’s not for a retaliatory purpose or to discourage an employee from filing a workers compensation claim.

Georgia state law allows employers to conduct drug tests after a workplace accident. If an employer suspects you were drunk or using drugs, you can expect them to demand you take a drug test. You should check your company policy about specific requirements.

Many employers require drug testing as part of occupational safety measures. Besides the opportunity to deny benefits, there are other incentives for companies. Participation in Georgia’s Drug-Free Workplace Program provides a discount on workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

Will I Lose Workers Compensation Benefits for a Failed Drug Test?

Workers compensation is a no fault system. This means that an employee can collect benefits even if he or she is injured due to carelessness. However, a workers compensation claim can be denied if the accident happened due to drugs or alcohol.

Georgia workers compensation law (O.C.G.A. 34-9-17) states that employees who suffer an injury at work due to:

  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Marijuana use
  • Controlled substances

are not entitled to workers comp benefits. The law includes an exception for medication that was lawfully prescribed by a doctor.

The law states there is a rebuttable presumption that drug use or intoxication caused the accident if you test positive. Basically, this means that it’s assumed you were hurt because you were impaired and you must disprove this assumption if you want to receive benefits.

Can I Refuse a Workers Comp Drug Test?

Now, many workers wonder – what if I had drinks or took some recreational marijuana with friends the night before my accident? They may show on the drug test and I’ll get my claim denied.

Why not refuse to take the test or go straight to the hospital and take the test a few days later? The problem is this: by refusing drug testing, you implicitly admit that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

If an injured worker refuses to take a drug test, it is presumed that the drugs or alcohol were the direct cause of the accident. The injured employee then has the burden of proving otherwise in order to receive workers compensation benefits.

Your workers compensation claim will be denied and you will face an uphill battle if you appeal to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.

Workers Comp Drug Test

Challenging a Failed Drug Test in a Workers Compensation Claim

If you were injured at work and fail a drug test, consult with an Atlanta workers comp lawyer as soon as possible. There are ways to challenge a denied claim based on a positive drug test result. A skilled attorney may be able to find ways to get your workers comp claim approved. Here are some potential situations.

You Have a Valid Prescription

Your employer, but especially their workers comp insurance company, is quick to overlook the legal exception for legally prescribed medication – especially if you handle your claim on your own.

An attorney will ask you to produce the prescription and even obtain a statement from your doctor, describing the reasons why you need to take the respective medication.

Drug Testing Inaccuracy

Drug tests administered at the office are not completely accurate. Here are just a few problems that may give a false positive result:

  • The person who administered the test is not properly trained.
  • The test was not administered according to Georgia’s regulations.
  • There may be errors in collecting and storing the sample, leading to external contamination.

Mistakes in Drug Testing Procedures

A workers comp drug test must follow the regulations and standards outlined by Georgia law (Georgia Code § 34-9-415). This includes rules for chain of custody, handling of specimens, and more.

The Test Was Administered Too Late

Georgia workers comp law (O.C.G.A. 34-9-17) states that an alcohol test must be taken within 3 hours after the workplace accident and a drug test within 8 hours. Any testing done outside these timeframes cannot be used as a reason to deny a workers comp claim.

Thus, if you suffered a severe accident and were taken straight to the hospital, any drug test that the employer demanded in the next few days is irrelevant.

Lack of Causation

The Georgia workers’ compensation system operates under a rebuttable presumption when it comes to drug or alcohol use in workplace injuries.

This means that if you fail a drug test after an accident, it is presumed that alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs are the direct cause. Your workers comp attorney has the burden of proving otherwise.

In specific cases, a workers compensation lawyer may be able to show that your drug or alcohol consumption could not have any influence on your work-related injury. For example, if you get electrocuted by a faulty machine, this kind of accident would have happened irrespective of your drug or alcohol use.

Call an Atlanta Workers Comp Lawyer Today!

If you test positive for drugs after a work injury, call a skilled Atlanta workers compensation lawyer right away for a free consultation. Employees can be denied workers comp benefits for medical treatment and lost wages because of drug testing. However, there are strategies to contest a denied claim after a positive test, such as challenging the legitimacy of the drug test results.

Contact us to start working on your claim for workers compensation benefits. We offer each new client a free case review, so call us today at 470-287-5597!