How Does Marijuana Use Affect Workers Compensation?

While for certain medical conditions it might be legal to smoke marijuana in Illinois, doing so can still negatively impact a workers compensation case. Since marijuana lingers in the system long after it is used, the drug can be blamed for a work injury even if it was used days before.

How Marijuana Is Perceived When a Work Injury Occurs

Alcohol and marijuana are treated similarly in worker compensation cases. If a worker is injured when his blood alcohol level shows he is intoxicated, the employer is likely to win a workers compensation case.

However, a person can drink alcohol on Sunday and it’s unlikely for it to show up in the bloodstream if the person is tested Monday at work. With marijuana, it can take days for the metabolites to be eliminated. So, even if the worker is not under the influence, the test may show positive results.

Failing a drug test in Illinois leads to a “rebuttable presumption” that the cause of a work injury was drug-related. An insurance company can refuse to pay the claim, asserting that drug impairment was the cause of the injury. Even when marijuana had no influence on the injured worker’s behavior, it’s still likely the case will end up in court.

Severity of Injury May Influence the Outcome

While most insurance companies will typically deny payment on a smaller claim with minor injuries, they often settle claims for injuries that are severe when marijuana use may be a factor. This holds true especially in cases where the injury was the result of an event that could not possibly have been influenced by drug usage.

For example, if a worker suffers broken bones after getting hit by a car, the insurance company tends to be less willing to fight.

With a small case, a work injury attorney is less likely to go to trial, and insurance companies often take advantage of this. However, for a major injury where it’s clear that being high can in no way be the cause of the injury, then insurance companies tend to back down.

Smoking marijuana is legal, but it can cause problems with work injury cases. When marijuana use is a factor, a case will likely go to trial. A work injury attorney may be able to help injured workers who have tested positive on drug tests.