Discover if Georgia workers are eligible for benefits if hurt at work while intoxicated
In Georgia, most employees are entitled to receive workers’ compensation when they get hurt or ill on-the-job. This compensation typically includes funds to cover your lost wages and medical care. For many employees, workers’ compensation is the only way they can stay afloat financially while they heal from their injuries.
As such, being denied workers’ compensation benefits can put you and your family in jeopardy. You might not have the savings that you need to cover your bills or get the appropriate treatment during your recovery. This is why it’s important to do your best to follow your company’s rules and procedures regarding employee conduct.
Most employers have an employee handbook that outlines their expectations. In the majority of workplaces, there is a general expectation that you will not do anything that could place you or a coworker in harm’s way.
This includes not showing up to work intoxicated.
After an injury, your employer may refer you to a company doctor for testing to find out if drugs or alcohol could have contributed to the accident. If you were drunk at the time of the injury, then they may decide to deny you compensation since you engaged in willful misconduct and broke the law.
What is willful misconduct and how does it affect a claim?
Willful misconduct applies when an employee intentionally chooses to disregard the laws or standards of behavior. Keep in mind that this definition can apply to more situations than just what is in the employee handbook.
For example, in most industries, it is considered a reasonable expectation that people will not drink or do drugs during their job duties. This is based upon the understanding that being intoxicated could make it harder to prevent injuries from happening in the workplace.
Can you refuse a drug or alcohol test?
A serious accident at work is scary, and it is possible that you might not be thinking clearly. Some people feel offended that they need to take a drug or alcohol test, but your employer is allowed to make this request under Georgia’s workers’ compensation law.
Refusing to take a drug and alcohol test may cause decision-makers to assume that you were intoxicated at the time of the incident and attempted to avoid getting a positive result.
What if you fail a drug or alcohol test?
When a drug and alcohol test comes back positive, it is typically viewed as though you violated the alcohol in the workplace law. Your claim will likely be denied, which means that you will not receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Keep in mind that you do still have the opportunity to file an appeal. This might be your only option for seeking coverage for your injuries.
What other situations impact a workers’ comp claim?
Drug testing for workplace injuries is only one part of how a decision is made for who is eligible to receive workers’ compensation. For example, you are required to report your injury as soon as possible after you know it occurred. You are also required to see a doctor who can diagnose and report upon the extent of your injuries.
In some cases, a claim can be denied (rightfully or wrongly) due to a previous history of injuries (pre-existing conditions) or if there is no one who can vouch for what happened as a witness. Understanding all of the reasons why your case is denied gives you a better starting point for beginning to file an appeal.
Always keep any documents that you receive regarding your claim so that your attorney can review them and get a clear picture of the reasons for the denial.
How can a Georgia workers’ comp attorney help you?
There are times when getting approval for your appeal can feel nearly impossible. You might not have a good chance of getting workers’ compensation if you admitted to being drunk at work or were caught on camera drinking or appearing to be intoxicated. If your accident involved a vehicle and you received a DUI, then you might also not have much of a case.
However, there may be hope for a successful appeal.
Drug testing isn’t always fully accurate, and it’s possible that your results could have been tainted by other factors such as medications that you take regularly. Some drugs show up on tests for many days or weeks after a person uses them, even though they don’t affect your behavior.
Your attorney might be able to identify witnesses who can provide testimony you were not acting as though you were intoxicated at work. They may be able to work with accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals who can show how the injury occurred due to other factors that have nothing to do with whether or not you were intoxicated.
At the very least, your attorney might be able to work out an agreement with your employer for you to seek help with substance abuse. In some cases, employers will be willing to hold your position or even cover some of your medical costs when you demonstrate a desire to pursue recovery.
An Atlanta workers’ compensation attorney at Gerber & Holder Law can help you analyze your case to determine if you have valid reasons for an appeal. If so, then working closely with your attorney could help you recover some compensation for your injury while retaining your professional reputation.