How does prescription drug misuse affect a workers’ comp claim?

spilled_pillsAn injury at work can have long-lasting effects, including permanent disability that makes it difficult to pay for increasing medical costs.

An employee who relies on prescription painkillers to combat physical discomfort may begin to abuse the drugs due to depression or anxiety, leading to an eventual addiction to the medications.

 

Unfortunately, these kinds of addictions are on the rise—and are complicating workers’ compensation claims.

Are Employers Liable for Injuries Caused by Prescription Drug Misuse?

Prescription painkillers can be prescribed as the result of a work injury or for an unrelated condition, and can be used even after the employee returns to work. Employer liability for injuries can be difficult to determine, since the employee is taking the drugs legally.

If a workers’ compensation claim arises due to misuse of prescription drugs, the claim can be affected due to:

  • Time off work. Many studies indicate that injured workers who are given high doses of opioid painkillers will be out of work for up to work three times longer than workers with similar injuries who are given lower doses. This time off work is more costly to the employer and may not be beneficial to the employee, especially if he develops an addiction or tolerance to the medication. The cost of the claim can go even higher if the employee requires treatment for drug addiction.
  • Workplace safety. If an employee taking painkillers places fellow workers at risk, an employer could be liable for paying benefits to many employees instead of just one. Additionally, while employers are usually required to pay for injuries to coworkers caused by an employee, the at-fault employee could also face legal action from coworkers who suffered in the accident.
  • Death benefits. The bearing of prescription drug use in a workers’ comp claim is currently decided by the courts. A court may decide that medication misuse could affect an employee’s claim for future medical care or a family’s right to death benefits—even if the death is caused by overdose of legally-prescribed medications.

 

If you need help after a workplace injury, our attorneys can examine the details of your case and help you understand your rights. Call us today or fill out the form on this page to set up your consultation in our law offices.