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Intoxication and workers' compensation

The Supreme Court of Louisiana recently ruled in favor of an injured worker in a case that illustrates some important points in the state's workers' compensation law.

The case involved a worker who was injured on the job. His employer had him submit to a drug test the next day and denied his workers' compensation claim based on the result, arguing that he was intoxicated at the time of the accident. The worker argued that the drug test was not verified or confirmed. A judge for the Office of Workers' Compensation agreed with the worker, and the high court upheld that decision.

Workers' compensation operates on a no-fault basis. This means eligible workers don't have to prove their employers were at fault for their injuries in order to collect benefits. Likewise, an employer generally cannot deny a claim based on an argument that the employee was at fault for the accident. However, there are exceptions to this rule, including intoxication.

Generally, a worker who is found to have been intoxicated on the job at the time of the accident cannot collect benefits.

As the recent Supreme Court of Louisiana case shows, a drug or alcohol test after an accident can mean the difference between a worker getting benefits or getting nothing. However, the test results must be verified, accurate and relevant.

Workers' compensation benefits are meant to cover medical expenses as well as lost wages during the time the worker is recovering, and so a denied claim can be financially and perhaps even medically disastrous for an injured worker. Any injured worker concerned about the possibility their employer will deny a claim should speak to a workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible.

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