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Does medication-induced impairment affect workers comp eligibility?

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | Workers' Compensation

Numerous factors can explain why a worker might get injured while on the job. It may be because there was a lack of safety equipment during the incident or an equipment malfunction. However, the workers themselves may be in a state that could raise their chances of suffering an injury, such as being impaired by prescription medication.

It’s not unusual for workers to continue operating machinery or performing hazardous tasks while impaired. They could be under the effects of strong painkillers, muscle relaxants or other prescription drugs. But if they suffer an injury, their employer may claim they’re ineligible for compensation because of their impaired state.

The law on medication impairment

Under North Carolina’s workers’ compensation law, an employer can potentially deny benefits if the employee’s injury was caused by intoxication. This law applies to alcohol as well as any drugs or narcotics.

The employer has the burden of proof to prove that their employee was under the effects of alcohol or drugs at the time of the injury incident.

Fighting for compensation eligibility

While state law clearly says that prescription drug impairment disqualifies a worker for compensation, it also provides an exception. An employer can’t use the employee’s intoxication as justification for a claim denial if the employer was aware at the time that the employee was impaired and still allowed them to remain on the job.

So, if the employer knew or reasonably should have known about the employee’s impaired condition from medication, the claim may still be compensable.

Workers’ compensation cases involving prescription medication often depend on specific facts and circumstances. If you face similar circumstances and your employer is turning down your claim because you were under the effects of medication, you might still be able to appeal the denial. An experienced legal professional may be able to evaluate your case and fight for your right to benefits.