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Will a Positive Drug Test Sink Your Workers’ Compensation Claim?A workers’ compensation insurance company will search for reasons that they can deny your claim, including blaming your conduct for your injury. That is why some employers will ask you to submit to a drug test after an injury. According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee is ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits if their intoxication was the proximate cause of their injury. You can still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you failed a drug test, but you will have to prove that your injury was unrelated to the intoxicating substance in your body.

Drug Testing

In September 2011, Illinois changed its burden of proof for intoxication claims in workers’ compensation cases. Previously, employers had to prove that an employee was intoxicated and that the intoxication caused the injury. Now, employees who test positive for drugs bear the burden of proving that they were not intoxicated or that whatever effect the drug had on them did not cause their injury. According to state law, employers can use results from a blood, urine, or breath test as evidence of the presence of:

  • Alcohol;
  • Cannabis;
  • Controlled substances; and
  • Intoxicating compounds.

Intoxicating compounds are otherwise legal substances that can cause intoxicating effects, such as huffing chemicals. The law presumes that you were intoxicated if you refuse a drug test after your injury.

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Employees in Illinois Cannot Waive Right to Workers’ CompensationIllinois law requires all employers in the state to carry workers’ compensation insurance – even if they have only one employee or part-time employees. The only businesses that can choose to waive the workers’ compensation requirement are those whose only employees are a sole proprietor, business partners or corporate officers. The state can fine an employer and its corporate officers $500 per day if they knowingly fail to have workers’ compensation insurance. Despite the state’s strict requirements, some employers lead their employees to believe that they cannot or should not file a workers’ compensation claim. As a worker, you should watch for tactics that your employer may use to discourage you from exercising your right to benefits after a workplace injury:

  1. Illegal Contracts: An employment contract is not allowed to include a section stating that you agree to not file a workers’ compensation claim in the event of an injury. Mediation with your employer is not a replacement for a workers’ compensation claim. If you notice such a provision in your employment contract, you should contact an attorney to confirm that it is illegal and bring it to the attention of your employer. Even if you have already signed the contract, your employer cannot enforce an agreement to forgo workers’ compensation.
  2. Waivers: Employees cannot waive their right to workers’ compensation, whether it is voluntary or at the employer’s suggestion. Illinois employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in exchange for not filing personal injury lawsuits against their employers. If someone gives you a workers’ compensation waiver form, you should recognize that it is not a legally enforceable document.
  3. Intimidation: Employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against employees who file workers’ compensation claims. Victims of retaliation can file lawsuits against their employers and recover damages. However, some employers use actual or implied threats of retaliation in order to intimidate employees. You should not let a fear of retaliation prevent you from filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Contact a Crystal Lake Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Some employers take advantage of their employees’ lack of knowledge about workers’ compensation laws by using deceptive practices to discourage employees from filing claims. The employers know they cannot enforce a contract that prevents you from filing a claim, but they hope that you will give up without testing whether the contract is legal. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will stand up to employers and insurance companies that are trying to deny your injury benefits. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

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Receiving Workers’ Compensation When You Have Two JobsSome people work more than one job in order to supplement their income and pay for their living expenses. A worker may be balancing two full-time jobs, though a second part-time job is more common. Suffering an injury at one job may affect your ability to work at both jobs. Though workers’ compensation benefits are available through the job where you were hurt, you may worry about lost income from your other job. Fortunately, Illinois allows you to include wages from more than one job when filing your workers’ compensation claim.

Qualifications

Your average weekly wage helps determine workers’ compensation benefits such as disability payments and lump-sum settlements. A workers’ compensation insurer for one employer may contest your inclusion of income from an additional employer in your average weekly wage. However, you are entitled to compensation for lost income from all of your jobs, as long as:

  • You can prove that your other job exists;
  • The employer for where the injury occurred was aware that you had an additional job; and
  • That employer did not object to you working a second job.

Most injured workers do not have proof in writing that their employer knew about their second job. You need to remember who you told at work about your second job and what their response was. You could strengthen your claim by showing that your employer knowingly adjusted your schedule to accommodate your other job.

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The Opioid Risk for Workers’ Compensation PatientsManaging pain is one of the immediate concerns after a workplace injury. The patient may have intense pain after suffering a traumatic injury or chronic pain from an injury that developed over several years. Physicians sometimes prescribe opioid painkillers as a means of immediate pain relief. However, the public is learning more about the dangers of opioid addiction. Workers’ compensation insurers are taking action against the pharmaceutical companies and physicians who have pushed opioid use, in part because opioid addiction can increase the cost of workers’ compensation. For instance, an Illinois workers’ compensation insurance organization has filed a lawsuit against the makers and distributors of opioids, alleging that they are responsible for an increase in opioid addictions amongst claimants. Injured workers must be careful when using opioids during their injury recovery and should consider alternative methods of pain relief.

Dangers of Opioids

Opioid painkillers are safest when used for a short period. Patients who take opioids for a prolonged period can develop a dependence or addiction to the drug. How quickly the dependence develops depends on the patient and whether they take more than is recommended. Studies suggest that some patients can become dependent in a matter of days. People with opioid addictions may crave increased doses of the drug as their bodies become resistant to it. This increases the risk of overdose and death.

Effect on Workers’ Compensation

According to the National Safety Council, workers who received opioids for more than a week or had more than one opioid prescription are more likely to be on disability a year later. Workers who become dependent on opioids also:

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Receiving Workers’ Compensation for Carpal Tunnel SyndromeCarpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in the hand and arm that is often characterized by pain, tingling, or numbness. The cause is pressure applied to the median nerve, which runs down the arm, through the carpal tunnel in the wrist and into the hand. The carpal tunnel can narrow over time, or the nearby flexor tendons may swell – either of which can apply pressure to the nerve. If not caught early, carpal tunnel syndrome may cause you to lose function in your hand or require surgery to relieve pressure. You may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you can show that your work caused your condition.

Causes

It is possible for a single incident to cause carpal tunnel syndrome, such as your wrist or hand being crushed in an accident. However, carpal tunnel syndrome is most often a repetitive trauma injury caused by:

  • Repetitive hand or wrist motions; or
  • Flexing the hand or wrist in a position that puts pressure on it.

Heredity may also play a role if you were born with a smaller carpal tunnel or develop conditions such as arthritis or diabetes.

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