Even though more states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, it is still considered to be an illegal substance by the federal government. Unfortunately, the federal restriction could have an impact on whether employees can receive workers' compensation benefits if they are injured on the job and test positive for marijuana use. If you were involved in an accident and use medical marijuana, here is what you need to know.
Will Your Benefits Be Denied?
The laws concerning the use of medical marijuana and workers' compensation benefits vary by state. Depending on the state in which you live, your employer's insurance company could be allowed to deny your benefits. In another state, you could potentially receive your benefits, but they would be reduced by a percentage. There is also the possibility that your benefits will not be impacted if you are using medical marijuana.
If your benefits are denied and the state's laws back up the employer, your options for receiving any compensation from your employer's insurance company are severely limited. The company could argue that the drug affected your ability to safely work, which led to the accident. Even if you can prove that the accident was unavoidable and not your fault, your benefits could still be denied.
Should You File a Claim?
After an accident, one of the first steps you should take is to review your state's laws regarding medical marijuana use and worker's compensation benefits. Knowing the law can help you determine what obstacles you could face if you file a claim.
The decision to file is yours, but you should consult with an experienced attorney first. Even if your state has laws that would result in a denial of benefits, the attorney might advise you to file a claim anyway. Depending on the details of your case, it could be one that results in a change in your state's laws.
If your state does allow claims to proceed even if medical marijuana is used, you might still need to prove that your use of the drug did not have an impact on your work. For instance, the testimony of co-workers and a medical expert might be needed to prove that you were working responsibly in the period leading up to the accident.
Immediately following the accident and after receiving treatment, you should consult with a workers comp attorney. He or she will review your accident and help determine if filing is the right move.