Skip to Content

Ghitterman, Ghitterman & Feld

Relentlessly Protecting California Workers' Rights Since 1956

The Impact of Drug or Alcohol Use on Workers’ Compensation Claims in California

gavel and laptop on desk

At Ghitterman, Ghitterman & Feld, our Santa Barbara workers’ compensation lawyers have protected the rights of California workers since 1956 — including those denied benefits for alleged impairment when the injurious incident occurred.

California’s workers’ compensation laws do not prevent injured workers from receiving benefits if they fail a chemical test, although these circumstances must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Here is what injured workers need to know.

California Employers and Their Insurers Will Always Look for a Reason to Deny Workers’ Compensation Claims

Many California employers subject their employees to chemical screenings after an at-work injury. In some cases, these tests may show the presence of a drug or alcohol. If so, it argues that the injured worker was impaired at the time of their injury.

This argument is then used by both the employer and its workers’ compensation insurance provider to deny a claim, stating the employee was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that the intoxication led to the worker’s injuries.

However, the California Labor Code provides that employees can still qualify for workers’ compensation even if they failed a drug test, as it is insufficient evidence to prove an employee was impaired when the injury occurred if they can prove their drug or alcohol use was not the proximate cause of their injuries.

Who Has the Burden of Proof in California Intoxication-Related Workers’ Compensation Denials?

California employers may use the results of a breath, urine, or blood test to prove the employee had alcohol or a controlled substance in their system at the time of the accident.

If an employee refuses to take a drug test after an accident, the employer assumes intoxication.

However, employers who wish to deny workers’ compensation claims based on intoxication must prove the employee’s intoxication was the proximate cause of their injuries or a significant factor in causing them.

The burden of proof is on the employer, not the injured employee.

If the employer can prove that the employee’s intoxication was the proximate cause of the injury, the employee has the burden of proof to show that their intoxication did not cause the accident.

If a California employee believes any substance found in their system was not the cause or a significant factor in their workplace injury, they should speak with a skilled California workers’ compensation attorney immediately.

Partnering with a dedicated workers’ compensation law firm can help the employee pursue benefits by gathering and presenting evidence that proves:

  • Lack of relevance of a drug test taken more than 48 hours after the workplace accident.
  • The employee’s blood alcohol concentration was lower than the legal intoxication limit of .08 percent.
  • Proving marijuana can remain in the human body after any impairing effects have worn off. (California Assembly Bill 2188 will take effect January 1, 2024, which protects certain employees from employment discrimination based on their off-duty cannabis use.)
  • Question the legitimacy of the individual who collected the urine, blood, or breath sample or its contamination.
  • Proving the injury was unavoidable, regardless of employee intoxication.

At Ghitterman, Ghitterman & Feld, our California workers’ compensation attorneys work tirelessly to protect our client’s rights from the start of the claim. We have six physical offices in Bakersfield, Fresno, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Ventura, and Visalia, and our top-tier technologies provide a virtual reach to serve clients throughout California. We offer free in-person, telephone, and virtual consultations to offer straightforward legal advice for your unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights and options to pursue a workers’ compensation claim even if you have failed an employer-provided drug or alcohol test after an accident.

Share To: