BAC and Worker’s Compensation

In January 2019, Utah passed a law that lowered the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) standard of the state from the federal limit of 0.08% to 0.05%. This made the state’s limit the lowest in the nation. Despite this, the Utah Workers’ Compensation Act still had a 0.08% BAC limit in determining whether alcohol intoxication was a factor in a workplace accident and injury. A recent bill passed in 2020 lowered that limit as well to 0.05%, matching the strict state limit in DUI cases. This means that if it can be shown that your BAC levels were above 0.05% at the time of your workplace accident, you are considered intoxicated and may be disqualified from receiving compensation. In addition to this, under Utah law (UCA 34A-2-302), Workers Comp disability compensation may not be awarded to an employee when the major contributing cause of the employee’s injury was the employee’s drug abuse. So, if the employee has illegal drugs in his system when he gets hurt, the law presumes that drug abuse was the “major contributing cause” of the accident. The injured worker then has the burden to prove otherwise.
Loss of workers comp benefits is yet another risk of drug and alcohol abuse. At Tim Daniels Law Services, we are able to review the case and gather evidence to determine if there is a way to overcome the “major contributing cause” presumption and still obtain disability benefits for our clients. That being said, drug and alcohol abuse does make the attorney’s job more difficult and may make it difficult to get a good settlement for the injured worker. In order completely to protect yourself at work and in the case of a workplace injury, you should avoid drugs and alcohol all together, but especially before you will be working.
In some cases, employees may falsely fail drug tests since certain prescription medications or foods can cause employees to test positive for certain substances. It is your responsibility as an employee to notify your employer of anything that could influence a test before the test is taken. Medications that are controlled substances are especially likely to show up on drug tests. Even though prescription medications will likely show only trace amounts of what could be interpreted as an illegal substance, with the limits becoming lower, it is important that your employer know of anything that could influence the test results before the test is even performed. If you are hurt at work and feel that evidence of a failed drug test is being used wrongly to negate your workers’ compensation claim, call us for a free case review. We will help you understand the details of your situation and whether or not you have a case.