For the most part, workers’ compensation benefits in New Mexico cover costs related to significant illness or injury caused by someone’s employment. For example, workers can get benefits for traumatic injuries, illnesses caused by chemical exposure and medical conditions related to repetitive job functions. The New Mexico workers’ compensation program can provide disability benefits for those hurt on the job who cannot work and also health coverage to pay for someone’s treatment. Yet, occasionally, workers may have a hard time getting the benefits that they deserve.
Sometimes, employers raise questions about whether someone’s condition is severe enough to keep them from working or whether it is actually a job issue or a condition acquired elsewhere, possibly during exercise. Another reason why employers question workers’ compensation claims is when a worker fails a drug or alcohol test after their injury. Does a failed drug test automatically lead to a denial of benefits?
Intoxication must cause the injury in question to affect eligibility
Many people assume that if they fail a test checking them for drugs or alcohol, then they automatically become ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits. That is an oversimplification. There are scenarios in which a worker could fail drug or alcohol tests and still obtain benefits. For example, perhaps they got hurt because of a criminal incident on the job where a co-worker attacked them. Their injuries would have little or nothing to do with the chemicals in their bloodstream in that case.
Typically, employers trying to prevent someone from getting workers’ compensation coverage need to show that not only was the worker under the influence but also that their impairment was the cause of their injuries. In some cases, workers can still get benefits despite failing a drug or alcohol test after their injury. Depending on the circumstances, employers may be able to justify reducing what benefits the worker receives because of their alleged impairment at the time of the incident.
Simply put, failing a drug or alcohol test does not necessarily establish that a worker is ineligible for benefits, but it can complicate the claims process. Seeking legal guidance to better understand the rules that apply to New Mexico workers’ compensation claims can help people navigate the process of applying for benefits with greater confidence and with more informed approaches.