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Was your workplace injury caused by alcohol or drugs?

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a good time to highlight a type of workplace injury that you might not think about. When any employee in the workplace abuses alcohol or drugs, or uses alcohol or drugs while on the job, it can result in serious injury to that worker or to coworkers.

If a person is found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he or she is injured in the workplace, that fact can often make any workers' compensation coverage null. What happens if you are injured because someone else is under the influence, though?

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, use of drugs or alcohol in a workplace often increases the chance of accidents. Accidents that occur in such situations can be worse than they would be if substance abuse wasn't a factor, which can lead to more serious injuries and even death. One reason for increased chance of severity in an accident is that a worker who is using drugs or alcohol is not going to be able to respond to an accident or injury as quickly or following the appropriate safety protocols.

Employees don't have to be drunk or high while on the job to cause an accident related to their substance abuse, though that is certainly possible. Using substances on the job reduces a worker's ability to concentrate, make rational decisions or judge distances and other measurements. Even if the employee is not using at the immediate time of an incident, they might have lost cognitive ability or exhaustion that is related to their substance abuse and those things can be factors in accidents.

If you are injured at work because of someone else's substance abuse, you should first seek compensation through workers' compensation. You might also be able to file a civil lawsuit against the person who caused the accident.

Source: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, "Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace," accessed April 08, 2016

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