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How your addiction to illegal drugs or alcohol affects workers’ comp benefits

man snorting cocaine spread on mirror. guy holding dollar to inhale drug

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 23 million Americans—approximately one-tenth of adults—are addicted to illegal drugs or alcohol. Addiction can affect eligibility for workers’ compensation in the state of Illinois. It does not automatically rule out benefits, but it may be a serious barrier to them, as a worker compensation lawyer in Chicago is aware.

Questions asked during a case

When an addicted worker makes a claim for disability benefits after an injury, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission asks all of the following questions:


  • Is the injury directly related to abuse of drugs of alcohol?

  • Would the injury not have occurred if the worker had been sober at the time?

  • Is the claimant disabled because of the addiction rather than the injury?

  • Would the disability not be as severe without the presence of the addiction?


If the answer to any of these four questions is an unambiguous “yes,” the injured worker may not be eligible for compensation.

Substance use does not automatically disqualify a worker

Not all substance use automatically disqualifies workers for benefits. An employee who enjoys an occasional beer after work will likely not be denied compensation if an accident happens a few days later. Employees who use prescription drugs correctly as ordered by a doctor are generally not at risk of benefit denial, as a worker compensation lawyer in Chicago knows. In these cases, the accident is not traceable to abuse or addiction.

Prescription drug abuse on a construction site

A recent Illinois workers’ compensation case illustrates these principles. An employee on a Chicago construction site suffered a head injury in February 2011 after a fall from scaffolding. He was found to have been abusing prescription painkillers. Although the medication had been legitimately prescribed for him by a doctor, he was using more than eight times the appropriate dose at the time of the accident. He was denied workers’ compensation benefits and encouraged to enter an outpatient drug rehabilitation program.

Substance abuse has serious consequences

Substance abuse on the job takes a heavy toll in America. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, workers who are addicted to alcohol are almost three times more likely to miss work because of injury than similar workers who are not addicted.

Navigating the maze of benefits can be difficult for addicted employees. People who are struggling with the results of drug abuse at work should speak with a worker compensation lawyer in Chicago.

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908 S Illinois Route 31
McHenry, IL 60050

Phone: 815-669-4635
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