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New Changes to Nevada Workers’ Compensation Laws

There are very few careers which allow you to consume alcohol on the job. In fact it is generally considered unacceptable to be under the influence of a controlled substance for most positions.  It is reasonable to infer employees are more likely to injure themselves on the job if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  This is why many states implement workers’ compensation laws preventing workers from recovering if they are injured on the job, while under the influence.  The problem related to this is determining at what level a person is under the influence.  Just because substances are found in a person’s system does not mean the individual is under the influence of those substances while at work.

 

Rebuttable Presumption Explained

Some states create a rebuttable presumption of intoxication if there are any drugs found in their employees. A LexisNexis article explained the purpose of this rebuttable presumption.  Although the presumption is the employees are under the influence of drugs if there are any found in their systems, this is not evidence.  The presumption is rebuttable because employees bear the burden of proving they either were not under the influence or something else besides intoxication was the cause of their workplace accident.  The presumption is just a tool to indicate where the burden of proof for intoxication lies.

 

Intoxication on the Job

States like Louisiana, and until recently Nevada, implement these types of laws.  In September 2015 a Louisiana appellate court grappled with this presumption when a worker died in a workplace accident.  According to Business Insurance Joseph Leon Boudreaux died while working as a warehouseman in an unwitnessed accident.  The forensic report indicated he tested positive for marijuana in his system.  Boudreaux’s family was seeking workers’ compensation benefits from his company. In an attempt to rebut the presumption of his intoxication, Boudreaux’s family offered testimony from his co-workers that he seemed competent on the day of the accident, as well as a toxicology report suggesting the marijuana was ingested days before the accident, thus suggesting he was not intoxicated. The toxicology report was filed too late according to the workers’ compensation judge, but the Louisiana appeals court ruled that simply the testimony of the co-workers could rebut the presumption of intoxication.  The case was remanded back to Louisiana’s Workers’ Compensation Office.

 

Nevada no longer uses the rebuttable presumption.  According to My News 4, law SB 231 went into effect on January 1, 2016.  The law makes it more difficult to claim workers’ compensation benefits if you are under the influence of a alcohol at the time of the accident.  The Sierra Sun reported the new law will replace the rebuttable presumption of intoxication with the 0.8 standard used for illegal driving.  By using the “bright line” of the DUI statutes, this should help to reduce costs for employers since the standard for intoxication is pre-set.

 

What Does This Mean For You?

If you are injured on the job and seeking benefits your employer may attempt to deny coverage if there were controlled substances in your system.  However, now instead of bearing the burden of proving you were not intoxicated, you can focus on statutory guidelines of intoxication.  The law is still new, so there will likely be some ambiguity in its interpretation in the coming months.  This is why if you are hurt on the job you should consult a licensed Nevada workers’ compensation attorney to determine what your options for recovery are.

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