Seeking workers’ compensation after prescription drug abuse

Workers’ compensation insurance programs in Tennessee and other states generally allow employees to receive benefits when an injury or illness happens on the job. This can pay for the medical expenses an employee faces and may include costs for surgeries, necessary tools like crutches or prescription drugs. In the case of prescription drugs, some organizations like the National Safety Council are worried about the potential for abuse and how this relates to employers.

A report recently issued by the NSC focused on workers who were prescribed painkillers after an injury that allowed for workers’ compensation benefits. The NSC looked at 15 court cases that took place between 2009 and 2015 where a plaintiff sued because of the opiate painkillers that were prescribed. The prescribed use of opioids puts employees at risk for overdose or addiction, and courts have ruled that death or addiction due to prescribed painkillers after an injury are covered under workers’ compensation.

More than 25 percent of costs for workers’ compensation drugs may currently go to opioid pain relievers, and the NSC report offers suggestions to reduce abuse and prevent employers from paying high costs as a result of an injured worker’s addiction or death. These ideas include establishing prescription guidelines for opioids, screening workers for risk factors, educating workers about prescription drug risks and utilizing monitoring programs for prescription drug use.

If a workplace injury results in the need for painkillers, the employee can suffer if abuse or addiction occurs. However, a company and a worker may disagree about the best course of action in such an event. This might mean that an employee may wish to seek legal counsel if a dispute arises over the coverage for the resulting costs.