The Opioid Crisis is running rampant these days, and typically, it all stems from an initial injury. Someone is hurt, they receive a prescription, and the rest is predictable. This is not to say that everyone will do so, but the likelihood of it— is harrowing. So, you can see how this might become an issue for those who get hurt on the job. They fell, or something fell on them, or the likes. Next thing you know, they’re in a cast and they’re out of work. The inevitable next step is a prescription to numb the pain. While you might not think so, addiction to prescription medication after an injury, is quite likely. So, how do you prevent this problem from occurring? And is the employer liable for an injured workers becoming dependent?

The Opioid Crisis and Workers Compensation: Getting Hurt and Getting Hooked

There was a case in 2007 where a man who worked for a landscaping company, became injured. He was treating the injury for 5 years with pain medication, until one day, someone discovers him dead in his own bed. To make matters worse, there was fentanyl in his hand. Now, you might read that and think simply— he was facing an injury and so it goes, addiction. What follows is entirely his fault. But, after some trial and, ultimately, a higher court ruling— the company was liable to pay death benefits to his family under workers compensation.

Through further investigation, they found that the man had first been denied further medication. But, he was able to obtain it anyway through a separate doctor. This begs the question of, how far does workers comp liability go? The man was supposed to be denied medication. But he did still obtained it legally and within his workers comp benefits. So, how liable is the employer?

The ultimate court decision eventually says this: if the drugs or treatment are ‘necessary and reasonable’, and they are also available through workers comp benefits, and the person dies as a result of this— the employer is responsible for paying those death benefits.

No matter who’s at fault, the problem is preventable

The risk is high when it comes to dependency. The opioid crisis is more present than ever. But, there are plenty of things you can do as an individual to make sure you aren’t part of the statistic. If you have any sort of injury and need something to dull the pain, by all means. But, from the start, it is important to understand the risks and how to ward off addiction. If you’re hurting, take the medication. But, if the pain is manageable and you can work with it— consider holding off. Developing a dependency starts with taking medication when you don’t fully need it. Pain is temporary, and human, and you are stronger than it.