How to Handle Post-Accident Drug Testing for ER Injuries

drug testing

Work-related injuries that are treated in the Emergency Room (ER) often are serious and costly Workers’ Compensation claims, involving everything from head injuries to amputations. An ER visit, according to NCCI statistics, consists of facility costs (73%), which include room charges; physician costs (18%); and transportation costs (8%), such as ambulance costs. Additionally, according to the NCCI, more than 10% of visits to the ER involve a same-day surgery. ER visits with surgeries cost about 2.6 times that of nonsurgical ER visits and account for more than 25% of total ER costs. In the ER, a top major surgical procedure is the amputation of one or more fingers. 

As treatment in an ER is focused solely on the injury itself and not at all on the cause of the injury, Post-Accident Drug Testing (PADT) is generally not on the providers’ radar unless specifically requested by the employer or there’s a direct impact on the type of care provided. The ER staff is not familiar with the ins and outs of Workers’ Compensation claims as compared to an occupational medical facility. 

PADT enables employers to better understand the cause of an accident and implement safety measures to help reduce workplace injuries and improve an organization’s loss history. The PADT serves as a robust risk management and cost-containment strategy. As we discussed in a previous article, drug and alcohol use at work may contribute to 65% of on-the-job accidents, according to the Department of Labor. Substance abuse contributes to 38%-50% of Workers’ Compensation claims. In addition, if the accident and subsequent injury were caused because a worker was impaired, this could impact the claim outcome.  

Your First Line of Defense: Accompany Injured Workers to ER

We recommend when possible that an employer accompany the injured employee to the ER and request a drug test. The employer can explain while the employee’s treatment is a priority, as this is a Workers’ Compensation-related injury, PADT is helpful in determining or ruling out certain factors that may have contributed to the accident. 

Notify Insurer

If an employer is unable to accompany the injured employee to the ER or the ER refuses to complete a drug test, we recommend that the employer immediately contact the Workers’ Compensation insurer. In fact, at Prescient National we have a post-accident hotline available – 1-866-987-0042 – to assist with coordinating a drug test at any hour of the day. The employer can provide the claimant’s name and date of birth, accident location, and treating hospital, including if the injured employee was treated at one facility and moved to another. Our staff will reach out to the ER to request that the specimens drawn be sent to an outside lab for PADT. The requisition process differs depending on the facility, with some requiring a signed release by the injured employee while others require a court order or a subpoena to release the specimens. It’s worth the time and effort to determine, when possible, if alcohol or drugs were involved in the workplace accident. 

Late claims reporting will impact the ability to perform PADT, which is why it’s critical to request testing while the injured employee is still at the ER or notify the insurer so the testing requisition can be processed immediately. Drug testing should be conducted within 12 hours of the accident.

Post-accident drug testing, according to OSHA, may be implemented when it is considered part of the established safety culture of a company. All employees should be aware of the company’s post-accident drug-testing policy, which should be written into a company’s safety policies.

About Prescient National 

Workers’ Compensation specialist Prescient National is all about knowing what’s coming around the corner. Our approach involves foreseeing, planning, and executing perfectly because, through anticipating legal trends, sensing market shifts, and understanding how projected economic cycles impact Workers’ Compensation, we have an informed vision for the future – these are the key drivers we deliver in our products, programs, and risk management strategies. Prescient National offers solutions to employers based on their individual needs, risk-taking appetite, and loss history: guaranteed cost policies, small-, mid-size, and large-deductible policies, retrospective rating policies, excess/self-insurance, and captive options. 

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