Why was a Widow Denied 50% of Workers Compensation Benefit?

by | Jul 18, 2018 | Insurance Claims

THC cannabis molecule and impact on workers compensation insurance.

“Presence” of THC could be a contributing factor

The tragic articles of a husband, Adam Lee who was killed while working on a ski elevator and tested positive for cannabis has left his wife, Erika Lee wondering why she’s receiving a 50% reduction in survivor’s benefits from workers compensation insurance

Under normal circumstances, Mrs. Lee would have received 66 2/3% of Mr. Lee’s average weekly wages.   If Mr. Lee was earning on average $50,000 per year, then Mrs. Lee would have been entitled to $33,330.  Instead, she will receive just $16,665.  

This is Colorado–cannabis is still a controlled substance?     

A major contributing factor is due to the Colorado Workers Compensation Act.   More specifically, the Act states under §8-42-112.5 Limitation on payments:

use of controlled substances. (1) Nonmedical benefits otherwise payable to an injured worker are reduced fifty percent where the injury results from the presence in the worker’s system, during working hours, of controlled substances, as defined in section 18-18-102

The challenge with the statute and testing for cannabis is THC may be present in the system, but does not impair the employee.  Essentially, the psychoactive phase no longer exists.  There’s a disconnect between the statute and reasonable testing standards for cannabis.   In addition, the statute references cannabis as a “controlled substance.” 

Clearly, the act is referencing federal as opposed to state law, which cannabis is no longer considered a controlled substance.

Survivors benefits will continue to be as more states legalize cannabis

This law will continue to be tested as more states legalize medical and recreational cannabis.  State lawmakers will eventually need to modify the language in Colorado and other states in order for survivors to be sufficiently compensated for the injuries and deaths of their loved ones. 

The workers compensation act further warns the public about the potential reduction in benefits. 

Colorado Workers Compensation Act

Colorado Workers Compensation Act

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