Study: Opioid Prescriptions Increase Injured Worker Disability Duration

Many of those who suffer a Fort Lauderdale work injury are prescribed opioid medications to help cope with acute pain. However, a recent study revealed opioid prescriptions have an adverse affect on workers the longer they are used, ultimately increasing the duration of temporary disability claimed by workers with a myriad of injuries.construction accident attorney

The study by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute¬†analyzed worker back injuries in 28 states over a recent five-year stretch in cases where workers took seven days or more off work. Within these numbers, they analyzed whether the workers were prescribed an opioid painkiller, if they received multiple opioids and the duration of those medications (considering long-term use to mean prescriptions within the first three months of injury extending into the 12-month mark). Then they compared this data to the length of workers’ temporary disability.

They discovered that workers prescribed opiates long-term were on temporary disability three times as long as those who had filed claims yet not received opiates. Those who were only prescribed these powerful painkillers within the first three months, but not thereafter, did not show a substantial impact on disability duration. Study authors also concluded workers employed and residing in “high prescription” regions were more likely to receive a prescription for opioids, regardless of injury.

Opioids are highly addictive and extremely dangerous. While they may be necessary for acute and chronic pain, they are generally not advised for those with back injuries that don’t require surgery. Despite this, it’s fairly common practice.

Our Fort Lauderdale construction accident attorneys want our clients to be receiving prompt and appropriate medical care for our clients, and sometimes that does include painkillers. Work-related accidents can cause sprains and strains, broken bones, amputations, head injuries and much more. Those are painful conditions and powerful medications may be required. Still, this study is worth noting, as is the fact that in some cases, state workers’ compensation boards and courts will sometimes compel insurers or employers to pay for overdoses and other conditions related to medication taken for work-related accidents.

Business Insurance reported several state appellate courts have held insurers and employers can be held financially accountable for workers’ compensation death benefits when a death occurs as the result of prescriptions taken by injured workers.

So far, courts in Tennessee, Texas and Pennsylvania have all made such rulings. The case in Texas, decided by the Texas 13th District Court of Appeals, was based on a (relatively novel) theory that the side effects of these medications will increase an employee’s risk of exposure to addiction and possibly even death. In that case, the court ruled deaths benefits should be awarded to the widow of a worker, despite the fact toxicology reports revealed his blood contained a deadly amount of hydrocodone indicating he may have taken 20 pills, though he’d been prescribed to take just one every eight hours. Initially, the state’s workers’ compensation board ruled the man’s death was the result of failure to comply with his physician’s orders, and not the work injury he’d suffered years earlier for which he was prescribed the drug. Jurors reversed on appeal, determining his death was the result of his treatment for the work injury.

Workers who are grappling with addiction stemming from a work-related injury should contact an experienced injury attorney.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resource:

Opioid death liability falling on employers, May 20, 2012, By Roberto Ceniceros, Business Journal

More Blog Entries:

Court: Crash Case Defendant/ Employer Not Entitled to Summary Judgment, June 3, 2018, Fort Lauderdale Construction Accident Attorney Blog

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